PORTLAND — It’s been close to a decade since Washington Avenue resident Christopher Vail has run for a public office, but the 2011 candidate for Portland mayor says he is ready to serve his community again.

“I have a 10-year-old son and during his time in the Portland school system, my hope is I can develop a voice and be part of something that can be more responsive than it’s been,” he said.

Vail is running against Aura Russell-Bedder on Election Day, Nov. 3, to replace Timothy Atkinson as the District 4 representative on the Portland Board of Education. Atkinson did not seek a second term. District 4 represents East Deering and much of the area between Stevens Avenue, Woodford Street and Baxter Boulevard.

Vail said he was spurred to run after the school board decided to discontinue the school resource officer program at Deering and Portland high schools because he felt “the voice and opinion of the public wasn’t taken into account.”

Russell-Bedder said she is running because she wants to see her section of the city have a more active representation on the school board.

“I think this is a good opportunity for me to represent the whole district, but in particular the East Deering neighborhood, which I think is underrepresented in Portland government,” she said.

Both candidates said the district should be doing more to offer a more equitable education for all students. Vail said that starts with “stepping back and looking at the system as whole” and making sure the money the district is spending ends up in the classroom. Portland schools, he said, are too top heavy and he wants more of the district’s resources “allocated to the teachers and the people on the front line of teaching.”

“I think we could do more with the funding we allocate. The trickle down effect of that is you would have more funding that is going to students, to teachers and to what’s going on in the classroom,” he said.

Russell-Bedder said part of the equity work she would like the district to do is looking at how students are disciplined to help the disparity by race, as well as hiring more teachers of color

“Portland schools are really progressive, especially if you look at some of the other schools in the area, and are doing a lot of work that is pushing the envelope on anti-racism,” she said. “There is a lot of good work that is going on, but it takes time.”

Russell-Bedder, an active member of the 2017 Four School Bond campaign, wants the board to continue to focus on renovations at Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools. She also would like the board to work with the City Council to prioritize focus on city education.

Vail said should he win, he would like to improve the the school board’s outreach through email and social media.

“I don’t hear a lot of outreach from the school board,” he said.

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