2017-10-19 / News

Election 2017

All seven positions on Biddeford School Committee are up for reelection this fall. Brianna Gilbert will not seek a place on the next committee. Instead Vassie Fowler and Jerry Tremblay will vie for a place alongside incumbents Lisa Vadnais, Karen Ruel, Crystal Blais, Dennis Anglea, Anthony Michaud and Dominic Deschambault. Below are the candidate surveys for those in a contested race in alphabetical order. Name: Dennis R. Anglea Age: 58 Position seeking: Biddeford School Committee Address: 202 Pool St. Phone: 251-2424 Occupation: Business consultant Family: Married, Adult children and grandchildren Education completed: MBA Organizations and activities: School Committee Member for two terms, Downtown Development Commission, Solid Waste Commission, Waste Water Commission, Charter Review

Committee.

Top three issues:

1) Making sure the schools have adequate funding for education and programing.

2) Make sure that we keep the taxes for the people of Biddeford reasonable.

3) That our children have an education that creates a positive future. Why are you seeking elected office?

Because I care and want to be a voice for the people of Biddeford. What should the Biddeford School Committee’s top priority be?

Making sure we have adequate funding and keeping the taxes in line. That our children have a safe and secure place to acquire a positive education Name: Crystal Blais Position seeking: Biddeford School Committee Address: 44 Papoose Drive Occupation: Teacher at Mildred L. Day School in RSU#21 Family: Married with three elementary school-aged children Education completed: Bachelor’s degree in Education plus work towards Master’s degree in instructional technology Organizations and activities: School committee member 2015-current Top three issues:

1) Getting positive press out about our great school system.

2) Continued efforts on the field study and resolving issues where attention was needed.

3) Regionalization efforts - learning more about them and what the state intends to do with them. Why are you seeking elected office?

I am seeking reelection to this office in order to continue doing the hard work that has been started over the last two years I’ve been in this position. There are many projects that are just getting started that I would like to continue working on and learning more about. It’s important to me that Biddeford continues to be seen as the great school system that it is, and that our efforts to provide a quality education for all be known.

What should the Biddeford School Committee’s top priority be?

Our current top priority is on the field study results and acting on those. We are also just beginning work around regionalization with neighboring towns. While these two projects are very different and require different lenses to examine them with. I am confident that our board will maintain the focus needed to learn more about, and see each project through.

How can the school committee improve upon its previous work?

As I mentioned earlier, we have many projects we are currently invested in. Each of them will help to make our students’ experiences in our school system better. We are currently in the first year of a pre-K roll out, which can only benefit our school system, particularly our kindergarten center. Getting those children in and exposed to school routines and the building they will be in for kindergarten is a wonderful thing.

We continue to work with the findings of the field study we had done earlier on in the year, with Waterhouse Field being our first area of focus. Work on that field is ongoing, and community support for the field has been amazing. Our track and field is now having behind the scenes work done to ensure quality modifications are complete for the spring at Brother Hebert Field across from the high school. There are many other areas of that study to be considered and worked on as well. Name: Dom Deschambault Age: 33 Position seeking: Biddeford School Committee Address: 361 Elm St. Phone: 590-6301 Occupation: Merchandising/sales Family: Girlfriend Beth Simard Education completed: some college Organizations and activities: Biddeford Downtown Parking Committee (ad-hoc), Biddeford Charter Revision Commission

Why are you seeking elected office?

As a graduate of the Biddeford school system, I am proud to represent the alumni. I have always had an interest in education and also been involved in local government. This is an opportunity where I can put both my interest and experience to good work. Name: Vassie Fowler Age: 51 Position seeking: Biddeford School Committee Address: 511 Pool St. Phone: 408-2274 Occupation: Catering coordinator for Sodexo at University of New England Family: Husband Jack Fowler, stepson Jim, his wife Shannon, two grandchildren, a couple of siblings, tons of nieces and nephews. Education completed: Completed? High school, but I continually seek classes and certification in a variety of subjects. I’m a firm believer in “Knowledge is Power.” Organizations and activities (including past political experience): I’m fairly active in my community, I’ve sat on Capital Improvements and Strategic Planning Committees, I’ve been on the board for Joyful Harvest Neighborhood Center & Toys for Tots, I am a member of the Elks. I’m involved with a variety of local charities that benefit children and their families in Biddeford.

