PARIS — Four of SAD 17’s 22 school board seats are up for election this month. Municipal elections  and state primaries will be held at local polling places on Jul. 11. Most elections were postponed due to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19.

Curtis Cole of Norway is running unopposed to retain his seat on the School Board.

“I’ve seen many changes and new programs in SAD 17 over the past 20 years, mostly good,” said Curtis in a statement. We’ve worked to combine special education services with several other area districts; increased graduation rate; improved district IT systems; greater sense of trust between staff and administration over time.”

In the current public health environment, Curtis worries about overall learning for students in Oxford Hills, their corresponding standardized test scores and the social-emotional impact that isolation may have on them. Related to the pandemic, he is concerned about how SAD 17 would cut budgeted spending if the state of Maine’s contributions to education are affected by revenue shortfalls.

“This happened 10 years ago as a result of the recession, Cole said. “At that time we decided to cut the budget in anticipation of lower state contributions. It took the district several years to bring the budget back to pre-recession levels.”

In Oxford, David Dunn is running as a write-in candidate for the post he currently serves in. Due to COVID-19 restrictions Dunn did not file a nomination petition but is ready to continue serving on the Board.

Two Paris Board members are up for reelection, Henry Raymond and Sarah Otterson.

Raymond said it will be critical for the SAD 17 School Board to maintain close communications with educators and administrators as all adjust to the conditions created by the pandemic.

“We need to listen listen listen to our teachers and our administrators, and support them,” said Curtis.  “They have been so resilient – always having the best outcomes for students at the forefront. Teachers are the ones who teach our students and they must be supported. I highly respect the job that they have. Teaching in this day and age is not easy but it is so critical for our community and our nation.  The board has to do whatever we can to support our staff and students.

“With distance learning I’m concerned about special education students, about those who may not have strong family support at home and those those students who really need to be in the classroom to perform well.  I am extremely hopeful they can return to school next fall and distance learning. However I’m not optimistic that is going to be the case and we need to have a hybrid system ready for our students.”

Robert Jewell of Paris is also running for the School Board. If elected, this would be his second tenure, having served in previous years, including chairing the Budget Committee.

When asked why he was running Jewel said, “Quality of education, as an example our students test at 25% proficiency on State Math testing, that means over 75% are not testing proficient in Math, we struggle with Science and Language Arts as well. SAD 17 is testing in the bottom third of the State testing results, which I do not feel is a good value for our dollar. Accountability, I feel there is a lack of accountability concerning the education level being provided, as well as a lack of accountability concerning taxation and the school budget, I struggle with the Board continually by passing the voter in the spending millions of dollars on projects, deferring the payments of interest and principal on those projects, all the while financing another Performance Bond that the voter has no input on. This years budget has no impact on the towns mill rate as far as Performance Bonds, the towns, thus the taxpayers will incur several bond payments that have already been approved by the School Board before they, the towns, know the impact.”

He responded to the question – What should the BOD’s role be in initiatives involving distance-learning? – noting, “The Board is responsible for creating strong policy concerning distance learning, and holding the Administration accountable for success, getting advice from the Administration concerning the tenants of that policy is hugely important. I think that the Board should look at what the colleges have successfully created around Distance Learning; remembering that the college students are different from K-12 education students in several ways, the most apparent is they are paying to attend college. I have heard from a few educators and the current theme is, it is sometimes tough to command the attention of students in class when they are right in front of you, it is much more challenging for an educator to command students attention when the student is at home with all of the distractions of home, and the educator not being able to observe a student past the width of a computer screen. A couple of instructors have expressed that they feel they are glorified babysitters, and not accomplishing anything concerning education. To me this is a problem that needs resolve. Should we have to Educate from a distance we will need to somehow develop a system in which all students have home access to computers, high speed internet connection, and all the other resources required for effective distance learning success. How will learning be done when a student is at a baby sitters or at a child care?”

When asked his thoughts on areas most threatened by distance learning  he said, “As stated … actual learning for the student, also how does an educator take a student aside during a class room setting to speak to the student without the whole class being involved? The educator feeling that the job is not that of a glorified babysitter, that the Educator receives inner satisfaction for their work.”

His concern about the possibility that state contributions are affected by lower-than-budgeted revenues was, “That we can create / maintain an Educational system where the student can be successful, the instructor can be successful, and a system that is affordable for the tax payer.”

 

 


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