From left to right: Anne Rowe, Gary Harriman and Will Burrow. The three were awarded for their service by the Maine School Boards Association. Contributed / SAD 15

GRAY — SAD 15 School Board members Anne Rowe, Gary Harriman and Will Burrow were honored for their distinguished service by the Maine School Boards Association at their annual conference last year.

The awards were announced in the district’s end-of-year newsletter. The award is given to school board members who have served for at least 12 years.

Rowe, Harriman and Burrow have a combined 44 years of service.

In interviews earlier this week, all three said they are proud of what they’ve accomplished over the years but note that an “enormous challenge” lies ahead as the board figures out how to support students and staff through the remainder of the pandemic.

“For the rest of my term, my biggest hope is simply to get kids back in school as soon as possible,” said Rowe, who lives in Gray and became a regular volunteer in her son’s classrooms back in 2000.

“It may take a significant amount of time for us to understand how far back some students have fallen and the board will need to support mechanisms for getting students back to speed, both academically and emotionally,” she said.

Both Rowe and Harriman, who is from New Gloucester, were first elected in 2008.

Harriman, whose son graduated from Gray-New Gloucester High School in 2014, said he served on the board of a North Yarmouth museum but after some years, “it occurred to me that I might want to put my time and energy into serving the community I lived in.”

Nearly 13 years later, “I’m still here,” he said.

Harriman and Burrow were both instrumental in the adoption of the high school’s International Baccalaureate and Dunn School’s pre-k programs, as well as, as Burrow said, “getting devices in the hands of all students.”

“It’s been a rewarding time,” Harriman said.

Now retired and living in Gray, Burrow was the director of special education for Sabattus schools for 16 years and is a “fervent advocate for early childhood literacy,” according to the state association’s press release.

Burrow said he’s “lost track of the actual number of years” he’s been on the board, but is currently in his seventh term.

Rowe, with her background in business management and accounting, has been the lead in several operational projects, including the district’s strategic plan five years ago, and has served as chairperson and vice chairperson.

“It can be difficult work, balancing the needs of our staff and students with the capacity of our communities to fund these improvements, but so far so good,” she said.

SAD 15 students have “multiple pathways” to success and are attending some of the country’s top colleges, Rowe said, at “what I feel is a reasonable property tax rate in our communities.”

As the work on next year’s budget begins, Rowe, Harriman and Burrow said they’re focused on retaining educational excellency “within the constraints imposed on us by the ongoing pandemic,” Harriman said.

“I think one of our biggest priorities going forward will be to preserve all of the gains we had made prior to COVID for the time when we’re able to return to a more familiar method of instruction,” he said.

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