Top three issues:

This is a tricky question. I have no preconceived notions as to what the top issues are. I am open to the process of hearing teachers, parents, students and local government to determine what exactly the issues and needs are and how to resolve them.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I’m seeking elected office because I feel I have a good mix of common sense, fiscal conservatism, cultural sensitivity and a love of our city.

What should the Biddeford School Committee’s top priority be?

Again a tricky question. I’d rather listen and learn from the constituents. I want to have all the facts and a full picture before I determine what the priorities are. That said, obviously I want to focus on education and building inclusive schools where all children are welcomed, but doing so within a budget.

How can the school committee improve upon its previous work?

I think it’s not necessarily about “improving” but maybe more about growing with the community. Biddeford is evolving everyday, we are changing. I feel it’s important to continue to move forward as a whole and to be open to new technologies, processes, culture and diversity. Name: Anthony Michaud Position seeking: Biddeford School Committee Address: 24 Lamothe Ave. Phone: 205-1982 Occupation: Elementary Music Teacher Education completed: Master’s degree in music education

Organizations and activities: Biddeford School Committee

Top three issues:

1) Facilities: Our high school, which was renovated five years ago, is beautiful and is being well-maintained. But our Center of Technology and Kindergarten Center were both built during the administration of John F. Kennedy, and are in desperate need of replacement. We have made small annual improvements to the (technology center) with the support of the city council, and the “classroom wing” is much improved. But our shop spaces are undersized, dated, inadequate to serve the trades that use them, and not up to code in several ways. Rehabilitating JFK school would require millions, and so we are exploring the future of that building as well. The superintendent and his staff recently completed a lengthy and arduous state application for construction aid, and an evaluative team from the Maine Department of Education will be on site soon to evaluate the conditions of our buildings. We’d prefer to make our case for state aid before turning to the local taxpayer.

2) Waterhouse Field: This unique partnership between the schools, the Waterhouse Commission, and the City has been a challenge to manage at times over the years. But thanks to the good work that our Superintendent and Director of Community Outreach and Development have done, community supporters have donated $350,000 and thousands of man-hours to the renovation of the complex. Our other athletic facilities have deficits that need to be addressed to ensure equity.

3) Achievement: Our student population is one of the poorest, most transient in the state. When we welcome a kindergarten class of 200 students, by the time they enter the eighth grade a full half of them will have left. Many will return, leave again, and come back. Nearly 1500 are eligible for free and reduced lunch, dozens are homeless, nearly 20 percent receive special education, and over 200 speak English as a second language. As a service center in York County, our teachers work with some students who bring with them significant challenges at times. But our school leadership doesn’t use that data as an excuse. All of our principals, for example, recently developed detailed school-wide academic goals that were presented to the assistant superintendent and the superintendent for review. These goals are tied to compensation. How much we can affect achievement given the aforementioned factors remains a question, but our expectation is clear: we must do better--especially on state assessments. Our graduates’ postsecondary matriculation is a little above average, and the number that return for a sophomore year of college is admirable, but too many struggle in math and reading in the elementary and middle level, so just about every minute of professional development time that we have available is invested in improving those outcomes.

Why are you seeking elected office?

One of the reasons I’m proud to serve on this school committee, and why I’m running for re-election, is that we (the school committee, our leadership team, and our school programs) are really hitting on all cylinders right now. The days of discord and rancor between school committee members, or between the committee and the city council are behind us. In the past five years, we have run a lean budget, less than a 1 percent annual increase to the local taxpayer, on average. Other schools have been saddled by budget freezes three months into their fiscal year, or have asked taxpayers to shoulder the burden of a 6 percent increase in a single year. That just hasn’t happened here, and the constituents with whom I speak appreciate it.

