Seven candidates are vying for three open seats on the Topsham-based Maine School Administrative District 75 School Board this year.

There are two seats for Topsham and one seat for Bowdoinham.

Joshua Lohr and Samuel Hutson Hayward from Bowdoinham are running for one three-year seat that was held by Rachelle Tome, who is not seeking re-election.

Jim Burak and Amy Spelke are running for one three-year seat for Topsham. The seat is held by Dorothy Gardiner, who is not seeking re-election.

Theresa Collins, Elizabeth Caron, and Michael Timberlake are running for one two-year unexpired seat for Topsham. Currently, the seat is held by Jim Burak. Sarah Ward was originally elected to this seat, and Burak was appointed after Ward resigned in July.

MSAD 75 serves Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, and Harpswell.

This year, the board was tasked with making some challenging decisions related to COVID-19 protocols, masking, and school reopening plans.

Samuel Hutson Hayward, a resident of Bowdoinham for almost 28 years, said the thought of running for the school board has been on his mind for several years now. He decided on it after COVID-19 disruptions cut short his daughter’s kindergarten experience.

Topsham based MSAD-75 school board candidate Samuel Hayward Hutson. Samuel Hayward Hutson.

“When we switched to remote learning, and she was isolated from her classmates and friends, I saw her mental health plummet,” said Hayward. “In the summer, as it became clear that outdoor activity was safe, we met up with my nephew for an afternoon outside, and the difference those few hours of social contact made for my daughter were profound — she was herself again.”

That was when Hutson said his wife and he decided to do whatever it took for their daughter to attend in-person school safely.

“With the current Maine Department of Education and CDC guidelines, universal masking is the best tool we have to keep children in the classroom,” said Hutson. “Following the difficult August board meeting on masking, when I learned that there was going to be an open seat for the board in Bowdoinham, I felt now is the time to run for the elections.”

Hutson added that his top priority as a school board member if elected, would be to ensure safe, in-person school for students, teachers and administrators of MSAD-75 school district. Besides, teacher retention, salary, and support.

Hiring a superintendent for a permanent position and managing the school budget responsibly is also on his priority list.

Amy Spelke, whose children recently graduated from Mt.Ararat High School after going through the MSAD 75 school system, sees this election as an opportunity to “pay it forward” for the next generation of kids.

“I am grateful for the education they received and the wonderful teachers they had along the way. I see this to “pay it forward” for the next generation of kids because I know that my kids benefited from other people volunteering their time and energy on the school board in the past,” said Spelke.

Topsham-based MSAD-75 school board candidate Amy Spelke. Amy Spelke.

In the past, Spelke volunteered in schools for various parents’ committees. She was also the secretary of the MTA Sports Booster for three years. Currently, she works remotely as a project manager for a Virginia-based economic consulting firm. Much of her work is focused on calculating the costs and benefits of certain aspects of transportation policy.

“The ability to recognize and quantify the costs and benefits or actions or non-actions will guide my approach to the board’s budget responsibilities,” said Spelke.

Like other candidates, Spelke said her highest priority if elected would be to help create the best possible educational environment for students and hire a top-notch superintendent.

Currently, Bob Lucy is serving as an interim superintendent of the school board.

Spelke said the school board had a full plate of work before the pandemic and still has those responsibilities, and there is a lot of work to catch up on, and she is ready to put energy into taking that on.

Michael Timberlake, who was born in Topsham and lived most of his life in that town, said he is not seeking the role because of any specific agenda. Rather, he feels called to duty by the community at a time when reasonable, moderate voices are needed.

“I am running for School Board because I believe it is my responsibility to give back to my community. I have the time, motivation, and experience to be an effective member of the MSAD 75 School Board,” said Timberlake.

“My grandmother and parents have worked as educators in all four district towns,” said Timberlake. “My family background in public school education, combined with my corporate career experience and civic engagement, gives me a unique perspective on the real-world value of education.”

Topsham-based MSAD-75 school board candidate Michael Timberlake. Michael Timberlake

Timberlake added, he has had a close relative working in, or attending, MSAD 75 schools continuously since 1963. His oldest son has graduated, and the other two are currently enrolled at Mt. Ararat High School.

Timberlake said he would work to promote discussions characterized by civility and respect for diverse views and help the board get a thorough understanding of the issues that come before it.

“We should develop policies and hire educators who will focus on the whole student – their foundational knowledge, physical, behavioral, social and emotional health. Even before COVID-19, we saw an alarming rise in depression and mental health concerns among children. It is incumbent on our community to understand and respond to this challenge,” said Timberlake.

His top priority is to participate in a thorough and transparent search for a permanent superintendent.

Joshua Lohr, who has lived in Bowdoinham for 13 years, said his two children successfully went through the MSAD-75 school system, and his youngest is a sophomore in Mt. Ararat High School.

“My children had a great experience, and I want other children to have the same opportunities and experience that my children had,” said Lohr. “I want to represent families in my community.”

Lohr, who has served on the Mt. Ararat Baseball Board for five years and has been actively involved in the community since 2009, feels qualified to serve as a school board member.

One of his priorities for the board, Lohr said, would be to create solutions to issues presented to the board and be a voice for the community on things like taxes considering 53 percent of Bowdoinham taxes go towards the school board.

“A lot of children fell behind in their studies, and I want to look for solutions to help families get their children back on track,” added Lohr.

Attempts to contact Theresa Collins, Elizabeth Caron and Jim Burak were unsuccessful.

 

This story was updated at 8:45 a.m. Friday, Oct. 15 to correct the number of open school board seats.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.