FREEPORT — A repatriated Mainer who earned a doctorate in public education from Oxford University in London was unanimously appointed to the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors to fill a seat unexpectedly vacated last week when Lindsay Sterling resigned.

“I’ve been very interested in the development of public education for the public good. That’s pretty much my interest,” Hancock told the Freeport Town Council during Tuesday’s meeting. Her term expires in November 2020.

Susana Hancock moved back to Maine about 18 months ago after living abroad for a decade. She completed her doctorate with a focus on public education at the University of Oxford in England in January and is a graduate of Connecticut College. She has won awards as an amateur astrophysicist and has performed as a concert cellist and sleight-of-hand musician.

“I’ve known Susana for many, many years, I know that she has a strong personality and is very focused. She’s a good listener, and we appreciate her willingness to serve,” Councilor Doug Reighley said.

Former school board member Sarah Woodard submitted a letter of interest to the council, but Councilor Sarah Tracy said Woodard stepped aside because of how impressed she was with Hancock’s qualifications.

RSU 5, which also includes the towns of Pownal and Durham, is in the process of reviewing its cost-sharing formula and is starting work on the new budget for the next school year. Tracy said the Freeport Council has been actively voicing what it believes is the best interests of the town and Freeport taxpayers.

“When you get on the board, you’ll have to figure out what’s the right decision. I’m not trying to influence you, but I hope that you (Hancock) will be open to the comments of both (the Council) and other residents who participate in the public process,” Tracy said.

Hancock said she sees herself as a representative of the town and wants Freeport residents to feel comfortable speaking to her about their concerns or offering their perspective on topics important to the school board.

Board Chairwoman Michelle Ritcheson said the key to being a good school board member is always having the best interests of the kids of the district at the center of their decision-making. The board is also working on implementing the first year of the strategic plan approved last year for the district.

“We have been very fortunate to have a strong board that always thinks of the children first and foremost,” Ritcheson said in an email.

Sterling, a chef and writer who unseated incumbent chairman Nelson Larkins in 2014, ran because she felt morale in the district was low, according to The Times Record. She was re-elected in 2017, and Ritcheson said at the time that Sterling “brings great energy and some good perspective to our discussions.”

Sterling issued her resignation Nov. 22 and attended her final meeting Dec. 11 in preparation for a move to California. She said serving on the board was an amazing experience and beyond rewarding to engage with the community and find solutions together.

“We’ve debated ideas, shared differing points of view, and worked through countless issues, all for the greater good. We’ve made education possible for thousands of students, empowering each to live their best life and become part of a healthy society that lifts individuals up by working together,” Sterling said.

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