Two residents are vying to fill a three-year vacancy on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors after North Yarmouth incumbent Katherine Perrin decided not to run for reelection.

Vanessa Bryant and Thomas McGuinness are running for one of two open seats on the five-member board, which includes representatives from North Yarmouth and Cumberland. A Cumberland seat is also up for grabs.

Perrin said after two terms “it’s time for me to make way for a new school board member.”

Both candidates said they support the plan for students’ return to school this fall with a five-day, in-person schedule. Students are now following a hybrid model and work remotely part time. They also want to work on financial responsibility in the district.

Bryant

Bryant said one of her priorities is having a plan in place in case there is another outbreak of COVID-19 or a similar situation.

(W)hat if something flares up again?,” Bryant said. “I’d like to have that plan, those processes, a clear outlining, not just the hybrid model.” 

Bryant said that financially she is “more conservative,” and is looking to manage a budget with few increases and less impact on property taxes by listening and collaborating with other officials.

“I want to be considerate of those that are elderly in our community, making sure they aren’t impacted by property taxes. (Increases) happen every year,” she said. 

Bryant said she’d make a strong candidate because of her collaboration skills and ability to understand viewpoints without letting her own biases interfere.

“Being able to do that brings strength to the community,” Bryant said. “I have people on both sides emailing me, approaching me, comfortable I listen without an agenda in mind and preconceived answer.”

McGuinness 

McGuinness said he also supports a five-day-a-week return to schools later this year, but emphasized addressing students’ mental and physical well-being.

“It’s false to just say that the best way to get them healthy is getting them back five days a week,” he said. “It’s about considering other paths to good mental health, whether that’s counseling or after-school programs.”

McGuinness said he is not as fiscally conservative as his opponent and would make “smart decisions to maintain a well-funded budget.”

“Treating the school district like the asset it is is important,” he said. “I also really do hear the concerns about spending increases, particularly for our older population on a fixed income.”

He also hopes to increase transparency in the schools, as “don’t feel like they are getting the information they need.”

While the school board has done “an OK job with transparency,” it needs to go above and beyond, he said, whether that’s through more social media or blogs on the district’s website.

McGuinness said he’d make a great candidate because he wants “to be the sensible, measured voice.”

“I try and promote positivity and productivity,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, we all want our kids back to five-day a week learning, so we need to work together.”

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