SCARBOROUGH — Two challengers and an incumbent are vying for two seats on the Scarborough Board of Education.

Board Chairwoman Leanne Kazilionis is running for re-election against challengers John David Dittmer and Mary Shannon Lindstrom. Board member Hillory Durgin did not submit nomination papers for re-election.

All three candidates stressed the need to continue work the district has done to provide education to Scarborough’s children, even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Dittmer noted it was difficult during budget discussions this summer to secure funding for COVID-19 expenditures for the 2020-2021 school year, and pledged to work to secure better funding in the budget for the 2021-2022 school year.

“Next year’s budget must include contingencies that plan for the possibility of a prolonged outbreak,” he said. “The school board needs members who are willing to stand up for the needs of the students, the teachers, the support staff and the schools.”

Kazilionis pointed to her experience working with the district on how best to continue education during the pandemic, including her work on the task force over the summer creating the reopening plan now in place. She also supported a grant request from the state for expanded child care for students during remote learning days. Kazilionis said she will continue this work if re-elected.

“I will also continue to keep the board apprised of new information, requirements and educational opportunities regarding the pandemic as they are made available by the (Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (the Maine) Department of Education.”

Lindstrom stressed the need for the board to continue to work with the district to monitor the number of possible cases of coronavirus and adjust the education model if necessary. She also said the board and district need to remain mindful of the various needs of families during the pandemic.

“For some families, it is affordable childcare. For other families, it is having a meal for breakfast and dinner,” Linsdstrom said. “If I am elected, I would work with the board and superintendent to continue listening to and addressing family needs.”

Dittmer said balancing educational quality with cost goes beyond funding for coronavirus-related expenses. He said the board has to provide funding for what the district needs, but keep an eye on the burden to the taxpayer, too.

“As a person who has co-owned and managed a small business in Scarborough for 12 years, I know that this is a tight needle to thread, and I believe I have the skills and experience to accomplish it,” he said. “I view our schools as an investment, not just in our children, but our entire community.”

Kazilionis said another goal if re-elected is to continue to address what she called the “fractures” in the community that come from clashes over the budget. While the 2018, 2019 and 2020 budgets passed local referendum on the first pass, the Scarborough school budget has a history of not being approved so easily. Approval took two referendums in 2012, three votes in 2013 and two in 2014. The budget was rejected again in 2015, and again in 2017.

Kazilionis cited the Maine Department of Education routinely declaring Scarborough too prosperous to be eligible for higher subsidies.

“This status shifts the cost of education from the state to the municipality and is the root of the divide in our town,” she said. “I am committed to bridging this gap by working collaboratively with the town council to underscore the needs we have as a district, and to clearly communicate with our constituents the steps we have taken to find cost reductions while simultaneously limiting the impacts to our students and staff.”

Lindstrom also noted divisions in the town, and suggested that a strong school district is key to healing those divisions, as everyone can agree on the need for a proper education for Scarborough’s children.

“If we can remember this common focus and get back to respectfully listening to each other’s ideas, I believe we can unite our town,” she said. “We may not always agree on all the issues at hand, but I believe we can agree that our students and our teachers deserve the best we can give them from the best town.”

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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