Two Westbrook School Committee members are facing challengers in the Nov. 3 election.

In the race for an at-large seat, incumbent Sue Salisbury is vying against Matthew Brunner, a financial planner, owner of a charter fishing business and father of two schoolchildren.

Alex Stone, who represents Ward 1, is running for re-election against Steven Berry, a longtime parent-teacher organization member with two Westbrook graduates and a current student.

Salisbury, 45, and Stone, 42, have both served on the School Committee for the past eight years.

Salisbury said that, if re-elected, she would like to put in place a representative from the immigrant and refugee population as a liaison to the school board to help ensure the growing number English Language Learners in Westbrook schools “have everything they need to be successful.”

She would also like to set a date to break ground on a renovation and expansion project at Saccarappa School to address the needs of the building and the growing student population.

Salisbury, a fraud investigator at L.L. Bean who has three children in the school system, said she has established herself as a leader on the School Committee and proved her commitment to the community.

Brunner, 43, also sees the district’s “diverse and growing population” as a major asset and challenge for the city’s schools.

He believes school officials need to do a better job planning for future infrastructure needs, “so that we can break the cycle of build, consolidate, sell, repeat.”

Brunner believes his understanding of finances will help the board answer the call of most voters he’s spoken to: Avoid higher taxes without affecting the education of children.

He said he has no personal agenda, only “a strong philosophy of responsibility and accountability for myself and others.”

Running for the School Committee, he said, is a way to further the work he now does for children as a coach and volunteer.

In the Ward 1 race, Stone, a recruiter with two children in the schools, said he has no personal agenda, will never be an “automatic vote” for or against any issue and believes all students need to be held accountable for their actions.

He said his strategy for addressing the competing demands on the budget, including technology and capital improvements, along with shrinking resources, is to ask a lot of questions.

“It’s the only way to find out all of the options to choose from,” he said.

Stone said he has been the School Committee’s most passionate advocate for students and teachers and hasn’t been afraid to ask difficult questions or make difficult decisions.

Berry, 53, believes the goal of the district should be to have children wake up wanting to go to school.

“Our schools are here to serve the educational needs of all the children, and I want to be a part of that,” he said.

Berry, a forklift operator for Hannaford Bros., wants to see the district address its space needs by exploring expansion options.

He also thinks the schools need to focus on “getting a really good understanding (of) where curriculum is going” and how the School Committee can help it get there, while taking into consideration what taxpayers can afford.

Through his volunteer work, his children’s experience in Westbrook schools and conversations he’s had with other parents, he said, he has “a good grasp for what the public wants to see out of their school system.”

Also on the ballot are two incumbents running unopposed: Veronica Bates in Ward 2 and James Violette in Ward 5.


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