Two leaders in Raymond’s town government retired this year from long careers in public service. The Lakes Region Weekly caught up with Jeri Keane-Dreyer, former School Board member, and Mike Reynolds, former chairman of the Select Board, to ask them about their civic experiences and their views on Raymond’s future.

Jeri Keane-Dreyer

For Keane-Dreyer, learning is evolving in a positive way at Windham-Raymond schools.

“Education going forward is changing in very exciting ways,” said the former member of the Regional School Unit 14 Board of Directors, citing shifts in teaching methods to more project- and group-based learning.

Keane-Dreyer retired this summer after 14 years of serving on both the Raymond School Board and the Windham-Raymond Board. She started in 1999, when she was appointed to a one-year term, and then went on to serve two more terms, ending in 2005.

During the effort to consolidate the two towns’ schools in 2009, Keane-Dreyer joined the board again “because I wanted to be involved in the transition,” she said.

The consolidation process was one of the biggest challenges during her time on the board, Keane-Dreyer said. As chairwoman of the Finance Committee during part of the process, she was leading the effort to merge two budgets and two sets of contracts.

Another challenge posed by consolidation was more personal, because it involved “bringing two communities together as one district,” she said, “and getting two communities to like and respect each other.”

On this, Keane-Dreyer said the towns “have made great strides in the last seven years.”

Despite the level of challenge, “I would say consolidation has been to the towns’ benefit,” Keane-Dreyer said, “because of economies of scale. If we had continued as the Raymond School District, the budget challenges would have been extraordinary.”

School Board Chairwoman Marge Govoni also became a member of the School Board during consolidation. During the merger process and beyond, “it’s been unbelievable the wealth of knowledge (Keane-Dreyer) brought to the board, which helped with the integration of the two towns,” Govoni said.

Keane-Dreyer was heavily involved in many of the projects with the biggest impact, Govoni said, including negotiations with the Raymond withdrawal committee in 2015.

In all of these processes, Govoni said, “she’s very thorough in her thinking and very unbiased. She tries to see both sides to everything.”

“I really can’t say enough good things about her,” Govoni said, “and I’m really going to miss her.”

Going forward, Keane-Dreyer said some of the challenges she anticipates for the district include the planning and financing of a new Windham Middle School, and shifting toward standards-based diplomas.

Standards-based diplomas are another way education is shifting – to focus more on performance and learning than letter grades and “carrot-and-stick” methods of reward.

The shift to this style of learning is “tough work, but our teachers are doing it beautifully,” Keane-Dreyer said.

The most gratifying part of working on the board has been the excitement of teachers and staff for tackling new challenges in learning, and the cooperation between the districts, according to Keane-Dreyer.

The school’s greatest strength is “a commitment on all levels” – including the board, teachers, staff and administration –  “to providing education for all students, and making it a great school for the kids and community,” she said.

Keane-Dreyer said she decided to end her time on the board in part because her daughter, Molly Keane-Dreyer, now lives in New York City and she wants to be able to visit regularly.

Being a School Board member is a big time commitment, Keane-Dreyer said, “and I was going to do it all the way or just say no.”

“I’m ready to step off the board and watch from a different perspective,” she said.

Mike Reynolds 

The best evidence of democracy, according to Reynolds, is found in Raymond’s small-town conversations.

“The difference of a few voices is sometimes all it takes to make a big change,” said Reynolds, former chairman of Raymond’s Board of Selectman. “I’ve seen it multiple times that an individual has spoken and it has changed the room because they gave their heartfelt opinion.”

Reynolds retired this year after serving 12 years as a member of the Board of Selectman.

“I felt it was time to step away and let someone with fresh ideas be a part of it,” he said.

To those people with “fresh ideas” who might be intimidated by the idea of joining the board, Reynolds says, “No one needs to know about politics to be on the select board,” Reynolds said. “You use your common sense, and that’s important.”

Reynolds decided to join the board while volunteering for the town’s technology committee in 2004. He was approached by other committee members, he said, and asked if he would consider joining the Board.

Twelve years later what he’s most proud of, he said, is that during that time the tax-rate has remained virtually the same. Reynolds, for instance, has seen his property taxes on his home increase $38 since 2004.

“Over the years (the board) has managed boom and bust times, and new growth from businesses,” Reynolds.

All the while, he said said, the town budget increased by one-third, to $4.1 million.

“We were able to grow at the same pace the town was growing,” Reynolds said. In part, growth was managed by cutting back on services and office staff and developing a website for the town where services can be accessed 24/7.

Town Manager Don Willard said in his time on the board, Reynolds “provided for increased infrastructure, which promoted transparency,” and streamlined the process for distributing information among the select board.

“He’s a very good person to work with, Willard said, “fair, reasonable, calm and collected. He’s not someone who rattled easily, which is important in this business.”

In terms of legacy, Willard, said Reynolds will be remembered “for the positive changes to the town, and a real dedication to public service and improving the town in a myriad of ways.”

When Reynolds joined the board in the early 2000s, one of the town’s major goals was to manage growth, he said. Now that the town’s population seems to have leveled off, it’s clear “Raymond will never be a commercial destination,” he said.

“What we are is a water resource and a second home resource,” Reynolds said. As climate change continues to affect water resources across the world, “our water recreation will become even more desirable,” Reynolds said, and “the lakefront is going to be what the town is known for.”

The town’s population nearly triples during the summer months, Reynolds said. Nearly half of the town’s tax dollars come from vacation home owners, which is an industry that is not going away, he said.

The tourists aren’t the only ones enjoying the scenery. Reynold’s favorite place in all of Raymond, he said, is sitting on the front porch outside his house in the woods.

When he worked in Portland, Reynolds said, he most looked forward to coming home and “being in my favorite paradise. (Sitting on my porch) is still one of my favorite things to do.”

Jeri Keane-Dreyer

Mike Reynolds

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