SOUTH PORTLAND — Both candidates running to fill a vacancy in District 1 on the School Board say their No. 1 priority is making sure students are thriving in a happy, healthy environment.

District 1 representative Jennifer Kirk will be fighting off challenger Thomas Fournier for a seat on the city School Board. Barring a write-in candidate, the District 2 seat will go unfilled at the November election, as incumbent Nicole Wiesendanger took out papers, but never returned them. The parameters of District 1 include Ferry Village, Lovett’s Field, Willard and Breakwater.

In the only other vacancy, Matthew Beck is running unopposed for another five-year term representing South Portland and Cape Elizabeth as trustee of the Portland Water District.

On Nov. 5, voters in District 1 in South Portland will be casting their ballots at the Boys and Girls Club at 169 Broadway. All residents may vote for all district candidates regardless of where they live in the city.

Voters in District 2 will vote at American Legion Stewart P. Morrill Post #35 at 413 Broadway. District 3 and 4 voters will cast ballots and the South Portland Community Center on Nelson Road and District 5 voters will do the same at Redbank Community Center on Macarthur Circle West.

Jennifer Kirk

Jennifer Kirk said she is running for re-election because the community is really important to her. As a member of the School Board for the past three years, Kirk said she’s been hands-on with the process and is a great candidate to help the board continue with its forward momentum.

Currently, she said the biggest issue facing city schools revolves around the proposed middle school project and traffic improvements, set to cost a total of $71.5 million. She said it’s important people get out and vote to approve the proposals, otherwise the cost may come out of their pockets in the future.

“It took a long process to get where we are, and if it doesn’t pass in the referendum then we lose that state funding,” she said. “Our middle schools will have to be built again no matter what, and it will come out of our pocket 100 percent.”

Having served on several committees during her time on the School Board, Kirk said she hopes to continue advocating for clean and well-taken-care-of facilities that last a long time. She said residents should vote for her because she “lives and breathes” the community she lives in.

Tom Fournier

Tom Fournier, who retired after working for 40 years as a teacher in Portland, said he’s running because he wants to continue maintaining his connection to education. As a longtime resident with children who have grown up in the school system, he believes he would add an excellent perspective to the board.

Fournier said the biggest issue facing any school is safety, not only from outside threats, but bullying via social media. Because of his work in Portland schools, he explained, he was able to experience more diversity, which is important for students to understand and appreciate one another.

He said it’s important to residents that students get the best possible education with the most responsible use of funds, and believes residents should vote for him because he knows, as an educator, the dynamics that go into making a school successful.

“Maintain high expectations is important, for school and,more importantly, the students,” he said. “Whether they aspire to work after school or go to college, the expectation should be that they have that opportunity and they just need to do the best that they can.”

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