Meet the candidates for the SeDoMoCha school board
DOVER-FOXCROFT — Dover-Foxcroft voters will have a chance to choose two of five candidates for seats on Regional School Unit 68’s school board during the referendum on Tuesday, June 14.
The candidates are Jennifer Chase, Emily Poland, Marc Poulin, Leah Rideout and Elizabeth Walsh.
Nine members constitute the board. Members are elected for three-year terms by voters of the respective towns.
Chase and Poulin serve on the board as chairperson and vice chairperson, respectively. Their terms expire in 2022. Michelle Poole and Erin McCorrison of Charleston; Joel Pratt, Tim Smith and Elisa Schine of Dover-Foxcroft; James Pullen of Monson; and Mary Downs of Sebec are also members.
The following questions were posed to all of the candidates. Answers were edited for length and clarity.
In a few sentences, tell us about yourself.
Chase: I have lived in Dover-Foxcroft most of my life. I raised three daughters who attended local schools and graduated from Foxcroft Academy. Years before I was on the school board, I got involved by volunteering in each of my daughters’ classrooms in the elementary school. I was part of a parent group that initiated and ran the PTO as well as Project Graduation at Foxcroft Academy. Now my grandchildren and great-grandchildren by relationship attend SeDoMoCha and Foxcroft Academy. I am the transportation director for Rowell’s Garage. We contract with RSU 68 to transport students for SeDoMoCha and Foxcroft Academy, along with extracurricular activities. I have worked for Rowell’s in this capacity for 35 years. I am at the school nearly every day for one reason or another.
Poland: I was raised in Dover-Foxcroft for the majority of my childhood. My family has ties to this community dating back to the mid-1800s. I went to school at Morton Avenue, Mayo Street School, SeDoMoCha and graduated from Foxcroft Academy in 1992. My children both graduated from Foxcroft Academy. After graduating from the University of Maine in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, I began my career as a registered nurse. I worked in two hospitals, one in Skowhegan and the other in Emporia, Kansas, for more than five years before switching to school nursing at Emporia’s public school system. I have worked in public education as a medical professional for the past 17 years and have a master’s degree in public health from the University of New England.
Poulin: I’m 47 years old. Born and raised in Dexter. Lived in Dover-Foxcroft for 22 years. One of the reasons my wife and I moved to Dover-Foxcroft was because of the school system where our three children all attended (SeDoMoCha and Foxcroft Academy) and all have since graduated.
Rideout: I have lived in Dover-Foxcroft for 22 years, where I am raising three children with my husband, ages 18, 14 and 6. My career started in music and developed to where I am today as supervisor of patient accounts at Mayo Hospital. I have had leadership roles in Girl Scouts. More recently, I sit on the Piscataquis Regional YMCA Finance Committee and the RSU 68 Parent Advisory Committee, and I am assisting in creating a parent advisory group for the YMCA.
Walsh: I grew up in Dover-Foxcroft and am a Foxcroft Academy graduate. I went out of state for college and spent eight years living in Brownville, but the rest of my adult life has been in Dover-Foxcroft. I have children who attend school in the district.
Why do you want to serve on RSU 68’s school board? If you are already on the board, why do you want to continue as a member?
Chase: I have been on the school board since 1995, except for two years. I have taken every opportunity possible over the years to educate myself to be a better board person by reading books and attending conferences. I know I can continue to make a difference supporting quality and fair education to our kids. I make rational, common-sense decisions based on information and facts that I have in front of me. I want to continue to be a board member and help to plan for the future and support our kiddos in their education.
Poland: I have decided to run for the office of RSU 68’s school board because I care deeply about our community: its past, its present and its future.
Poulin: I have been on the board for at least three terms or nine years, with the last couple serving as the vice chairperson. My reason for service and continued service is to do my part to serve the community and continue to make our school better from facilities to curriculum to extracurriculars, with the goal being a safer and better experience for our kids.
Rideout: I have been an active parent in the RSU 68 community as a listener and speaker at school board meetings, SSO in the past and the Parent Advisory Committee. My areas of strength align with understanding policy, advocacy and listening to understand. I want to use those skills to better understand the regulatory roadmap our educators navigate in order to educate parents and community members about how they can get involved in a meaningful way. I value open dialogue even when topics are difficult and have had extensive training in communication skills. I want to promote an atmosphere where RSU 68 taxpayers feel heard, valued and respected even if their opinions differ from the board.
Walsh: I want to serve on the school board because I feel like we need more parents involved in the decision making that goes on in the school system. Parents should feel like they have a say in what goes on in their child’s school.
What is your vision for education in this community?
Chase: To continue to provide quality education for our students in every way possible and practicable. I am in favor of education being individualized so each child can learn their way and in their time frame. I very much favor an alternative education program with hands-on activities; a job shadowing opportunity for students as young as seventh grade; as many elective classes as practicable; a foreign language program; and college tours of two- and four-year schools to help our eighth-grade students think about their futures. We should continue to work on tutoring after school to get students who need it caught up from remote learning and continue fostering relationships through the Parent Advisory Committee or personal conversations.
Poland: I believe we can create a learning environment that is healthy, safe and nurturing; one that builds on lessons from the past to address challenges of the present and prepare our youth for the future. I would like to see our school community embrace components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child, or WSCC, model. This is a student-centered model that emphasizes the community’s role in supporting the school, connections between health and academic achievement and the importance of evidence-based school policies and practices. The model challenges us to have the student at the center of everything we do.
Poulin: To provide our kids with a safe learning environment, to teach basic and
fundamental subject matters and to provide a diverse opportunity for our kids to learn and grow, from advanced subject matter to extracurricular activities to elective classes, etc.
