A longtime incumbent on the South Portland Board of Education faces a challenge Nov. 5 from a political newcomer in the only race for a seat on the board.

Rick Carter, a nine-year veteran of the board who is now its chairman, faces Eugene Swiger, a former custodian and maintenance employee for the school district. The winner will represent District 1, in the eastern part of the city.

Carter, 51, said his experience on the board gives him an advantage during the annual budgeting process, especially as the district prepares to deal with uncertainty from state-level budget planners.

“I’ve been there before and I’m able to work through it,” he said.

Carter said he hopes to continue progress in the coming year on the multimillion-dollar renovation of South Portland High School. He also expects continued progress in the district’s preschool program, which he said has already had success.

“The most important thing we do as a society is educate your kids,” Carter said. “To do that, we need a strong public education system.”

Swiger, 64, said he is not a traditional politician and chose to run so he could push for tighter limits on expenses and pursue his desire to reinvigorate trade programs.

Not every student is cut out for college, Swiger said. He would advocate for greater availability of technical and trade-related classes, and a return to educational building blocks – reading, writing and mental math, he said.

“Go back to the basics, before they give them calculators and computers,” Swiger said. “I’m somewhat old school.”

Swiger suggested that administrators are overpaid, but would not be specific about positions for which he would seek limits.

He criticized the ongoing high school renovation project and its associated costs.

“The administration has to realize there are a lot of fixed-income people in the city and taxes are a strain,” he said. “I think there’s waste that can be cleaned up in the school system.”

Two other school board seats are open on the Nov. 5 ballot, with incumbents running unopposed for each of them. Sara Goldberg is seeking another three-year term in District 2, and Mary House is unopposed for another one-year at-large term.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

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