What should the Biddeford School Committee’s top priority be?

Our school committee has several chartered responsibilities, and we are guided by myriad policies. Of our many priorities, I believe our top priority is to ensure that our schools are being responsibly managed and that we are fiscally responsible. Our superintendent is one of the best in the state--he is resourceful, meticulous, creative, and not afraid to work! Through countless partnerships and a voluntary consolidated services agreement with Dayton, the superintendent and school committee have been entrepreneurial in our efforts to keep costs in check. There aren’t many districts in Maine with as many revenue lines as we have. Whether from our shared services agreements or our fundraising efforts for our non-profit Education Foundation or even Waterhouse Field, we have been good stewards of the public’s investment in our schools.

How can the school committee improve upon its previous work?

Our schools are changing. Following nearly two decades of declining enrollment, we are holding steady at around 2,500 students K-12. We have stable leadership in our central office, “tiger pride” is back in a big way, and our schools’ culture and climate is healthy. Our high school was recently reaccredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. We feel really good on how our schools are managed, but both the school committee and the leadership team always want to be better. For some time, I felt that some in our schools wanted things to be “good enough.” Great cities and great schools don’t rest on “good enough,” they aspire to be great. We have worked with our superintendent, program directors, and principals to identify several goals for improvement, which I summarize in my top three issues. Name: Karen Ruel Age: 49 Position seeking: Biddeford School Committee Address: 33 Forest St. Phone: 207-282-1540 Occupation: Senior Technical Support Engineer Family: Husband – Alain Lebreux, 2 Daughters – Katelyn and Kirsten Lebreux Education completed: University of new England – Bachelor in Accounting, Husson University – Master’s degree in Business Management Organizations and activities: Biddeford school board including finance committee November 2015-Present, Biddeford Waterhouse Committee May 2017-Present, BHS Project Sunrise co-chair 2016 & 2013, Biddeford PTO

Top three issues:

1) Position for the Future: I am committed to maintaining a strong academic and extracurricular learning environment for our students; it is imperative our students are prepared for a successful career. Our school system must stay flexible, continually evaluate future student needs and make the necessary adjustments.

2) School facilities: As our school buildings, athletic fields and various assets continue to experience use every day, it is important to proactively maintain and improve our facilities while always working to balance the school budget and keeping expenses within reason.

3) Challenging curriculum: As we strive to provide the most solid education for our students, it is important to offer a challenging, rewarding curriculum which will best serve each student pursing higher education, or a more immediate career. I value a curriculum which supports a variety of career paths while maintaining integrity in the quality and challenge of education offered in Biddeford.

Why are you seeking elected office?

As a current School Board member, I enjoy working with school administration to continually evaluate, implement ideas and improve our school district to effectively provide a strong academic foundation for our students. Education is a priority for me, and I am interested in constantly evolving our academic offerings to meet the demands of today’s career options.

What should the Biddeford School Committee’s top priority be?

As a school committee member, I strive to support sound academic programs, valuable extracurricular activities and a safe learning environment while balancing expenses within a firm budget.

How can the school committee improve upon its previous work?

The school committee is best suited to meet its goals by improved attendance of meetings and various school events. Name: Jerry Tremblay Age: 44 Position seeking: Biddeford School Committee Address: 7 Misty Meadows Drive Phone: 207- 590-1095 Occupation: Business and Systems Analyst III at Martin’s Point Health Care Family: Wife Chantal, 12-year-old son Alex and 10-year old-son Dominick Education completed: Bachelor’s Degree in Business from University of Southern Maine, teaching certificate at University of New England Organizations and activities: Volunteering with United Way and Preble Street Soup Kitchen, Substitute Teacher back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Coached Freshmen basketball at Old Orchard Beach High School.

Top three issues:

1) Making sure as many students as possible get the opportunity to learn. Either by getting families the basic needs like food or by making sure they attend school.

2) Stop bullying.

