Mark Heidmann of Harrison has been appointed to serve on SAD 17’s Board of Directors. Supplied photo

HARRISON — After two months with only one representative from Harrison sitting on SAD 17’s school board, selectmen have appointed Mark Heidmann to serve as director. Heidmann replaces Kathy Laplante, who resigned in late August with two-and-a-half years left on her term.

Heidmann has been a resident of Harrison since 1998, where he operates a  fruit, vegetable and plant farm. He moved to Maine from Connecticut, where he taught for several years at the University of Southern Connecticut. This is Heidmann’s first post in local government. He has been a board member on the Harrison Village Library for more than eight years.

“Early in my career, I lived in Cornfield, Illinois, which is part of a school district very much like SAD 17,” said Heidmann, “made of several small towns with a rural population.”

As an educator Heidmann taught undergraduate courses across several departments and was actively involved in curriculum development.

“I was a member of the English department but taught in several disciplines,” he said. “I developed an honors college program, and also a program that focused on improving the transition for new students from high school to college, combining academic with life skills classes.”

Now, with SAD 17, Heidmann finds himself in accelerated learning, taking on the role while the district works to provide education during a pandemic and economic turmoil.

“I see the top challenge for the Board as keeping students and school staff safe,” he said. “We have to figure out the best way to make kids’ education as high quality as possible. Every decision it makes is going to affect their learning.”

SAD 17 can expect difficult decisions in the coming months. While Maine schools are safe from spending curtailment for the current academic year, Governor Janet Mills has forewarned that lower state revenues will likely mean lower education funding across the board in the 2021-2022 budget. Heidmann said that any cuts will need to be closely analyzed for the effects they will have on students’ education.

“At this point it, education budget cuts are too abstract a question to be able to answer,” he said. “We will look at the effects spending cuts will have first.”

What Heidmann is sure of, as he prepares for his second school board meeting next week, is that his focus will be on students and learning in the midst of the pandemic.

“I find it hard to believe that Zoom and other online tools can provide the same level of education and feedback for students as in-person learning,” he said. “It is not the first choice, except when it’s the only choice. We need to make it the best we can.”

Heidmann and his wife have two grown sons who live in New Zealand and the western U.S. and four grandchildren.

 

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