LEWISTON — This is the last of five stories about Lewiston School Committee candidates running in the Nov. 5 election. These four incumbents are all unopposed.

Linda Scott represents Ward 1, which includes Switzerland Road and Tall Pines; Trinh Burpee, who was appointed to replace Paul Dumont, represents Ward 3, which is between College and Sabattus streets; Chairman James Handy represents Ward 4, which includes the McMahon Elementary School; and Tom Shannon represents Ward 7, which includes Martel Elementary School.

1. Q. Why are you running?

A: Trinh Burpee: “I have two kids who went through the Lewiston school system; my son is a senior at Lewiston High School. Having served on the board since March, it is the best way to have a positive impact on my son’s and his friends’ education. The best way to improve Lewiston, economically and socially, is by improving education.”

A: Jim Handy: “I believe wholeheartedly in the value of public education. Education truly is the path to personal, economic and community success. My three children are products of the Lewiston public school system, all three found their niche while attending Lewiston schools. It’s easy to bash public schools, but the fact is we are privileged to have many dedicated and innovative educators who are giving their all to educate students. Having said that, we are always striving to make our schools better and relevant to the world we live in.”

A: Linda Scott: “Because I love it. I’ve been actively involved in my kids’ school since kindergarten.”

A: Tom Shannon: “There’s still a lot of work to do on school construction. Experience always helps getting the right people on teams with site location decision-making. I’d like to be on the board another two years to see Lewiston get state approval (to build) an additional elementary school. I enjoy the work.”

2. What’s a big problem in Lewiston schools, and if elected, what would you do about it?

A: Burpee: “Not enough parental participation. The single largest indicator for academic success is the involvement of parents in a child’s education.  … Parents are stressed, busy, just trying to put food on the table and a roof overhead, and often their interactions with school have left them frustrated and feeling powerless. We can help by making the process more transparent, by giving the parents a voice and an active role in their child’s education.”

A: Handy: “1. Parental engagement in their children’s education. Teachers cannot do it alone. Research has shown that when a parent is actively involved in their children’s education and other school activities, the chances for student success is significantly increased. 2. Classroom overcrowding is once again challenging us to employ strategies. 3. Drug use. Students need to know we are serious about addressing this issue, and we will. 4. Communication with parents.  We need to greatly improve on timely communication with parents. … We can’t ask parents to be engaged if we as educators are not engaged.”

A: Scott: “Truancy. I’m happy to see Superintendent Bill Webster bringing it out to the forefront. I’m looking forward to working with Bill to put forth legislation to hopefully do something about it,” giving school districts more tools to work with. … Too many elementary students are truant, Scott said. “We need to have more parental involvement so parents realize how important going to school is.”

A: Shannon: “Our graduation rates (71 percent) haven’t gotten to the level we’d like them to be. We just lost a high school principal who worked hard to build rigor into our system, so our high school is graduating people with ability; we’re not just handing out diplomas. Our new principal has a challenge to see what we can do as a group to increase our graduation rates. We can do better than what we’re doing.”

3. What’s going right in Lewiston schools that you would support?

A: Trinh Burpee: “It is very encouraging to see how much better the integration of Lewiston’s recent immigrant population is going, compared to just a few years ago. It’s been tough, but many of the cultural misunderstandings have been worked out. Our newest students have really settled in and become part of our schools, academically, athletically and socially.”

A: Handy: “Lewiston schools are excellent. We have the faculty and staff who commit themselves every day to the best possible educational experience. We are on the road to personalized education that is relevant to the student, has a rigorous curriculum, and one that leads to higher education or the world of work. The School Committee is committed to the equalizing of resources throughout all of our schools. We have made important inroads with this; it will take more time and resources. From our autism spectrum disorder program, behavior and the LHS Real World Prep, the special education we provide students is done by dedicated educators who give their heart and soul to their students.”

A: Scott: “We have countless things going right. I love the new construction that we’ve done, the Montello entrance, the new gym at McMahon, the ongoing construction at the Lewiston Middle School. I’m also happy about the new Young Entrepreneur Academy class at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center and virtual high school classes.”

