Two incumbents and three newcomers are on the June 8 ballot for two seats on the Falmouth School Board.

Board Chairperson Whitney Bruce and Vice Chairperson Nicole Benzanson are seeking reelection and are being challenged by Bill Walker, Anne Rutherford and Laura Farraher.

All five candidates support resuming full-time in-person learning safely this spring under the district’s current plan.

“Research shows that most students learn best when they are physically in school,” said Bruce, who is seeking reelection to a second term.

Benzanson, also running for a second term, said a lot of work has gone into getting students back to school.

“Our school administration has worked tirelessly with our teachers, in collaboration with the FEA (Falmouth Education Association), to craft a safe and educationally effective return to full-time, in-person learning for our students,” Benzanson said.

Candidate Bill Walker said the move back to in-person instruction allows the school district to move forward.

“We need to start thinking more in terms of post-pandemic,” he said, noting that schools are not just for academic learning. “We need to keep in mind that schools fulfill many needs beyond providing an education, including nutrition, health services and emotional and supportive services.”

On the school board’s agenda this spring is finding a replacement for Superintendent Geoff Bruno, who is leaving at the end of the school year for the superintendent post in Scarborough.

Both Bezanson and Bruce said in addition to managing the budget and making the process transparent, the superintendent search and replacement is a top priority, and Rutherford agrees.

“A new superintendent must be found, and the right fit for that incredibly vital position will be more important than ever in order to ensure the leadership necessary to usher in this next era of Falmouth,” Rutherford said.

Walker said time and diligence are needed to find the right candidate.

“This process requires reflection from the community about our values, strengths and goals in order for the school board to recruit the best possible leader for our district,” he said.

Candidates are also looking to take on issues both related and unrelated to COVID-19 to support Falmouth students.

For Farraher, who has a background in education, bullying is one of those issues.

“Kids need to feel safe at school or real learning just can’t happen,” said Farraher, who co-authored a children’s book, “Bob: Bystanders Opposing Bullying.”

Rutherford said she would work on diversity and inclusion in the schools.

“We need to support measures that bend toward justice and community-building and make our kids feel loved and seen,” she said.

She also wants to curb any divisiveness.

“We must be willing to have frank conversations in order to identify challenges, with community at the center, and avoid drawing lines in the sand or the temptation to seek ‘sides’ and stay stubbornly in them,” Rutherford said.

Bezanson said would like to see “increased cultural inclusion of our growing diverse population.”
Bruce would like to expand the work of Intercultural Awareness and Inclusion Committee.

Farraher said her additional goals include providing extended mental health support for students and staff who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

“The pandemic showed us that some kids can thrive in a remote school setting while others faced great challenges,” she said. “If we could look back and see what worked and what didn’t, perhaps we can create safety nets for all families should we ever face similar challenges.”

Benzanson said her board worked to include a COVID-19 makeup summer program in the new district budget for students who will require additional support after a difficult year. Bruce described the plan as “a great first step.”

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