SOUTH PORTLAND – Voters will have three seats to fill on the South Portland board of education when they head to the polls Nov. 5, and, as is so often the case, most of the races are uncontested.

The one battle on the ballot pits school board chairman Rick Carter against retired school custodian Eugene Swiger for the right to represent District 1 on the city’s east end for the next three years.

Carter, 51, of Thompson Street has been the operations manager at Marshall’s department store since 1991. The winner of three terms on the school board since 2004, he has served seven of his nine years on the board as either its chairman or vice chairman.

In February, Carter lost to Michael Pock by just two votes of 608 votes cast in a four-way special election to the City Council. During that campaign, Carter said win or lose he had already resolved to step down from the school board at the end of his term.

“With my sons now almost out of college – one is a junior and one is graduated – my intent was this would be my last year on the school board,” he said, at the time.

However, when the time came to file nomination papers this fall, Carter was back on board for a go at another three years.

“I have had the honor and privilege to serve for nine years, but there is more to be done, and I want to be a part of it,” he said, adding that his goals and priorities have not changed when it comes to serving on the school board.

“The most important thing we do as a society is educate your kids,” he said. “To do that, we need a strong public education system. Everything we do as a board should be based on student achievement.”

Swiger, 64, of Boyd Road retired as a maintenance worker for the school department in 2011. He is the father of two grown sons. Swiger’s wife, Catherine, was a longtime teacher in the district.

Swiger acknowledges that he is an unlikely candidate for school board. He chose to run, he said, to give voice to dissatisfied employees and to push for greater fiscal restraint.

“I don’t think the citizenry gets the whole picture of how the schools are operating,” he said. “I feel the true picture is not there. I’m a common-sense person, and if I feel something isn’t quite right I think it needs to be fixed.”

Having sat on the Secondary Schools Facility Committee, Swiger has criticized the cost of the $47 million high school renovation project, which Carter champions.

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

Calling himself “old school,” Swiger also questions administrator pay, while advocating against the “common core” curriculum, instead favoring a returned emphasis on tech school and trade skills.

“I think by cutting programs and classes for students who may want to go into trades, you are taking away choice from the students,” he said.

In other school board contests, Mary House and Sara Goldberg are running unopposed in the at-large and District 2 races, respectively.

House, 41, of Elderberry Drive is a project manager at Woodard & Curran, a Portland-based civil engineering firm. In November of 2012, she won the nod over five other applicants for a City Council appointment to fill out the term vacated by Jeffrey Selser, who stepped down to become a middle school coach. However, none of those hopefuls returned when it came time to mount an actual election campaign.

Goldberg, 52, of Pine Street, a medical office manager, first won election to the school board in 2007. This is the third consecutive race in which she has run unopposed.

Rick CarterEugene Swiger

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