SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council filled two vacant seats on the school board Tuesday night, appointing district representatives from slates of candidates who applied for the positions.

The council unanimously appointed Courtney Pladsen to the District 2 seat and Molly Schen to the District 4 seat. Both will fill unexpired terms of board members who resigned in March.

They will serve until Dec. 5, when candidates chosen in the Nov. 8 municipal election will be seated for three-year terms.

“What amazing candidates we had,” said Mayor Deqa Dhalac, who joined other councilors in urging all of the applicants to run again in November.

Pladsen has a doctorate of nursing practice from Georgetown University. She is director of clinical and quality improvement with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council; clinical director with the National Institute for Medical Respite; a nurse practitioner at Greater Portland Health; and an internal consultant with Maine Medical Center.

During the virtual council meeting, Pladsen said education was her way out of the poverty she experienced in her youth and she wants to make sure every student in South Portland schools has the opportunity to meet their educational potential.

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“My career has been dedicated to marginalized and under-resourced communities,” Pladsen said in her application. “Education plays a critical role in a person’s long-term health and well-being…Supporting our school systems aligns with my goal of wanting each South Portland student to have the opportunity to be their healthiest selves.”

Schen has a doctorate in education from Harvard University. She is a former school teacher and administrator who served on a charter school board.

Staffing shortages, low morale, lack of housing and homelessness are major challenges facing South Portland schools and the wider community, Schen told the council.

“While I am always interested in assuring that school systems teach robust academic and vocational skills, at this moment I am also interested in supporting social and emotional development programs in the aftermath of the pandemic,” Schen said in her application.

The other applicants for the District 2 seat were Rosemary Mahoney, UniServ director with the Maine Education Association; Jeff McDonald, owner of Great Clips hair salons in South Portland and Windham, and a substitute teacher in South Portland schools; and Sayali Robles, an artist with experience in business, mediation, client services and social work.

The other applicants for the District 4 seat were Karen Callaghan, a library aide in Scarborough who served on the school board from 2007-17; and Nancy Smith, a licensed psychologist in private practice who also works in Biddeford and Saco schools and whose previous work experience includes Old Orchard Beach, South Portland and Portland schools.

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Pladsen replaces Mike Faulkingham, who resigned from the District 2 seat citing the increasing time commitment of a new job and family matters. Schen replaces Andrea Levinsky, who resigned because she moved outside District 4.

The council also has a vacant at-large seat after Katie Bruzgo resigned effective April 15.

“I have valued my time on the City Council and respect the hard work the community, the city staff, and the City Council puts in to make South Portland such a great city,” Bruzgo wrote in her March 31 resignation letter. “Unfortunately, I am moving out of South Portland and will no longer be able to serve on the council.”

The council decided on April 5 to leave the seat vacant until Bruzgo’s term expires Dec. 5. The seat will be on the November ballot.


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