CAPE ELIZABETH — All three incumbents running for re-election to the Cape Elizabeth School Board say their experience dealing with declining state and federal aid over the last few years gives them the experience to deal with a future that promises even tighter budgets.
“We’ve been through a lot of tough decisions the last few years and there are going to be more in the next few years,” said David C. Hillman, who’s completing his first term on the board. “It takes skill to balance all those things and keep the schools in Cape as good as we can at a reasonable cost to local taxpayers.”
That thought was echoed by John C. Christie III and Mary K. Williams-Hewitt, both of whom are also finishing their first terms on the board.
Challenging those three are Michael Goulding, who thinks the board should work with local lawmakers to try to avert further cuts in state aid, and William H. Gross III, who thinks new trends in education can help the schools be more effective.
The top three vote-getters in the five-way race will win seats.
Hillman said experience in fashioning a budget helps, and said his work as a lawyer also gives him a background that’s valuable on the board.
“The costs of education are rising faster than the cost of inflation,” he said, but said the board has taken some steps to rein in those increases.
For instance, he noted that Cape Elizabeth Middle School now has some high school teachers coming into classrooms to help better integrate the middle and high school math curriculums.
Christie said the board has worked to wring more savings by installing more efficient fuel and energy systems and also refinancing debt to gain more favorable terms.
Christie said his role as head of operations and finance at an IT firm gives him a background in budgeting and management that helps the board do its work better.
“Experience matters on the board,” said Christie, who said voters should look at how the board has handled staff turnover that includes a new superintendent. While dealing with changes at the top, he said, the board also crafted a new mission statement and will soon turn toward drafting a strategic plan that will put that statement into action.
It would be helpful to have the same people who created the process that led to the mission statement working on the strategic plan, he said.
Williams-Hewitt said she believes she’s been “an advocate for all students,” whether they’re AP students or those who struggle in school.
“I’m a working mother who wants to make sure that all kids’ needs are being taken care of,” she said, noting that she has focused on coming up with a realistic budget while preserving programs like foreign language instruction, art and music.
“We don’t have a big business (tax) base in Cape, so we have to be smart about how to keep all those programs going forward,” she said.
But Gross said he’d like to see the board try some bold moves that he thinks would save money and improve education.
Gross said some educators believe the goals for in-class work and homework should be reversed, with students watching videos of lectures at home. They should do problem-solving work, which is usually assigned as homework, in the classroom instead, where teachers are available to help.
“This gets rid of the duplication and allows the teacher to act more as a coach,” said Gross, who added that it takes advantage of advances in technology and has been shown to be effective, particularly in math and science.
“I’d like to see our first steps taken toward it,” he said, noting that some teachers already tape their lectures and put them online for students who miss a class.
Goulding said he believes his background, which includes about four years of teaching some years ago, would give him some insights that other board members might lack.
Still, he said, “I’m very happy with the school system in Cape Elizabeth,” and would like to focus on ways to keep federal and state aid flowing in tough times.
“I’m not into rabble-rousing or anything like that,” Goulding said. “I’d rather be collaborative and helpful.”
ALSO ON THE BALLOT
Only three candidates are running for the three available seats on the Town Council. Jessica L. Sullivan and James T. Walsh are running for re-election and James R. Wagner is running for the seat being vacated by council chair Sara Lennon.
Also on the ballot is a referendum that would allow the town to borrow up to $6 million to renovate and expand Thomas Memorial Library. Proponents say the library is too cramped and inefficient while also failing to meet some accessibility codes, but opponents of the measure say a less expensive renovation is called for.
Voters will also decide whether any future capital expenditures of more than $1 million should go to a referendum. Currently, the council can approve all major expenditures without a referendum, but some residents were upset when it appeared the council was going to use that power for the library project.
That debate led to the decision to see whether voters want to decide future major projects.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: