The four candidates running for two seats on the Cape Elizabeth School Board say more attention must be given to taxpayers in developing a proposal for a new elementary and middle school. In interviews with The Forecaster, they also discussed the schools’ efforts to respond to educational and emotional needs resulting from the pandemic.

Charity Hews and Arienne Hurder are challenging incumbents Jennifer McVeigh and Cynthia Voltz for their seats.

New school


Hews and Hurder opposed last year’s $116 million school project proposal, mostly because the 22% tax burden was too high, and both say the problems at the aging school building must be addressed at a lower cost.

Hews said it was “an oversight or a failure for the school board” to submit a proposal that was so strongly rejected.

“I do believe that there could have definitely been a little more transparency, communication and some different outlooks, different perspectives,” Hews said, and more residents are now involved in the new proposal’s planning process for that reason.



Hurder said what the board asked of taxpayers last year “was just unreasonable.”

“There should certainly be input from everyone, especially the taxpayers,” Hurder said. “There has to be a balance between what we as the taxpayers can afford and what we can do to support our kids in our schools.”

McVeigh said while she was “wholeheartedly supportive of the proposal last year” she understands the concern of taxpayers. “Unfortunately, we are a small town without a diverse tax base.”

More collaboration exists now between the Cape Elizabeth Town Council and the school board because of the School Building Advisory Committee, which is shaping a new proposal for November 2024. Further collaboration between elected officials and residents will create a passable school referendum next time around, McVeigh said.

Voltz, co-chair of the advisory committee, said she’s eager to continue working on the “do-over” if reelected.

“I was disappointed that the referendum failed, but I completely understand,” she said. “I’m really grateful to have the opportunity for the do-over and to take what we’ve learned and really shape a project and solution that will be acceptable.”



Pandemic impacts

The two incumbents said the schools have taken the right steps to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down schools and resulted in remote and then hybrid instruction. They point to investment in math interventionists and emotional support services that were included in school budget passed in June.

The schools are “in a really strong place right now” in large part because “we have built a strong leadership team,” Voltz said.

“They spent a year reviewing the (math) curriculum, looking at new options, and this year are beginning to pilot some new things,” she said.

McVeigh also cited “math deficits across our three schools” that were uncovered in the fallout of the pandemic, along with a greater need for mental and emotional health support.


“I think we are continuing to assess the data and make sure the district is coming to us with changes and things that they want to improve to continue to progress in the right direction,” she said.


The schools’ initial response to the pandemic was good, Hurder said, but the return to full-time in-person learning took too long. Then, when social distancing guidelines in schools dropped to 3 feet, she said, Cape Elizabeth kept its rules at 6 feet.

“Other schools were going full time while we were still in a hybrid schedule,” she said. “Cape didn’t seem interested in having that conversation until parents in town started to get loud about sending the kids back to school full time.”

Hews said the teachers and staff did a good job in staying connected with families and students throughout the pandemic but the board needs to closely monitor the needs of students and staff.

“I do think they did the best they could with what they had during COVID,” she said. “I feel like they’ve moved forward in the right direction.”

Hews, 46, is a registered Republican. She is a dental hygienist and has volunteered with youth and sports programs, including coaching and helping start up a youth rugby program.

Hurder, 40, is a registered Republican and a nurse.

McVeigh, 50, is a registered Democrat. A school psychologist, she has been a member of the school board since 2020. She is a volunteer with Cape Elizabeth Little League, football and field hockey.

Voltz, 55, is a registered Democrat. She is a technology risk manager who has served on the school board since 2020. She also co-founded and ran Cape Special Education Alliance, a support group for parents of students receiving special education services, from 2013 to 2020.

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