REGION — Tuesday, SAD 44 school board candidates took part in an hour-long forum, spending the majority of time answering several questions asked by district residents.

Unlike last year, the forum was held virtually and live-streamed on YouTube.

People who had questions for candidates submitted them to CORE (formerly known as Bethel Area Nonprofit Collaborative), which hosted the event.

The candidates for the upcoming election are incumbent Chasity Lake (Greenwood), incumbent Marcel Polak (Woodstock), incumbent Bonnie Largess (Newry), incumbent Stephanie Erickson (Newry), Maggie Davis (Bethel), David Jones (Bethel), Stephanie Herbeck (Bethel) and Wendy Coffin (Woodstock).

For now, Erickson is running for a one-year term.

There are two open seats on the board for Newry and Bethel, and one open seat for Woodstock and Greenwood.

Voting will take place Tuesday, July 14 at Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock polling places.

Profiles for each candidate can be seen in the past two editions of the Bethel Citizen — June 25 and July 2.

Candidates Wendy Coffin and Stephanie Erickson were not present at the virtual forum, but submitted written responses to questions prior to the forum.

Full responses to each question, people can be heard at to watch the forum.

What is one reason that you are interested in serving on the school board?

Coffin: “I want to support our community by listening to the interests and concerns of the school district and to help make positive steps forward with education in the district. Serving the community is vital to its continued growth and its well being, and education is one of the foremost important areas in a community.”

Davis: “Knowledge is power and there is nothing more important than empowering children and adults. There is power in learning. I want to do everything I can do to support empowering this community to learning in this school district.”

Erickson: “As a home educator, education is one of the most important things to me. I think it is important to provide an environment that is conducive to learning and I look forward to working on policies that promote this.”

Herbeck: “My daughters are a big reason why, I have one at Crescent Park and one at Telstar Middle School. I’ve done a lot of volunteering in the schools over the years and I’m just interested in  learning from the inside at a broader scale what challenges our district faces as well as an opportunity to seize that.”

Jones: “As a teacher at local colleges and a substitute at Telstar, I’ve seen our students performances and their needs. I hope this will be an opportunity for me to help the district do even more to meet those needs.”

Lake: “I have four children, two at TMS and two at THS. I’m watching them go through the system and I want to be there every step of the way. I also want to bring as much diversity as I can into this district and bring in a new and fresh look. “

Largess: “I want to continue serving on the board because we have many things going on. I want to see them through. One thing is the bus garage project, which they’ve been working very diligently on. I believe giving back to the community is important in our schools and our children are a part of our community.”

Polak: “I benefited from a free public education and it helped me move up the economic and social ladder. I want to pay it forward to our kids. Education is power. It’s the best way for them to move up, whether they stay here, live somewhere else in the country or live internationally. I’m here for the kids.”

Please talk about your willingness to learn about the needs of SAD44’s special needs students and your willingness to financially support their education.

Coffin: “As a parent of a child that has special needs I feel it is extremely important to support the children and their families. This is one of the areas I would like the district to focus on because so many children with special needs are at risk for falling through the cracks. We need to find ways to make educational meaningful to their abilities.”

Davis: “Education is for all people. Our school system needs to be adequately equipped to serve all people, of all needs, of all backgrounds, of all abilities, Pre-K through high school. In order to do this, we need to know what these needs are, what it will take to serve each individual and then find the resources to do so.”

Erickson: “We have navigated through special education needs so this is very near to my heart. I’m ready to learn about and support the financial needs of our special needs students in every way possible so that these students thrive in the classroom.”

Herbeck: “All students in the district need to be represented and supported so I’m open to learning how we are succeeding in this and where we need to improve.”

Jones: “I know relatively little about special needs education by I know these students deserve a certain type of education, and like all students, that education needs to prepare them for their futures.”

Lake: “I have three children who are in special needs and the special education realm. Special education can be very tricky. I’m impressed with our district. I think we’ve put money in the right places. I do think this is an area that needs more improvement, but that can be said about many districts.

Largess: “I know there are many state guidelines that we try to follow constantly so we can provide help to all special need children. If we need to do more than so be it, I am always willing to listen.

Polak: “I will fund whatever we need to do to help these students, but also all of our students. We cannot neglect children who are gifted and talented as well. I think all of us have heard anecdotes about students who have been labeled failures in the school and some of these same people became major successes in life. It is incumbent upon us to provide everything we can for each student.”

How do you see education in SAD 44 changing in the next five years to prepare our students for life beyond Telstar?

Coffin: “Over the past several years I have seen the district make positive changes in education, but we are not done yet. We need to make sure when the children are graduating school and moving onto the next chapter in their life, that they not only have academic skills, but also have life skills that will take them through their lives.”

Davis: “In order for our economy to be sustainable we must encourage our students to imagine every line of work. We must start incorporating career trends into our curriculum so that our teaching is relevant to the world beyond the classroom.”

