PORTLAND — Adam Burk and Sam Rosenthal are vying for the District 3 School Board seat being left vacant by longtime member Laurie Davis, who is not running in the Nov. 5 election.

School Board Chairman Roberto Rodriguez and member Anna Trevorrow, who are both uncontested, are also seeking re-election to their respective At-Large seats this fall.

Both Burk and Rosenthal support the district’s new strategic plan, called the Portland Promise, particularly in terms of its equity goals.

However, Rosenthal does not support proficiency-based learning and feels that there should be consequences when students don’t meet expectations from getting to class on time to developing good study habits.

Burk is concerned about making sure the schools provide nourishing, quality meals. With the overall mental and emotional health of students, he also argues there are not enough social workers in the schools.

Burk

“I’m passionate about kids and learning in Portland and I am a big fan of where the Portland Public Schools are trying to go,” Burk said. “It’s important that our schools are transforming, nurturing and welcoming” to every student.

Some of the biggest issues for Burk are making sure that programs that work are being offered to all students in all schools.

For instance, he would like to see the East End Community School’s Rise & Shine program expanded to all elementary schools in the district. The program started as a way to get students excited about school while also building strong connections with each other and community volunteers. Now it offers over 75 weekly activities to help students “get their minds working and bodies moving at the start of the day,” according to the school’s website.

Burk is also concerned about funding for the schools.

As someone striving to support a young family, Burk said he understands that people have real concerns about annual increases in property taxes to support the schools. That’s why he would like to see the district pivot to pursuing more public-private opportunities.

“We’ve moved the baseline and ground gains have been made,” Burk said, “but the question is how do we continue to move forward. There are ways to fund the schools other than through taxes.”

Another big issue, he said, is providing support for teachers. “We need to listen and to provide for their needs” better, Burk said, “especially in terms of the curriculum.” He would also like to see more diversity among the teaching staff and wants teachers and administrators to focus more on opportunity gaps and inherent biases.

He said voters should choose him because he has a long history of working with schools to accomplish community goals and because he can get things done. “This is purely a passion project for me,” Burk said.

Rosenthal

Rosenthal is a 1971 graduate of Portland High School. He said some of the changes at the Portland Public Schools are for the better, while others are “not so good.”

“I’ve always believed that public education is one of this country’s crown jewels,” he said. “It allows people to advance themselves, no matter their background and I want to see that continue.”

Rosenthal has serious questions about proficiency-based learning and the lack of consequences to students who don’t apply themselves to learning. He also feels that there is a lot of what he termed “grade inflation” happening, particularly when about two-thirds of students are making the honor roll, compared to the lower percentage when he was in school.

He said the ideology of “everyone gets a trophy” and that students can keep trying to pass a test or gain a skill, is part of why SAT scores have remained essentially flat for Portland students and why students continually perform poorly on state-wide assessment tests.

Rosenthal said he fears the “no harm, no foul attitude,” in the schools. He believes, “the focus should be on instilling good study habits and hard work.” With proficiency-based learning, “we’re not addressing the key problems” with achievement,” he said.

“We need to do something, especially in math.”

He wants the School Board to enact a uniform student code of conduct and also wants to see better monitoring of results from various educational initiatives. “I’m a numbers guy and as an engineer I spent much of my career setting goals, getting data and then adapting accordingly.”

Rosenthal also said that the needs of classroom teachers should be dictating policy decisions at the School Board level. “We need bottom up input,” he said.

Like Burk, he’s concerned with the budget and like Burk he wants to see the School Department expand its base of available funding beyond the property tax.

One way to save money, Rosenthal said, would be to consolidate schools and then sell the buildings and land. He also wants to push the Legislature to provide 55% of educational funding as required by a 2004 referendum.

He said voters should choose him because “I will make sure students get the same quality of education I received.”

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