4. Lewiston’s population is growing; early elementary classrooms are getting crowded. What solution would you look for?

A: Burpee: “The expansion of the middle school is a good start, but we may have to improve and expand many of our schools. Long term, my teacher friends suggest we have to start shifting resources from the high school level to the younger grades. Strictly from a bang-for-the-buck standpoint, smaller class sizes early on makes for students who need less personal attention in high school.”

A: Handy: “Classroom overcrowding is once again challenging us to employ strategies that reduce class size, especially in early elementary education. That will mean additional space. Lewiston Middle School and McMahon Elementary have been improved with safety upgrades and additional classroom space. More space is needed, the School Committee will address this in the near future.  … When we plan a new school, we make projections on student enrollment with the best data available. In the time it takes to plan and ultimately build a school, the demographics inevitably change.”

A: Scott: “I have full faith in the superintendent making decisions where kids go to school. He does a fantastic job with that. Our population is going up; we do have some classes that are overcrowded. I am looking forward to a new elementary school in five years. That school needs to be in the downtown area.”

A: Shannon: “There are multiple facets on this problem; one is new elementary schools. We need to replace Martel and Longley, that is something in the future. We have to look at where we have classroom space, how we can move students into that space.” Because redistricting was rejected last year, “we know we have an issue. The sooner we can establish equitable levels for every elementary school, the sooner we can compare apples to apples.”

5. This year voters approved a $58.4 million budget, an increase of 7.2 percent. What kind of budget would you support next year?

A: Trinh Burpee: “Everyone hates to see taxes go up, for any reason. …  A few dollars today, spent wisely, will return many more dollars down the road. … A budget is always a balancing act, but you have to think of the future.”

A: Handy: “The fact that Lewiston voters have passed our school budget every year since referendums began proves taxpayers approve of the careful way we are spending tax dollars. Over the last several years, the School Department has turned millions of dollars over to the city to help balance its budget. Smart budgeting has enabled us to renovate and improve our school buildings and implement programs aimed at, for example, pre-K education.”

A: Scott: “I’d love to support the largest budget we could have. Education is the most important thing we can do for our kids. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. … We go over the budget line by line. I do see a struggle.”

A: Shannon: “I’d be more optimistic with more funds to invest if I thought Augusta’s problems would turn around. In reality, the state has not recovered from the recession. We’re still struggling. We can’t expect anything more than last year’s allotment. … But we’re not going to look for more money from local taxpayers unless the state forces us to. An increase in local taxes is not in the foreseeable future.”

Office sought: Lewiston School Committee, Ward 4

Age: 59

Address: 9 Maplewood Road

Family: Married, three children

Occupation: Customer satisfaction at L.L.Bean

Education: Lewiston High School, University of Southern Maine, bachelor’s degree in political science with concentration in history, communications

Political experience: Lewiston School Committee, 1998 to present; Maine State Senate, 1991-95; Maine House of Representatives, 1983-91; chaired Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education; Special Commission on Women in School Administration; tri-county field representative for Jimmy Carter presidential campaign, 1974-1976; volunteer for numerous local, state and federal campaigns.

Trinh C. Burpee

Office sought: Lewiston School Committee, Ward 3

Age: 46

Address: 253 Pine St.

Family: Married, two children

Occupation: Vice President/Treasurer for Albert and Burpee Funeral Home

Education: Lewiston High School, Class of 1986

Political experience: served on Planning Board, Lewiston School Committee

Office sought: Lewiston School Committee, Ward 1

Age: 45

Address: 45 Pettingill St.

Family: Married, three children, one granddaughter

Occupation: Self-employed, owns cleaning company

Education: Lewiston High School, attending University of Southern Maine working on bachelor’s degree

Political experience: Lewiston School Committee, and worked on political campaigns

Office sought: Lewiston School Committee, Ward 7

Age: 60

Address: 53 Androscoggin Ave.

Family: Married, four adult children, four grandchildren

Occupation: Retail manager for Rite Aid

Education: John Bapst High School, Bangor; attended University of Maine in Orono for two years

Political experience: State legislator representing Lewiston during 118th Legislature (during the ice storm); served on Lewiston School Committee for 20 years

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