A longtime incumbent and two political newcomers are vying for two open seats on the Sanford School Committee.

Incumbent Kendra Williams is seeking a third term to continue her work with the committee, while Emily Sheffield and Jennifer Davie say they’re motivated to run by their own experiences as parents of young children in Sanford schools.

The winners will serve three-year terms on the five-member board.

Williams, 64, has served on the committee for seven years. A counselor in private practice who attended Sanford schools and raised her children in the city, she describes herself as a strong proponent of public education.

Williams said she sees this as an exciting time for Sanford with the reorganization of elementary schools and the opening next year of a new high school and technical center.

“It’s going to be integrated learning. I’m a strong proponent of technical education. All of our students are going to be exposed to a much wider educational experience when they’re in high school,” she said. “With the elementary project we will have equitable facilities all the way through the system in the next few years.”

While it is an exciting time, Williams said, it is also challenging as the school department implements proficiency-based education as required. But she feels it will ultimately benefit students because each will be considered individually so they are not left behind.

Jennifer Davie, 40, is a mother of four and co-director of a youth basketball league. She had thought about running for school committee in the future, but pushed up those plans after becoming frustrated with communication between the district and parents and the roll-out of proficiency-based learning.

“Last year, communication between school and community wasn’t where it needed to be. I felt I could make a positive difference in that capacity,” she said. “You’re in the trenches, you’re raising kids in the schools. You’re living it day in and day out.”

Davie said she sees a “great divide” over proficiency-based learning and feels much of that is from lack of communication with parents or acknowledgment of concerns about it. She said some people may perceive her as anti-proficiency-based education, but she is not.

“People have spent countless hours trying to lay out framework in the district, but left out huge piece of the puzzle by not bringing in parents,” she said. “I am so frustrated.” Emily Sheffield, 43, has two children, one of whom attends Sanford High School. Several years ago, she attended and then helped facilitate a program through the Parent Leadership Training Institute that taught community members how to be advocates for children.

“That really resonated with me,” she said. “That’s when I dug in and thought I’m not interested in state politics, but school is a passion of mine. I feel parents really go unheard sometimes.”

Sheffield said she wants to ensure the administration looks out for students of all skill levels, especially with the transition to proficiency-based learning. She also wants to help bridge what she calls a “disconnect” between the schools and parents.

“I want teachers to feel validated in their concerns. I want them to feel supported. I want parents to feel supported,” she said. “I want them to know that I will follow through with their concerns and get back to them, while still being very respectful of confidentiality.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @grahamgillian

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