Twelve candidates are seeking three vacant seats in a special Portland school board election on Tuesday.

Seven candidates are running for two open at-large seats representing the city as a whole and five are running to represent District Five, which includes North Deering, part of Deering Center and Riverton and eight of the district’s 17 schools.

While Portland typically elects municipal and school leaders in November, the nine-member board has three unexpired terms to fill.

The winners of the at-large seats will serve until November 2022, finishing the three-year terms of Anna Trevorrow and Roberto Rodriguez, who left their posts in November after winning City Council seats. The winner of the District Five seat will serve until November 2023, filling the seat of school board member Jeff Irish, who resigned in October.

Candidates for the two at-large seats are Sarah Lentz, Richard Ward, Stacey Hang, Benjamin Grant, Stephanie Albert, Kimberly Mancini and Amber Schertz. And competing for the District Five seat are Sarah Brydon, Lou Viola, Barbara E. Goglin, Joshua Haefele and Elizabeth Capone-Newton.



Sarah Lentz said she is happy with the direction the school district is moving in and its focus on equity and would like to ensure the school board continues to push forward with that work, she said.

“I am a fierce advocate for our students that have been historically excluded,” she said.

Sarah Lentz Submitted photo

Lentz, 40, has around 15 years of nonprofit work experience. She now works for the Maine Philanthropy Center but much of her previous work focused on education through groups like LearningWorks, a Portland-based nonprofit.

“Working with young people has always really resonated with me,” said Lentz, whose child attends a Portland elementary school. Lentz said her experience working in education with a focus on equity would allow her to jump headfirst into the role. “Creating great policies for our schools that work for everyone is not a simple thing to do,” she said. “I understand the complexity of education and of creating equity and inclusion in educational spaces.”

If elected, Lentz said she would like to focus on growing the district’s pre-Kindergarten program, preparing students for life after college and investing in recruiting and retaining educators of color. Lentz also said she wants to fight for the right of teachers to educate their students about gender, sexuality and race. “I want to be clear with folks that I believe the history of race in our country is important for kids to know and I will stand by that.”

Although she is focused on equity work and lifting up students from marginalized groups, that doesn’t mean she won’t support all Portland Public School District students, she said. “I want to 100 percent advocate for all students, but center those that have been historically excluded,” she said. “When those students have what they need to thrive the whole system is better set up for success.”


Richard Ward, at 27, is the youngest candidate in the race. He grew up in Rockland and moved to Portland four years ago. Ward is running in hope of speaking for people who are not being heard and adding diversity of thought to the school board, he said.

Richard Ward Submitted photo

“From what I’ve heard, most of the people who run for the school board are the same, cookie-cutter type people,” he said, later adding he believes most of the school board members and candidates are wealthy and politically connected.

“It would be good to have someone that would listen to everyone that is not a political person,” he said. “I’m not afraid to go against the grain. I just want to help people that aren’t being heard.”

Ward, who does not have children in the district, said he would like to focus on stabilizing the school budget and directing more attention and funding towards civics and life skills.

“I’m for a balanced school budget and against raising taxes,” he said. Ward suggested lowering schools’ electric bills by turning down heat in the winter, printing less paper and having students raise money for district programs as some ways to cut costs. Ward also said he was especially interested in running in this election because the term is only a few months long. “With it only being for six months you’re not locked in for the full three years. It’s a good opportunity to see what (sitting on the school board) is like and to see what the election process is like.”

Stacey Hang, 46 was born and raised in Portland. As were her parents. And her grandparents. They all went to Portland Public Schools. Now Hang wants to serve on the school board of the district that generations of her family, including her two children, have attended or are attending. This is Hang’s second time running for the school board. She lost the previous bid in November 2020.


Stacey Hang Submitted photo

Hang works as a school nurse in a neighboring district and was a health teacher for a decade. She said her experience working in schools makes her well-suited for a position on the school board. She hopes to bring a diverse perspective to the school board. Hang pointed to the departures of Jeff Irish and Sarah Thompson, who left the school board last year and said the board was unwilling to collaborate and intolerant toward less progressive members, and said the school board seems to move in lockstep and be closed off to diverging viewpoints.

Board Chair Emily Figdor said at the time that she values diverse opinions.

