PLACE OF RESIDENCY: Brunswick

PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat

PREVIOUS ELECTED EXPERIENCE: Brunswick Town Council 2008-2013

Why are you running for a seat on the Brunswick School Board?

I want to make sure all of our kids get the same great education I did here in Brunswick. I grew up in Brunswick and attended our public schools, graduating from BHS in 1992. After going to Georgetown University and working out of state, I returned to Brunswick in 2004 and became a lawyer. I served on the town council for six years, from 2008-2013. My wife Ana Hicks and I live on Maine Street and have two daughters who attend Coffin and Harriet Beecher Stowe. My two terms on the town council during the economic downturn and base closure convinced me that in order to grow and prosper, Brunswick has to attract new families to the town — and also reassure some current residents, who might be questioning our commitment to the schools, to stay. Crucial to that is protecting the quality and reputation our schools have earned over many years and make sure Brunswick remains competitive with neighboring communities. I also learned that the inclusion of community members in public decision-making is not only good in theory, it works in practice. There are no outside groups when it comes to conversations about our schools.

Before I came back home to Brunswick twelve years ago, I worked in Washington, D.C. as a staff aide to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, in the Bill Clinton Administration, and I worked as a legislative aide in both the Maine and Massachusetts State Senates. I will use my experience working at the Federal, State, and Town levels of government to benefit the school system I attended, and where I’m proud to send my own children.

How do you think the school department’s facility needs should be addressed?

Jordan Acres elementary school closed over five years ago, Coffin and the Junior High are long overdue for replacement or renovation. Our teachers and students are still waiting for safe, modern facilities for all. BJHS, which had a “new” wing when I got there in the mid-’80s — the wing was rebuilt after an arson attack — is in dire need of renovation. It shouldn’t take another fire to get us to maintain and upgrade our buildings. It’s time to step up. Brunswick’s immediate challenge is to build a new elementary school. Coffin School is 60 years old and “temporary” mobile units became permanent several decades ago. Harriet Beecher Stowe is only a few years old — but overcrowded. Finally, over the last year, the School Board has come to a consensus that a new school should be built at the old Jordan Acres site. And it appears that this fall, a design will be finalized. Over the next six to eight months, the School Board, Town Council, and the public must approve the financing of the project, which will impact all our property tax bills. A long-term decision like this must be made with full community support. My past experience on the Town Council would bring a helpful perspective to the School Board as we move forward on a new school, as well as planning annual budgets.

Do you feel like Question 2 on the state ballot is an effective way to help fund public education?

Yes, I support Question 2. If passed, the state will provide fairer funding for many towns, including Brunswick. A 3-percent surcharge on high income (above $200,000) is a progressive and justified approach which corrects past tax policy which has shifted the tax burden to middle class families and retirees — especially in property taxes. The funding provided by Question 2 would go directly to student learning, and cannot go to administrative costs. Over the years, administrations in Augusta have not met their obligation to pay for 55 percent of overall education spending. Towns have to step up if they want to maintain good school systems, and property taxpayers are feeling the squeeze.

This problem has been exacerbated by the policies of Gov. LePage, who has cut income taxes, abolished the circuit breaker tax relief program and has repeatedly tried to slash revenue sharing with municipalities. And he recently announced a proposal to shift the costs of superintendents and principals entirely to towns. It’s clear that Maine residents and their elected school boards shouldn’t anticipate much help from the administration any time soon. That said, I have no doubt that we can succeed in this challenging environment because Brunswick has a legacy of supporting education. If Question 2 passes, we will receive some of the assistance we have been denied for years.


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