South Portland voters will decide between school board candidates Adam Hamilton and Hannah Bitjoka at the polls Nov. 2.

Hamilton and Bitjoka are running for the seat being vacated by Richard Matthews, who is not seeking reelection but is challenging incumbent Misha Pride for the District 3 City Council seat.

Hamilton responded to questions from The Southern Forecaster by email. Bitjoka did not respond to several requests for an interview over the past week.

Hamilton put an emphasis on giving students access to “the same educational resources regardless of social economic status.”

“I want to be part of the conversation,” he said. “Many children in less financially secure homes do not always have access to the tools they need to be successful students.”

He said he wants South Portland Schools to follow the recommendations of the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium. The consortium has been working with the district since 2019 and in April released its recommendations that included the creation of a district-wide equity taskforce, appointing an equity officer to the high school, and conducting periodic community forums.

“South Portland has grown more diverse over the years,” Hamilton said. “It only makes sense to establish a system to ensure that tools are utilized to ensure equality for educational opportunities.”

Hamilton has come under fire from Rep. Chris Kessler, D-South Portland, and South Portland City Councilor Jocelyn Leighton, who have called upon him to drop out of the school board race because of posts they said he shared on Facebook in 2019.

The posts expressed Islamophobic sentiments and made fun of different genders.

“When someone shares an article or a meme to their public profile, it communicates that the person shares the sentiment or belief of the content of the message,” said Kessler in an email to The Southern Forecaster.

“I want the best representation for the students in our schools,” said Leighton in an interview with The Southern Forecaster. “I think the best thing he can do is to withdraw his candidacy and support Hannah Bitjoka.”

Hamilton responded to the screenshots and Kessler and Leighton’s requests for him to drop out of the race in a Portland Press Herald article, saying “I’ve evolved … I wasn’t educated in some of this stuff and I’m still learning. It’s definitely not who I am today.”

In his email to The Forecaster, Hamilton described the impact of the story on his campaign.

“My family and I have had a huge influx of community support,” he said. “Those who know me and my family know my heart and my dedication to being a solid community member and always looking out for those who are disadvantaged and in need.”

He also stated he and his family are grateful “for the kind supportive words” they have received.

Election Day is Nov. 2. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For a complete list of polling locations, visit the Polling Locations page at southportland.org.

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