Three South Portland School Board candidates running for two at-large seats and two running for the District 3 seat would take different approaches to ensure the schools are meeting the needs of all students and teachers.

Incumbents Claire Holman and Jennifer Ryan are defending their at-large seats against challenger Eleni Richardson. Rosemarie De Angelis, who was appointed to the District 3 seat in December, hopes to complete the remaining year of that term and is running against Melinda Aloes.


At-large race

The three at-large candidates say the schools have done well so far in meeting the needs of the growing number of multilingual learners in the district, but more can be done.

“We have to provide support and training for teachers so that they can adequately support students who are multilingual students in their classes,” Holman said. “So, as far as professional development goes, I think that should be a priority.”

Richardson said that “resource allocation” poses a challenge, but “there is great advocacy work” being done by the state to help schools meet the needs of multilingual students and housing-vulnerable students, those without a permanent or adequate place to sleep at night.


“I would ensure, if elected, that we’re supporting those efforts at the state level,” she said.

Ryan said the schools are better able to meet student needs when they keep parents involved.


“It’s important that we look at each individual student and their needs,” she said. “We can do that to an extent with our teachers and with the staff and our administrators, but we also need to advocate for parents to be engaged and involved in their child’s schooling.”

The three candidates agree that the schools have rebounded well from the consequences of the pandemic, and should continue to keep an eye on students’ emotional, social and learning needs. The focus should now turn to teachers, they said, who need more support.

This school year is a good time to gauge where students are academically post-pandemic, Ryan said. That information should be used to assess what is working and what is not, which would help teachers.


“I think we’re now able to start to look at what practices are working in (different) schools,” she said. “Take the collective experiences of our incredible educators across the district to help each other and to learn from best practices and apply them from classroom to classroom, from school to school.”


Richardson said the board needs to better communicate with teachers to ensure they are getting the support they need.

“I think that the policy-making that happens at the board level requires teachers,” she said. “The teachers need to be part of those conversations. We can’t just make decisions in a vacuum, so I’d like to see an environment that is open and accessible to their feedback.”

Holman said she would seek support for teachers looking to complete undergraduate college courses.

“Support for college courses for teachers are all limited to graduate programs because they all have to have a bachelor’s degree,” she said, noting undergraduate classes in math, the sciences and world languages can be beneficial even to someone with a graduate degree. “I’d like to see us begin to look at some funding of undergraduate courses for teachers so they can continue to strengthen themselves academically.”

Holman, 66, a registered Democrat, is wrapping up her first term on the board. She is a French and Spanish instructor at the University of Southern Maine where she also founded, and continues to volunteer with, the “Blunt Youth Radio” program at WMPG, a USM-based community station. The program consists of weekly interviews by and for high school-aged youth.

Richardson, 42, is a registered Democrat. She is a legal counsel at Stone Coast Fund Services and a PTA volunteer and was previously a member of the Brown Elementary School principal-hiring team.


Ryan, 42, is unaffiliated with a political party. She is the current chairwoman of the school board, was vice chairwoman in 2022 and has served on the board since 2021. She is also vice president of South Portland Little League and secretary of the Casco Bay Hockey Association.

District 3

Ensuring equity throughout the district is a priority for both District 3 candidates.


“I’m on a committee called the Boundaries and Configurations Steering Committee for the elementary schools in South Portland and we are just assessing how the different schools are configured, who goes where depending on where they live,” Aloes said. “We haven’t looked at these configurations or boundary lines for 15 years now so I think we need to make this more of a regular thing where we assess if we’re doing right by our entire community and creating equity throughout the schools.”

Aloes also said that the district’s pre-kindergarten program should be built up “to get to a place where we can have universal pre-K for all of our students” and programming beyond the current 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. timeframe.

De Angelis says one equity issue in the schools is the use of standardized tests. She wants the district to stop using them because they pose an added hurdle for students whose primary language is not English.


“I’m particularly frustrated in my present seat on the school board that we are still using standardized tests as our measure of success,” she said.

While the tests can be translated into different languages, “language doesn’t work like that and learning doesn’t work that way,” she said.

De Angelis

She also puts a priority on ensuring the school can provide meals for housing-vulnerable students, and says more needs to be done to support students and staff.

“We have to have more social work staff and guidance counselors and support staff who are there to be available for these kids,” she said. “There have been consequences (due to the pandemic) and that adds additional loads onto staff, whether it’s teachers, support staff, bus drivers or custodians.”

Aloes said the district has done “a really good job in getting everyone back into the schools” but needs to continue to closely monitor the school communities.

“I think we just have to keep paying attention to that and any other concerns and listen to people, listen to students if they have concerns,” she said.

Aloes, 43, is a registered Democrat. She works as a painting contractor and is a member of the Boundaries and Configuration Steering Committee. She previously served as a substitute teacher in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.

De Angelis, 70, is a registered Democrat. She was on the South Portland City Council for six years, serving as mayor in 2011, and is a volunteer advocate for asylum seekers and refugees.

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