Three vie for two seats on the School Committee

Three vie for two seats on the School Committee By Jesse Scardina

KITTERY, Maine – One incumbent is seeking re-election to the Kittery School Committee, while two other candidates are vying for both his and another open seat.

David Batchelder is seeking re-election to the committee, after serving for the previous seven years, and is hoping to continue the work the committee has been doing, including year-to-year sustainable budgets and continuing the modernizing of the schools. Hoping to join him are John Driscoll and Rhonda Pomerleau, the latter of whom hopes to increase the committee’s transparency and communication, while the former doesn’t want the district to accept mediocrity.

Batchelder, who has lived in Kittery since 1997 and has had three children in the school district, sees the most important issue pertaining to the school district being crafting a “learning environment that meets each students needs and provide them with the educational environment to succeed,” according to an email response. He also sees the need of fiscally sustainable budgets as an important one.

Pomerleau – who has lived in Kittery for nearly 30 years and has had two children go through the school system – sees transparency as the committee’s largest issue.

“We need to increase the transparency to divulge more information to the community,” she wrote in an email. “There is a lot of information that the Kittery community should know about – information from workshops, executive sessions. Transparency is very important. If we increase the transparency the more the community will trust us and with trust comes respect.”

Driscoll, who has lived in Kittery Point for 10 years and has five children in the school system and another that has graduated, hopes to help “create a culture of excellence” in the schools.

“It’s a question of whether we strive to be great or accept mediocrity,” Driscoll wrote in an email. “Sometimes we get conditioned to settle for the status quo. Our community should expect excellence in our schools and we should constantly work towards that. Where there is excellence it should be celebrated, and where there is mediocrity, it should be improved or removed.”

Pomerleau also wants to set up a better guidance department for students who do not go to college to help in the transition after high school and to support teachers more.

“I believe we should work with our teachers. We need to be open and when teachers have concerns they need to follow the chain of command but ultimately, the school committee should know what is going on and how the teachers are being treated,” Pomerleau said.

Driscoll sees improvement at Shapleigh Middle School as a point of focus moving forward.

“I think that the middle school, of the three, needs the most improvement and yet gets the least attention,” he said. “In my time, I have seen four principals, various failed initiatives, an uneven level of the quality of teaching and a culture that resists efforts at improvement. I do think it is improving right now, but slowly. I am hopefully that it will continue to improve under the present leadership.”

Batchelder is hoping to continue the implementation of the high school’s redesign and proficiency-based learning framework.

“We also need to create an effective evaluation system for students and staff that take into consideration not just test scores but mechanisms that evaluate the whole person,” Batchelder said, adding that increased communication with students, staff and the community was necessary.

While calling the consolidation of four schools to three a success both educationally and economically, Batchelder said some work needs to continue with transitioning students from school to school.

“We have to continue to make sure that the transition from the third grade at Mitchell School to the fourth grade at Shapleigh School is successful for students and parents,” he said. “And we need to provide the necessary support.”

Driscoll also called the consolidation a success in the sense that it saved the town money, but added that continued work at the middle school was of importance to further improving the consolidation process.

“People in this town are entitled to expect excellence, and that goes for the middle school too,” Driscoll said.

Pomerleau also believes that the school committee needs to be more “open-minded and listen to the parents and the general public.”

“When someone comes to a meeting and expresses their concerns, we need to ensure that we take a look at their concerns and address them be it warranted or not,” she said.

Voting takes place at the Kittery Community Center gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4.