Four candidates are seeking Brunswick’s district three seat on the school board this year. Clockwise from top left are Catherine Hull, Erica Carley Harris, Thomas Deschaine and Shaun Hogan. Photos courtesy of candidates

There will be one contested election on the Brunswick ballot this November, a District 3 school board seat that four people want to take over.

The seat is currently held by Teresa Kelly-Gillis, who told The Times Record in July she will not be running again after two terms. District 3 makes up the southwestern portion of Brunswick.

Over the past almost two years, Brunswick school board officials have been tasked with decisions related to COVID-19 protocol in the department, such as masking and remote learning, which on occasion causes debate among parents.

Additionally, over the past two months, a hazing incident surfaced among high school football players in Brunswick, bringing to light a larger conversation about bullying and harassment in schools.

The four candidates vying for the open seat are Thomas Deschaine, Erica Carley Harris, Shaun Hogan and Catherine Hull.

Both the District 4 and one at-large seat are also on the ballot, which incumbents Celina Harrison and Joy Prescott are running for unopposed.

The election will be held on Nov. 2, 2021, at the Brunswick Junior High School between the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots are now available.

Brunswick District 3 School Board candidate Thomas Deschaine. Courtesy of Thomas Deschaine

Thomas Deschaine

Age: 42

Occupation: IT Business Analyst

Social Media: @ThomasDeschaineForBrunswickSchoolBoard, Facebook

Deschaine, who has lived in Brunswick for 15 years, said he decided to run for the seat after following the school board closely for the past eight years, and to ensure the best education possible for his daughter who is in kindergarten at Brunswick.

He said he can offer an unbiased perspective in looking at the needs of students and hopes to promote open communication between all members of the department, as well as work to address the aging Brunswick Junior High School facility.

“I feel I have an open-minded approach to decision making that can be beneficial to the students and school,” Deschaine said. “I think it’s important to look at the children to ensure that they are receiving the highest quality education possible and preparing themselves for the complex world that we’re living in now — and doing that in a fiscally and financially responsible way.”

In terms of masking, Deschaine said he agrees with the board’s decision to require face coverings in the Brunswick School Department so far in 2021 in order “to ensure the safety for all teachers and students.”

Deschaine said that, from what he has read, he believes appropriate action has been taken so far in addressing the hazing incident at Brunswick High. He said bullying is an area where there can be no tolerance.

“It’s important that (students) feel comfortable to come to a teacher or a parent to be able to tell them what is going on in any of these situations, and not be judged by that,” Deschaine said.

Brunswick District 3 School Board candidate Erica Carley Harris. Courtesy of  Erica Carley Harris

Erica Carley Harris

Age: 37

Occupation: Government Affairs for International Education Nonprofit.

Social Media: Erica Carley Harris for Brunswick School Board, Facebook

Harris, an eight-year resident of Brunswick, said she decided to run for school board after working in and advocating for international experiential education since 2012. She said she is looking to promote an inclusive curriculum as well as civil and respectful discourse among board members.

“I believe that everyone has a right to a high-quality education,” said Harris. “I strongly support fully funded public education and I also support creative approaches to education, whether that’s experiential, more outdoor opportunities, additional arts education, stem education, and so I would like to create that for my kids and for all of the kids in our community.”

Additionally, Harris said she wants to promote equal access to technology in the district and participate in strategic planning, which includes addressing current facility issues.

“I am in favor of a public health approach to decisions that we make in our school and listening to medical professionals, and taking their advice,” Harris said, noting her support for the current mask mandate. “I believe in a community responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Regarding the hazing incident, Harris said that she believes Superintendent Phil Potenziano and the school administration handled the situation with thought and sensitivity.

“I think that the decisions that were made were appropriate and in line with the events that were alleged to have occurred,” Harris said.

Brunswick District 3 School Board candidate Shaun Hogan. Courtesy of Shaun Hogan

Shaun Hogan

Age: 43

Occupation: Drivers Ed Instruction, Teacher

Social Media: @Shaun4District3, Facebook

Hogan has lived in Brunswick for roughly five years, and said he was motivated to run after raising questions to the board last year regarding budget items and the effectiveness of remote learning, to which he felt the answers were inadequate.

“Every expense needs to be justified and vetted, and I’m not just going to rubberstamp something just because the superintendent wants to add a position,” Hogan said. “There has to be a justification.”

Hogan said leadership and relevant experience that makes him qualified for the seat includes 10 years with the U.S. Navy, work as a past K9 handler for the Brunswick Naval Air Station and his time as an educator, which includes substitute teaching experience within the Brunswick School Department.

As for mask mandates, Hogan said that he disagrees with the board’s decision to require masks in all indoor spaces thus far during the 2021 school year, and that the choice should left up to the parents.

“I’m a big believer that the best government is a government that gets out of the way, and governs the least,” said Hogan. “So, I’m not a fan of mandates.”

Regarding the Brunswick High School hazing incident, Hogan said overall the school department did a “really good job in the way they handled it,” although the lack of public information regarding specific circumstances of the incident, such as the role of former coach Daniel Cooper, leaves some gray areas in forming an opinion.

Brunswick District 3 School Board candidate Catherine Hull. Courtesy of Catherine Hull

Catherine Hull

Age: 38

Occupation: Accountant

Social Media: Cat Hull – For Brunswick School Board, Facebook

After growing up in Brunswick, Hull said she moved back to town in 2012. Hull said was motivated to run for district three because she believes seats on the board should be transitioned among parents and community members more often.

“Witnessing what was going on last year and this year, you see the same people in the same seat with no contested seats year after year, or after their three-year term, and I just thought it was time to change that,” Hull said.

With three children in the Brunswick school system of her own, Hull said she believes that any parent or community member in Brunswick that has insightful views would benefit and help “round out the table” on the school board.

Part of her goal on the board, Hull said, would be to help create procedures and stronger lines of communication to better prepare the department for situations like, for example, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hull declined to offer her opinion on school board’s vote to require masking indoors for this year so far, but said she doesn’t believe it will be an issue next year.

Hull, who is a parent of a student on the Brunswick High School football team, said she felt the school department was wrong classifying the situation as “hazing” and instead, it was an “assault.” Hull said that she does not feel the administration has been transparent, and the entire team should not be punished for the actions of a few.

“The fact that the administration is spreading the words hazing and bullying is completely inappropriate,” Hull said. “I do not condone hazing in any sense, but I do feel this incident was not a hazing activity, it was the actions of a few boys that in no way represents the Dragons football team.”

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