If elected to the school board, Hang said her main goal would be to make sure parents and other community members are able to meaningfully engage with the board. “I don’t have an agenda other than making sure all voices are being heard.”

Ben Grant, 44, served as the chairman of the Maine Democratic party for four years and is former president of the Ocean Avenue elementary school parent-teacher organization. He also ran, unsuccessfully, for the Portland Charter Commission last year and for House District 41, which includes Oakdale and Deering, in 2020.

Benjamin Grant Submitted photo

Grant, who has two children in city schools, said that he would like to focus on increasing support for students who are struggling academically, reversing the school population decline by promoting the school system and encouraging young families to stay in Portland, and grow school board transparency and accountability.

The school budget has consistently gone up over the past few years and Grant believes the school board should examine the district’s spending to ensure the money is supporting students as intended and then share that information with the community. “That money was asked for the support the Portland Promise and increased spending is OK and defensible if it is leading to progress, but I think the school board has to provide some accountability,” he said.


Grant also said he would like to expand the district’s pre-K program and increase communication with district student bodies.

An attorney, Grant believes the negotiation and compromise skills required by his job combined with his experience in government and public policy and as a parent would make him a successful school board member. “I have the skills to be respectful of others but stand strong for what I believe in,” he said. “We all want kids to have a good education. We just have to keep our eye on the ball.”

Stephanie Albert, 37 said she doesn’t have any huge overhauls or substantial changes in mind for the Portland Public school district. “My main priority would be to listen to and advocate for the teachers, students and interested communities,” she said. “There are some items that are important to me, but I’m just one person and I don’t think that my priorities matter more than any one other person.”

Stephanie Albert Submitted photo

She said her work as an attorney for over a decade has taught her to be a good listener and good advocate for her clients, and that that work and experience serving on a nonprofit board, would translate well to advocating for her constituents if elected to take an at-large seat on the school board. “With my skill set I thought joining the school board would be the most impactful way for me to support the school district.”

Albert’s relationship with the city schools is just beginning. She has one child finishing kindergarten and another one starting elementary school soon. She described herself as an active member of Lyseth’s parent-teacher association.

Albert said some of the issues important to her include expanding the city’s pre-K program and introducing foreign languages to students from a young age. But still, she said her highest priority is improving communications between the school board and the community by creating an organized system for parents and others to voice concerns and for the board and the district to respond to them and clarify who parents should reach out to about specific issues.


Kimberly Mancini, 50, said if elected she would focus on increasing school board transparency and creating paths for consistent communication between the school board and the community. While campaigning, many of the people Mancini has spoken with have had questions about the school budget, she said. “People want to know why we have declining enrollment in our schools but each year running them costs more,” she said.

Kimberly Mancini Submitted photo

The Portland school district budget generally makes up around half of the city’s budget. This year the city’s $269 million budget – approved Monday night – includes $133.1 million for city’s schools.

Mancini said that better communication between the district and the school board might be able to answer some of those questions. She suggested having a budget FAQ on the district’s website, a regular blog that outlines the latest school board news and possibly a website with a chat feature where people in the community could reach out to school board members.

Mancini said although issues such as transparency, communication and increased mental health resources in schools are important to her, she doesn’t have a widespread agenda. “I think as an elected official you need to have an open mind and acknowledge and validate the concerns of everyone without bringing your own preconceived notions of how things should be.”

Mancini has a degree in psychology and worked in a variety of management and communications positions over the past 15 years before leaving her most recent post to spend more time with her son.

Amber Schertz, 41, has two kids in Portland schools and said there is often a lack of clarity about what is going on within the district. That’s one of the reasons she would like to focus on increasing school board transparency if elected to take an at-large seat.


Amber Schertz Submitted photo

She suggested updating school websites and emailing detailed school board meeting agendas to parents, staff and teachers ahead of meetings so that it’s easier for community members to keep up with district happenings. She also said she would like to see the school board provide more information to families about educational goals and outcomes by grade level and subject so that parents, in addition to teachers, can assess how their children are doing.

Schertz said that as a parent, it’s often challenging to navigate how to communicate with the school district – which issues to bring up with teachers versus school board members versus administrative staff – and that questions she has brought to the board in the past have often gone unanswered. If elected, she would like to make sure parents feel heard when they bring questions, concerns and comments to the school board, she said.

