School Board Chair Jennifer Preble, Ward 2 Courtesy photo

Saco will have one competitive race this year, with two people running for the School Board seat in Ward 2. Colin Leary, a political newcomer and software engineer, will face off against Jennifer Preble, the incumbent and current School Board chair. The seat is a three-year term.

When she was first elected to the School Board in November 2020, Preble herself was new to politics. Upon first being elected, she considered the board’s biggest challenges to be “a lack of transparent communication in the community, and pledged a reversal, through policy initiatives or a change in central office leadership.”

Since joining the board in 2020, she has become a key player in the effort to build two new school buildings in Saco, one building that will serve pre-K and kindergarten students and another that will serve first through fifth graders.

“We should have had a new school a long time ago,” she said, and added that seeing the project through was one of her biggest motivations in running again. She touted the School Board’s progress on the construction project, including settling on a site for the new buildings. Before they can go up, the plans must be approved by the state and then approved by the city via referendum. School Board officials had hoped that they would be able to put the school construction on the ballot this November, but the vote has been tabled until next year due to the trafficking permit process.

Preble said that joining the School Board has been a learning opportunity for her. She has embraced the chance to get in the weeds, digging into the budgeting process to ensure that taxpayer money is spent efficiently.

With the election just around the corner, she’s doubling down on her commitment to improve transparency, communication and sound fiscal planning.


When she’s not spending time on School Board matters, Preble is a social worker at a local hospital on an inpatient psychiatric unit. She has two children in Saco schools, ages 5 and 8.

Colin Leary is a 28-year- old software engineer who has three children — one in kindergarten, one who will attend pre-K next year, and a third who is only a few months old. He has lived the majority of his life in Saco.

Besides his bid for School Board, Leary does not have any formal political experience. He thinks now is a good time to throw his hat in the ring. “I just feel like I could do some good getting involved in local politics,” he explained. Specifically, Leary hopes to be elected to have a voice in the school construction project.

When interviewed, he said it was his understanding that the proposed new schools were to built in Saco’s industrial park on Industrial Park Road and he objected. He said that seemed “wasteful,” given that it could preclude a business from using the industrial park.

The new school construction site is not in the industrial park, according to the School Board.

“The new school will not be taking up any space at Industrial Park Road or any roads within that area,” said Sarah Truman, vice chair of the School Board, clarified. The proposed school site is between U.S. Route 1 and the Eastern Trail above Mill Brook Road.


Truman said that building in the industrial park was floated a few years ago. “Currently, the pre-K is leasing space at the former Toddle Inn and there was some discussion back a few years ago (before I was on the board) about just purchasing the building,” Truman wrote.  The building of the former Toddle Inn is located in the industrial park. However, the “covenants in place from the federal funding that was used to build that section of the (industrial park) prevent a school from going in there and do not allow a school to purchase property there — as it was specifically created for businesses,” Truman added.

Leary also said he was motivated to run based on information he heard second-hand “that some of these refugees who are living in hotels took a took away slots for Saco pre-K from local residents. And that doesn’t seem quite right to me.”

Last year, Saco welcomed a number of asylum seekers — a term for people who are not yet legally recognized as refugees because they are waiting to receive a determination on their asylum claim. A program, which began in summer 2022, has housed over 400 asylum seekers in Saco.

Leary said he “needed to check the accuracy” of what he had heard and called Saco Schools to get more information but at the time of interview had not heard back.

When asked to respond to Leary’s comments, Chris Indorf, the director of operations of the Saco School Department, said, “Saco students are Saco students. There is no such thing as Refugee Students and Saco Students.  It’s concerning that members of the public would try to categorize or label (them) ‘Refugee Students.'”

While pre-K enrolment is limited, enrollment is determined by lottery, according to Indorf. The city is currently locked into a lease at the former Toddle Inn, and because the school district doesn’t own the property it can’t enlarge the space and create more pre-K slots. “We are looking forward to our proposed elementary school construction project to help … our capacity for growth,” Indorf said.

In addition to his thoughts about the new school construction and pre-K enrolment, Leary said he can boil his campaign pitch down to: “I want to advocate for students first, taxpayers second, and faculty and staff third.”

“I understand that our teachers are very important understand, that our bus drivers are very important … Those are my three priorities in that order, and unfortunately they fall last.”

Voters in Saco can cast their ballot for Colin Leary or Jennifer Preble on Election Day on Nov. 7 at the Thornton Academy Linnell Gymnasium. Polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Absentee ballots will also be available for pick up at City Hall starting Oct. 10.

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