3)More opportunities for advanced learning like gifted and talented. You want to help those that are struggling but at the same time allow students that excel to get opportunities to be challenged.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I want to be involved and give back in my community. I believe education has the most impact on someone’s life. The more you can learn and prepare the likely you are to be able to support yourself and family. Education also has many impacts on society, like eliminating racism and improving the health of citizens. So being on the school committee will allow me to affect children’s lives.

What should the Biddeford School Committee’s top priority be?

The top priority in my opinion is continuous improvement of creating an all-inclusive culture that allows all students to thrive. Hatred, bullying and disruptions to the day for any student makes learning difficult. A safe and positive environment will allow for the best learning opportunities.

How can the school committee improve upon its previous work?

The school committee has done work to get students involved in activities in and out of school and I would like to keep improving on this work. Approval of trips like Washington D.C. are vital to a complete education. I would like to find ways to get more students involved in activities like the Civil Rights club. Name: Lisa Vadnais Age: 56 Position seeking: school committee Address: 294 Granite Street Education: University of Southern Maine, Continued Education Kaplan University Occupation: educator in special education for 25 years Family: Husband David, three children, Jessica, Tommy and Cole Organization and Activities: Served six years school committee; Served two years on curriculum committee; Served six years finance committee; Chaired finance committee for two years; Served two years as SEA president

Top 3 issues:

1) My core focus over my last three terms has not changed much. I strongly feel we need to continue to find ways to generate revenue for our schools to off set the burden to taxpayers. We have done a good job in that area but I feel we can do more. We need to continue to explore areas of shared services. Its important to explore these avenues of sharing so we can offer the best services to our students at a cost savings.

2) We need to continue to improve our COT programs. Biddeford is very fortunate to have a center of technology in its district. There is a high demand for jobs in the area of plumbing, building trades, welding and electrical technology. We need to work at meeting those needs.

3) Another area of concern is meeting the needs of at risk students. Students with emotional and behavioral issues have been on the rise. Biddeford has done a lot of work towards meeting those needs with added facilities and programs. That work must continue so we can improve, support and maintain a safe learning environment while also meeting the needs of all students. School should be a safe and welcoming place. Having open conversations regarding the issues of mental health and behavior issues will help create and maintain our core values within our school community.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I have served on the school committee for three terms. In that time there has been many positive changes. Biddeford High School received continued accreditation, we have developed partnerships with area colleges so students can earn college credits while still in high school and we have moved to a proficiency based grading system in hopes to better meet the needs of students. This system should focus on areas of concern and drive and adjust our curriculum to meet those needs. Biddeford created a stem program K-12 and pre-K was added this year. A new facility was built to house a program to meet the needs of at risk students at the middle school level. These are just a few positive changes that have been made through the hard work of staff, administrators and committee members. I would love the opportunity to continue this great work in moving our district towards a common vision to make Biddeford a pioneer in great education.

What should the Biddeford School Committee’s top priority be?

Our schools are the heart of the community. Improving and maintaining our schools and facilities should be a top priority to making Biddeford a desirable area to live. Building relationships between school, community and local businesses is important for the area. Developing programs that meet the needs of the diverse student population along with the job demands of our community is what makes for a successful city. I believe we can be fiscally responsible and still deliver a quality education. That has been my focus and will continue to be if re-elected.

How can the school committee improve upon its previous work?

Despite all the hard work that has been done in the last six years there is always room for improvement. We must never stop finding ways to maintain our schools through sources of revenue outside of tax dollars. We must create ways to prioritize maintaining our facilities so they do not fall in disrepair. Having open communication with our neighboring schools may help lessen the burden on individual municipalities, which could open up avenues to better meet the needs of all students. Also I think its important to hire and retain qualified staff and administrators that share our vision. Its very difficult to work toward our goals and shared vision without consistency of staff. Another area of improvement would be to find ways to better communicate with parents, members of our community and local businesses to not only share the great things going on in our schools, but also to involve the community and make our schools great.

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