Erickson: [No response.]

Herbeck: “If we are not changing than we are standing still. That is no way for our school system to run. We should always be changing and we should always be learning.”

Jones: “At this point our educational futures are up in there, with the pandemic going on. Because so much is unclear all I can say at the moment is that we’re going to have to keep a constant watch for new constraints and new possibilities.”

Lake: “The next five years could be hard with the pandemic. I think we need to elaborate more on Region 9. I love that this is available for students. We need to have our high school students looking forward to job opportunities and making careers for themselves.”

Largess: “Everyone learns differently. I think a great example is the Telstar Freshman Academy. This has worked for almost everyone, people there are working as a team and that is what needs to happen today.”

“In Region 9, we are always trying to push for more programs, even though they offer so many. We want to have this available so kids who do not want to go to college can have experience before they leave high school.”

Polak: “We need to focus on twenty first century skills – creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. These skills are important for working in groups or individually, and for being an active citizen.”

Describe your approach to keeping students safe with careful opening of, by their very nature, social-distancing-compromised schools.  And on another health issue, what are the candidates positions on scientific, medically appropriate vaccinations of SAD 44 students?

Coffin: “I know there are many unanswered questions as to what should happen when students return to school. There are a number of good ideas being discussed by districts statewide and I think we will find the best answers to that question in the coming weeks. I think that before any new vaccines get added to a mandated vaccine schedule that they need to be proven safe and effective.”

Davis: “Everything has been compromised by this pandemic, our physical health,  the earning capacity for parents, our children’s education, the emotional well being of all of us. We are forced to choose which aspect of our well being we will be willing to prioritize. If elected, I will learn more information on the risks of each choice before taking a stand.”

“Vaccinations are a complex issue. You have to take people’s belief systems into consideration too. I choose to prioritize physical health.”

Erickson: “Safety is absolutely essential as we work to returning to school this upcoming year. I think two options are mask hygiene and the discontinuation of incentivizing attendance accompanied by an implementation of remote learning options to encourage students to stay home when sick.”

Herbeck: “It’s going to be a difficult decision. The safety of students and staff have to come before anything else.”

Jones: “I think we have good public health people in this state. I think we should follow the guidelines that come out over the next couple of months and be prepared to tweak our own procedures as particular circumstances occur.”

“The overwhelming support for vaccination in the recent election tell me where Maine is at. Me too.”

Lake: “I’m going to follow what are state survey says and how are district feels about this. I know our district will make the decision it needs too. I think the vaccination process will take awhile, it’s going to take awhile to determine if it is safe enough for students.”

Largess: “The safety of teachers, students other staff are extremely important. Safety is first. I think the board will come up with a solution for this. Hopefully something that will work for everyone.”

“I work in public health and I would like to see some data on a vaccine to see how safe it is.”

Polak: “The safety and health of everyone is paramount. We are going to be getting guidelines from the Department of Education and Maine Center for Disease Control. We need to follow those as much as possible.”

“We have policies mandating vaccines for our students that come from the state. We do not have a lot of discretion about whether or not students get vaccinated. There are exemptions for medical issues and philosophy/religious beliefs. I will look to medical experts to find out when a vaccine is safe.”

What about public education do you find to be valuable? Do you, or did you have children enrolled in public school?

Coffin: “The most valuable part of education is knowing that many of our teachers are always aiming to expand their own learning which in turn will help our students education be as valuable as possible. I have had children enrolled in public school. One graduated from Telstar, the other I started homeschooling in second grade.”

Davis: “Public education provides equal opportunity and resources for all children in a community to learn and grow and prepare for a sustainable future. That future is dependent on a successful education. I have a daughter that attends CPS.”

Erickson: “I have not yet entered public school with my children, but we are looking forward to when that time comes. We have had the chance to participate in some school activities with CPS and really enjoyed being involved with that.”

Herbeck: “There’s nothing more important than all student shaving access to education. How we prepare them for the future is completely dependent on that public education. I have two children in the SAD 44 district.”

Jones: “I do not have any children of my own, but I’ve had a long term concern for the children of my friends and relatives. I’ve done most of my teaching in public schools and colleges. Public education is intended to give the best chances to everyone. It doesn’t always succeed, but since it’s public, we can continue to wrestle with these problems and get closer to that ideal.”

Lake: “I think public school serves as a multi-faceted tool for life. It gets you ready for the good, the bad and the ugly. It helps with social structure, social queue’s and body structure. I have four children in the district.”

Largess: “Public education is part of our community. I have three adult children who all went through the SAD 44 school system and they all tell me what comes out of public education is what you put into it. You have guidance, but you have to show some initiative. It gets you ready for the real world.”

Polak: “I think public education is one place where students can meet people of different backgrounds and classes, ideally that is what makes this nation great, it’s diversity. I think that is a great benefit of public education. My daughter attended SAD 44 schools from kindergarten through high school.













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