Support for educators is a top priority for candidates in the race for the District 3 seat on the Portland school board.

Three candidates are vying for the seat in the Nov. 8 election. Julianne Opperman and Sam Rosenthal are running against incumbent Adam Burk, who was first elected three years ago.

District 3 represents Libbytown, Stroudwater, Nason’s Corner, Oakdale and part of Woodfords Corner.

Two incumbents are running unopposed for two at-large school board seats. Sarah Lentz, 40, and Ben Grant, 45, won their seats in a June special election held to fill the seats of two former board members who stepped down after winning City Council seats last November.

Julianne Opperman Photo courtesy of the candidate


Opperman, 68, worked as a teacher for 40 years before retiring just before the pandemic. One of the primary reasons she is running in District 3 is because she thinks there should be someone with classroom experience on the school board, she said.


“I believe the people who are on the school board care about kids and want the best for students,” said Opperman. “But good policy doesn’t always translate to good practice in the classroom. I will bring the voice of the educator to the school board.”

If elected, Opperman will advocate for increasing transparency from the board and district, raising educator salaries, growing the capacity of schools to provide students with individual support, and expanding summer school programming, she said.

“As a school board member, I would make sure that students receive the support they need and that the administration is being fiscally responsible and being held accountable,”  she said.

Adam Burk Photo courtesy of the candidate


Burk, 42, a parent of two Portland Public School elementary school students, joined the school board in 2019 and was recently elected vice-chair. Burk, who uses they/them pronouns, said they have collaborated effectively with the school board, administration and others, listened to educators and brought their concerns to the school board, and supported educators and equity within the school district.

Burk pointed to a time soon after they took their seat when there was a proposed cut to salary increases. “I made sure that was not the way we addressed our budget issues,” Burk said. “We want to invest in our staff.”


Burk was a first-generation college student and has degrees in psychology, history and education. Burk has worked in social work and in charter and private schools and is now a director at Intentional Philanthropy, a philanthropic advisory and management company. Their education and work experiences have taught them that education is not one-size-fits-all and makes them well-suited to continue to help lead the district as a school board member, Burk said.

If reelected, Burk said, they would continue to support outdoor learning, address systemic inequities, support educators, and bring healthy, locally sourced food into Portland schools.


Sam Rosenthal Photo courtesy of the candidate

Sam Rosenthal, 69, ran for the school board in 2019, also against Adam Burk. Rosenthal attended Portland public schools and has been volunteering as a computer science teacher at Portland High School since 2015, when he retired from his career as an engineer working for NASA and MIT, among other institutions.

If elected, Rosenthal said he will work to give teachers more say in how the district is run and what is prioritized.

“Decisions are made in a really top-down way now, with the school board deciding the direction of the district,” said Rosenthal. “But a lot of teachers have years or decades of experience and I think the school board should tap into that knowledge and ask teachers what they need so all students can succeed.”


Another priority, Rosenthal said, would be to raise academic standards across the board to ensure students are being challenged in school and are ready to succeed in higher education and the workforce after finishing high school.

Rosenthal also said he would work to increase district and board transparency, especially to make it easier for taxpayers to understand how their money is being spent.


Adam Burk

Age: 42

Occupation: Director for Intentional Philanthropy and senior program director at the Peter Alfond Foundation


Education: B.A. in history and psychology from Thomas Edison State University; M.A. in Education from Goddard College

Political/Civic Experience: One term on the Portland Public School Board of Education

Online: Website, Instagram, Facebook

Julianne Opperman

Age: 68

Occupation: Retired, former teacher


Education: B.A. in Molecular Biology from Wellesley College; M.S. in nutritional biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; PhD in Public Policy from the University of Southern Maine specializing in educational policy and leadership

Political/Civic Experience: None

Online: Website

Sam Rosenthal

Age: 69

Occupation: Retired, former engineer

Education: B.S. in math from Northeastern University; M.S. in applied mathematics from Northeastern University

Political/Civic Experience: None

Online: Website

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