Rideout: Our community already has a robust education system in RSU 68 and Foxcroft Academy. I would like the school to continue promoting literacy, community service and diversity without falling prey to playing politics. I would like to see our community of citizens feel they are valued by our school board members. I want to nurture an environment where people don’t feel intimidated to ask questions and where they don’t have to search for answers and can trust their board members will follow up with them. I want to be part of regulatory oversight and ensure we are not looking at policy through a single lens.
Walsh: My vision for education in this community is a school that kids want to attend, where they feel safe and heard and are able to learn and develop into helpful, kind individuals and critical thinkers.
What do you see as the most important issue(s) facing Regional School Unit 68 today and in the future?
Chase: Continuing to build quality and diverse education by providing as many opportunities as possible to gain knowledge and experiences that our students can expand on each year. All while earning and maintaining the trust and support of our communities in spite of false and misleading information and accusations by some on social media.
Poland: One of the most important issues is quality relationships. Our children deserve a high-quality education provided by qualified staff. We need to ensure our children are surrounded by caring adults who are willing to accept students where they are and who they are while they work within the curriculum that is inclusive of the Maine Learning Results. Students must have a relationship with adults at school in order to feel valued, seen and cared for. When a student’s most basic needs are met — they are fed, healthy and safe — they will be better able to learn.
Poulin: Short term due to the pandemic and some of the challenges our RSU 68
community faced: continuing to implement plans and procedures to keep our kids in
School, monitoring any possible deficiencies our kids may have and working to resolve those with resources to get back on track. Long term: continued growth in the areas mentioned above. To provide a safe and diverse learning opportunity for our kids to be able to grow and
succeed in life.
Rideout: We are living in politically charged times. It is important to me that RSU 68 assists our students to be critical thinkers, teaching them how to form their own opinions, not teaching what opinions they should have. I want to be part of making sure politics stay out of the classroom and that the classroom is a neutral, accepting place for all students. I want to see each student met at their level and that teachers have the support and ongoing education they need to challenge their students constructively.
Walsh: I think the most important issue facing RSU 68 is putting children first and making decisions that have direct benefit to them. For example, making policies based on insurance reasons is a problem. I would like to see more consideration for how something will directly affect the educational lives of our children.
There are many factors that contribute to a student’s academic success. What do you believe those factors are, and how will you work with the board to close the gap?
Chase: We need students to attend school to help them succeed. The absentee and tardiness rate is alarming. Another factor is the collaboration and mutual support between parents and teachers. When they work together, the child always benefits. I’ve seen teachers come in early, give up lunch and stay after school to work with kids one-on-one. I will work cooperatively with the board and superintendent to address any gaps as I have always done.
Poland: A student learns within a community. A school board must work as a team with the superintendent and school staff to establish mutual trust and respect. It is with this relationship that meaningful progress can be made. A student will be more prepared and able to succeed academically when there is a relationship between students and staff. Likewise, the relationship between RSU 68 and Foxcroft Academy must be one of mutual trust and respect. Foxcroft Academy has a duty to our students to ensure that a safe, healthy and robust learning environment continues throughout their schooling. We must have the same expectations of qualified and caring professionals at Foxcroft Academy as we do in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
Poulin: I believe not all students learn in the same type of environment. That’s why I
have supported and will continue to support a diverse opportunity for them to
learn, grow and succeed. That can be through advanced academic classes, extra or co curricular activities, STEM opportunities and other hands-on learning environments.
Rideout: Students need their basic needs met, one of those being hunger, and RSU 68 does a fantastic job making sure our youngest citizens are nourished all year long. Students also need to have opportunities to learn the arts and be exposed to as many hands-on learning experiences as they can. I am excited about the outdoor classrooms. I would work with the board to identify opportunities for our students and hear teachers’ ideas. And ideally, work in conjunction with students to make sure their desires for learning are represented.
Walsh: The main factor that contributes to a student’s academic success is the school and the parents being able to work together for the good of the student. Part of that is listening to each other, and I will work with the board to facilitate that. The board needs to listen to parents’ concerns and implement them into decision making, and parents need to be kept up-to-date on decisions and why they’re being made.
Why should people vote for you?
Chase: I listen. Folks have come to me on many occasions to discuss various topics. They know that I heard them and I follow up with them, or I have administration follow up with them. I don’t change. That doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t change my mind, but I don’t change how I do things. I work hard for our district. I gain knowledge and do my homework. I base my decisions on factual information. Folks may not agree with me and I may not be able to divulge the information that I have, but I have never been untruthful or misleading, and folks know that. I will continue to work hard for our kids and our community.
Poland: I am passionate about ensuring children have access to qualified and caring professionals to educate them, meet their individual needs and help them build the skills necessary to be successful and engaged citizens. I have the experience, education and creative and critical-thinking skills necessary to consider challenging issues that face our educational systems today. As a registered nurse with school nursing experience, I have expertise in how schools work. I know from firsthand experience the various challenges and successes of the professionals working in our schools and look forward to this opportunity. I know what it is to draw diverse people together toward a common goal.
Poulin: I would appreciate your vote for a continued common-sense approach to all matters
facing our school system today. I have no special agendas, simply here to make our school a better and safer place for our kids to learn, grow and to succeed in life.
Rideout: People should vote for me because I have fresh eyes. I have experience in navigating the special education system, which gives me a unique perspective about learning styles and how to meet children where they are at while also challenging them. I desire to hear from the community about what you have as a vision for our school system. I want to promote an open conversation among parents and the board that feels productive.
Walsh: People should vote for me because I’m cool, fun and ready to get down to business for our kids. A vote for me is a vote for the future.