The four candidates for the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors (clockwise from top left: Colin Cheney, Carie James, Dung Nguyen and Jared Boudreau). Photos courtesy of candidates.

There are four candidates on the ballot for the Freeport-area school board this November, most of whom voiced support for masking requirements — a hot-button issue that school boards locally and nationally have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Candidates for the three-year terms on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors are Jared Boudreau, Colin Cheney, Carie James and Dung Nguyen. The candidates are competing for two open spots.

The available seats are currently held by Jeremy Clough and Lindsey Furtney. Clough served two terms, and Furtney served a partial three-month term, and a full three-year term.

Regional School Unit 5 serves the communities of Freeport, Pownal and Durham. Absentee ballots are now available at the Freeport Clerk’s Office. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2 at the Freeport High School Gymnasium.

Regional School Unit 5 School Board Candidate Jared Boudreau. Courtesy of Jared Boudreau

Jared Boudreau

Boudreau, 40, works in financial and property management has lived in Freeport for about 10 years. Boudreau was motivated to run because of his five kids who are or will be enrolled in RSU 5.

“My wife and I have five kids, right, when you add up their school years combined from PreK to Freeport High School senior it’s like 70 years,” Boudreau said. “We’ve made it through about 32 of those school years, so I guess that really shows extensive familiarity working with the school system, and in the community.”

Relevant experiences and leadership skills, Boudreau said, include coaching youth sports in Freeport, financial management skills for workshopping school budgets, work in the healthcare industry, interpersonal skills and creative problem solving.

Projects and issues that Boudreau said he would like to address include improving channels of communication between the board, parents and students as well as involving new voices and focus groups in meetings.

In terms of Freeport’s decision to require masks this year, Boudreau said that he can see both sides of the argument, although declined to state where he would have voted on the issue.

“I’m not going to say if I would have or not because I wasn’t part of the research project that went into the decision,” Boudreau said. “The reason for us to mandate masks currently is just as much about reminding us that we are experiencing a pandemic, and preventing legal issues should disaster ensue.”

Regional School Unit 5 School Board Candidate Colin Cheney. Photo by Kyle Dubay

Colin Cheney

A writer and educator who has lived in Freeport for about five years, Cheney, 43, said he was motivated to run for school board to be fully engaged with and support the community.

Cheney has taught at the high school, college and graduate levels and works as a poet, documentary filmmaker and essayist. He has a background in environmental policy and education, and in the past ran a nonprofit program in New York City. He has two children enrolled in RSU 5.

“Really it is my background as an educator that I think most directly informs my desire to be part of this process and my experience working in different education contexts,” Cheney said.

If elected, Cheney said he would like to continue the work already executed by the board, while also being responsive as the COVID-19 pandemic changes. Cheney said he is supportive of the board’s decision to require masks indoors so far this year, and agreed with the district for following CDC recommendations.

Additional topics that Cheney said he would like to address include parent-staff engagement, responding to student interests and ensuring a continued focus of STEM, literacy, arts, practical learning and social awareness.

Cheney also applauded the board’s attention to diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and said he would like to continue conversations about of racism, bias and other forms of prejudice in RSU 5.

Regional School Unit 5 School Board Candidate Carie James. Courtesy of Carie James

Carie James

James, 44, works as an attorney and has lived in Freeport for about 10 years. She said she decided to run for the board to get more involved with the school district that both her children attend and give back to the community.

“I’ve made a career of working with children, I understand the importance of an environment and opportunities provided to them,” James said. “I’m passionate about making sure that every child is given the best environment, circumstances to succeed in life.”

As an attorney, James works with schools and service providers to help kids stay out of trouble through addressing personal issues and making contact case managers.

Issues that James would like to address, she said, include bullying, education on the dangers of internet and social media and improving communication between parents, teachers and other community members. Moreover, in addition to traditional academics, James said she would promote education on life skills, technology, entrepreneurship, the trades and financial literacy.

In terms of the masking mandate, James said the understands why the board made the decision although did not say explicitly whether she supported it.

“I’m not a medical professional, I think given the information that they were given I understand why they made the decision that they did, yes,” said James. Going forward, James said she believes it will be important to reach out to parents, teachers and members of the medical community to make the further decisions.

Regional School Unit 5 School Board Candidate Dung Nguyen. Courtesy of Dung Nguyen

Dung Nguyen

Nguyen, 60, moved to Freeport in April and works as a physician and scientist. Nguyen said he decided to seek a seat on the school board after getting more involved with the school system because of his two children in RSU 5.

In addition to work on a national scientific committee for undergraduate education, Nguyen said that his childhood experience with schooling was a defining part of his life.

Growing up Saigon, Vietnam, Nguyen said he was originally deemed unfit for school, however eventually started halfway through second grade. In 1975, Nguyen fled Vietnam, eventually landing in the United States as a refugee, and restarting school in the ninth grade.

Later in his career, Nguyen became a National Science Foundation North Atlantic Treaty Organization doctoral fellow to Denmark. “So, I have seen both the American school system and the Scandinavian school system,” Nguyen said. “Putting all this together, I thought I would be able to contribute by being a member of the school board.”

Nguyen said he was in favor the board’s decision to require indoor masking and supports following CDC recommendations. If elected, Nguyen said he would like to promote a safe and healthy school environment that includes physical activity, the arts and ideals of being a good citizen.

“I believe that a child’s education involves more than just giving them knowledge,” Nguyen said. “A child’s education involves learning to interact with other people with kindness, with politeness, with compassion, with respect.”

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