Stephen Shiman, Ward 4

SACO — The most challenging task ahead for the Saco School Board is ensuring students continue to get a good education under the difficult circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, said Stephen Shiman, the incumbent candidate for Ward 4.

“There is a lack of adequate funding and an accumulated deficit,” said Shiman. ”Handling this situation requires judgment. I believe my administrative and fiscal experience can be helpful. I have demonstrated an ability to work with others to get results.”

Shiman is completing his first term on the board, where he also serves as vice chair. He is one of three in Ward 4 seeking the School Board spot — the others are Kevin Lafortune, who has previously served on the board, and Michael Vitiello.

A miscommunication led to Shiman not being included in a story about Saco School Board candidates a week ago.

He said he believes the school district has had an excellent response to the coronavirus crisis.

“There have been outstanding efforts by teachers and administrators in working with parents and students,” said Shiman. “As a board member I appreciate their professionalism and dedication.”

Shiman, 80, is a retired executive director of private schools in New Jersey, New York and Maine, an oboist, conductor and music teacher, and a developer of school management administrative software. He was educated at Yale University and The Julliard School. Married, he has two adult sons. Shiman is a board member of Dyer Library and Saco Museum and Age Friendly Saco. He enjoys hiking, boating, gardening, and photography.

“The role of a school board is to do everything possible to achieve excellence in education,” Shiman said when asked about balancing education needs and maintaining a reasonable property tax rate. “It has to work within restraints from the community and its council representatives. Members have to use available financial resources for the best possible results. What is ‘reasonable’ in spending for education is not easy to determine, since community members have different priorities in their willingness to spend.”

“In the short term, I am most concerned with keeping essential education while balancing a budget,” said Shiman of his goals. “That challenge is huge. I would like to see sports restored to one degree or another, while keeping a presence in the arts. In the longer term, I look for real improvements in student achievement. There has been a positive trend in recent years in which student scores have steadily improved in our students entering Thornton Academy.”

Lafortune and Vitiello were among those featured in a previous story about School Board candidates.

Lafortune previously served on the School Board and was chair from 2013 to 2015. In the earlier story, he said he believed the school administration should have begun preparations for a fall school opening in March, but waited too long, resulting in a “mad scramble” to open. He believes the School Board’s biggest challenge is restoring trust in school leadership. He noted the School Department began non-mandated initiatives “with no available space and no concrete way to pay for them.” Lafortune, 53, said his goals are to improve transparency and restart the facilities planning process.

Vitiello, 52, said he supported the decision to delay school opening this year because the district wasn’t ready, but had questions about what could have been done to have them open on time. He called for continuity between programs and learning expectations across each grade level as students move from one building to the next and from the middle school to Thornton Academy. He said creating a balance between services and property taxes requires a strong partnership with the city to eliminate duplication of services and leveraging the existing infrastructure of the city to benefit students. He called for increased communications between the School Department and families.

There is a three-way race between Anna McCard, Joshua Parks and Jennifer Preble in Ward 2.  Sarah Truman is unopposed in Ward 6. All terms are three years.

To read more about the candidates for Saco School Board, go to: https://www.pressherald.com/2020/10/14/voters-to-elect-school-board-members-in-3-saco-wards/

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