SKOWHEGAN — The names of five candidates will be on the ballot Tuesday for three open seats representing Skowhegan on the School Administrative District 54 board of directors.

Debate over the Skowhegan “Indians” nickname and mascot might be over, but it’s not forgotten.

Two incumbent school board directors, Jennifer Poirier and Karen Smith, voted to keep the “Indians” name; and a third candidate, Alicia Boulette, a newcomer to the election scene, said: “I am a Skowhegan Indian and always will be.”

Voting, which includes Skowhegan selectmen’s races, is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Municipal Building on Water Street.

Poirier, 44, who has served nine years — three full terms — on the school board, was the founder of the Skowhegan Indian Pride Facebook page, supporting efforts to retain the “Indians” name and image for high school sports teams. She since has given up her control of the closed social media group.

The SAD 54 board voted 14-9 in March to “respectfully retire” the nickname “Indians” for all schools in the district.

That vote was followed in April by another school board vote rejecting placing a nonbinding advisory or survey on the June referendum ballot on the use of the “Indians” nickname, school imagery and mascot.

Jennifer Poirier

Those votes were followed in May by passage of a bill prohibiting Maine public schools and universities from using mascots and logos depicting Native Americans.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill, which will become effective 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

“It’s over — it is — it’s time to move on,” Poirier said of the mascot debate, which had raged in and out of school board meetings since 2015. “I’ll always be a Skowhegan Indian at heart.”

Now, Poirier said, it’s time to focus on education and the pressing issues of delivering that education. She said when she was first elected to the board, the big issue was closing the Cornville school, which was contentious. Now, she said, the big issue is bullying.

“It’s been that way and it just keeps getting worse,” she said. “It’s an issue that most schools are contending with right now.”

Poirier said she wants to bring a program called Rachel’s Challenge back to the high school. The program is about making schools safer by reducing bullying and violence.

She said another issue on the table for the school board is a plan to make restrooms at the high school gender-neutral.

Michael Lambke

“Respect” is also a word that school board candidate Michael Lambke uses in his approach to educating children. Lambke, 51, a physician at Skowhegan Family Practice, said “respect” was the key word in his support of retiring the Native American mascot for sports teams.

“Mascots should unify, not offend people,” he said.

He said he has two children in the school district and sees children in his medical practice.

“As a physician, I think what I can offer is an awareness of mental health issues that go on with our kids, that affect their capacity, their ability to learn,” he said. “Their mental health is impacted by school bullying, and as a physician I can provide a helpful voice in that conversation of how we address those issues. I think that respect for each other as individuals is primary. As adults we need to be demonstrating respect for others.”

june 6, 2019

Ethan Masterman

Candidate Ethan Masterman, 38, a downtown investment adviser, said the issue of bullying in schools, class size and school funding also are on his radar as the father of three young children.

He said he has had no experience with public office, but that now would be a good time “to step in and help.”

“In all schools there is a funding issue with the state and there is a classroom size issue,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk about behavioral issues with students and teachers being able to physically deal with them with a lack of funding in the schools. We’re not really providing them with enough staff. Bullying has been a hot topic.”

Masterman said the Skowhegan “Indians” debate is over and it’s time to move on.

Karen Smith

Karen Smith, first elected to the school board as a write-in in 2016, said she is seeking re-election “to continue to be involved with how our schools are doing, educationally and fiscally. This is important for me, as I have four children that have gone through the public school system.” Smith’s husband, Todd, is a school board member.

She said issues that concern her include the maintenance of schools and the cost involved with that, the graduation rate and the local poverty level.

Smith, 53, a banker, said she was disappointed with the board vote to retire the “Indians” nickname. She said the voice of the people was not heard.

“Even though the school board voted on the Indian issue, I feel the majority of the residents of this school district are not in favor of changing the name,” she said.

Alicia Boulette

Candidate Alicia Boulette agreed with Smith, saying district taxpayers were ignored when the issue of the “Indians” mascot was debated.

“It just seems like every time a hot topic comes up, somebody else is more important than the people that are actually earning the money to make stuff happen, whether it be school, whether it be town,” she said. “Part of it is the ‘Indian’ thing, because that seems to be the latest hot topic. I believe politics took it all over and the taxpayers weren’t listened to.”

Boulette, 50, is the office manager at Quinn Hardware. Her mother, Lynda Quinn, is a school board member, and her sister, Vanessa, was a Skowhegan selectwoman until her death earlier this year.

“I have never held a public office, but I decided it was my turn,” she said. “Mom has been in office and my sister would have been a great selectman, had she lived longer. Taxpayers have taken a back seat in a lot of issues, and I think their concerns should be listened to.

“This is definitely going to be a learning experience for me. I will not go in trying to change things, but be a listener to the taxpayers.”