Schertz also said she would like to see more transparency regarding the school budget. “When I see the budget information presented it seems to be just ‘this is what the administration decided.’ ” She said she wants to better understand the connection between what teachers need to achieve certain outcomes and the budget.

Schertz, who works in project and product management, believes her experience managing budgets, project scope and constraints and working with stakeholders would help her successfully serve the school district.


Elizabeth Capone-Newton, 40, said the Portland School Board needs to improve communication with the community. She said she could help the board do that.


“The current board is struggling to meaningfully engage with parents, families, students and staff,” Capone-Newton said. She has two children in the school system and her partner works as an education technician for the district.

Elizabeth Capone-Newton Submitted photo

She said experience working with a variety of stakeholders in public health jobs and managing youth programs has taught her to be a good listener and make decisions based on what she is hearing, she said. Capone-Newton said she would bring those skills to the school board.

Capone-Newton said it’s unreasonable to think that busy families, and especially those with fewer resources, have the time to spend hours watching school board meetings and that many people don’t feel heard by the school board. “That undermines the legitimacy of the district leadership and the board,” she said.

She said there should be more paths for engagement than just the biweekly school board meetings and that the school board should be actively soliciting the opinions of staff, families and students rather than waiting for those groups to come to them.

“Success of community is about collective success of people within it,” she said. “I believe the people who are in the trenches every day have the best solutions to offer.”

Capone-Newton also said that if elected to the school board, she would like to increase the use of restorative and transformative rather than punitive discipline in the district, and work to create systems that help students avoid actions that require discipline in the first place.


Sarah Brydon, 43, said she has had an excellent experience so far with the school district since her children, now first-graders, started at city schools.

“I think we’re so lucky to have the schools we have and the staff we have,” she said. “But everything can be improved.”

Sarah Brydon Submitted photo

Like many others, Brydon believes the board could do a better job of communicating with parents, staff, students and others. “I do think that to some extent we’re getting just a narrow slice of the available opinions from parents,” said Brydon.

Brydon said that having more events and opportunities where people could share feedback, questions and concerns might bring more community voices to the table. “We need more creative approaches to outreach and more mechanisms of getting input from the community.” She suggested weekend events at coffee shops or at playgrounds.

Brydon said she is committed to listening respectfully and doing what she called the challenging and sometimes uncomfortable work of finding common ground with others.

Brydon said her experience as the chair of the development committee for the Foundation of Portland Public Schools has given her important insight into how resources are spent and programs prioritized that would help her dive headfirst into the role of school board member.


She also said she was compelled to run for this election as the district is getting ready to hire a new superintendent before Xavier Botana leaves after the 2023-2024 school year.

“It is important that we have a strong process for hiring the next superintendent,” she said. “We want to cast a wide net, have a thoughtful approach and make sure we are listening to the community, gathering feedback and incorporating it into the search process. … It is important that we find someone that will help serve the community in a meaningful way for a meaningful length of time.

Barbara Goglin, 59, has three adult children who went to city high schools. She took out her own nomination papers when she heard that no one was running for the District Five school board seat – which is no longer the case – and didn’t know a lot about the school district, she said. But the more she has learned by speaking to parents and community members, she said, the more interested and passionate she has become about the issues they are concerned about, such as a lack of school board transparency.

Barbara Goglin Submitted photo

Goglin said she would like to see more transparency about the budget process and how decisions are being made in the school district.

Goglin doesn’t have any particular issues she is focused on and wants to gain a greater understanding of how the school board and school district make decisions. However, she also said she would like to see the district expand its pre-K program, and try and find a way to do so without increasing the school budget or taxes.

If elected to join the school board, Goglin said she would ask more questions during school board meetings about how and why things are done in a certain way and she said that hopefully, her questions would help people watching school board meetings learn more about how the district works and especially about how budget decisions are made. “People don’t want to deny the schools money they need to run well, but they also don’t understand why it costs more every year,” she said.

Goglin, a nurse, said her experience working on committees and boards to streamline medical practices and reduce redundancies would allow her to support the school board in running efficiently. She also said that because she doesn’t have children currently in the school district, she would be able to tackle issues with greater objectivity than those whose students currently attend Portland’s public schools.

District Five candidates Lou A. Viola and Joshua Haefele declined to speak to the Press Herald about their candidacy.

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