The four residents running for the Yarmouth School Committee weighed in at a recent candidate forum on perennial topics like the budget and how they approach compromise, but they also fielded a question about allowing student access to materials that some parents may find objectionable.

The question comes a few months after charged public conversation around a draft policy called “Parental Rights regarding Student Choice Materials.” 

That policy would have codified the district’s existing approach towards allowing parents to request their children not have access to certain non-required materials that they find objectionable, according to Yarmouth School Department Superintendent Andrew Dolloff. “Choice” or “non-required” materials includes library books.

Some members of the public who spoke out against the policy said it raised the specter of so-called book bans.  Conservative efforts in Maine and elsewhere have targeted book titles that are often authored by people who are a part of a marginalized group and/or deal with themes of race and LGBTQ+ issues.

The proposed policy, which generated pushback, was eventually scuttled over concerns that it would increase the risk of a lawsuit against the district.

The four School Committee candidates in the June 11 raceSarah Olivares and Kellie Hall, who are running as “campaign allies,” Anne Fleming and Chris Stetson – all indicated that they are against book banning. 


But the question of Stetson’s membership in a group that, according to meeting materials that have circulated online, supports “parental rights” and ending “the sexualization of our children,” has also arisen as an issue in the race. As of last November, the group was also working on a “book rating system to identify age inappropriate books.” 

Stetson described the group, Yarmouth Education Advocates, as an informal association of residents who meet to talk through community issues. “We … speak as individuals.”

(YEA is also the acronym of the teachers and ed techs union, the Yarmouth Education Association; all mentions of YEA in this article refers to the Yarmouth Education Advocates).

The superintendent said in an email to the Northern Forecaster that he proposed the policy after hearing public comments. The YEA did not propose nor publicly support this policy,” he said – however, “it is likely that one or more of the individuals making those comments have been associated with the YEA,” Dolloff wrote in response to a question asking about whether there is a relationship between the group and the proposed, but later dropped, policy.

Read about each of the candidates, including their stance on the student access issue.




Anne Fleming has a professional background in law  and has three children in the district. She previously served two terms on the School Committee, from 2016 to 2022, including three years as chairperson.

On the question of allowing access to materials some find controversial, Fleming said she trusts school officials to ensure school materials are age-appropriate.

“Our job as School Committee members is to ensure that the school is run well. And we do that through our experts: our teachers, our librarians, our administrators. And …  I (put) my trust in these experts, that they are providing our students with age-appropriate materials,” she said.

The district is doing a lot of things well, she said, highlighting the high school’s effort to promote alternative pathways to graduation and hiring and retaining great teachers.

She also invoked her experience forging compromise during her previous tenure on the School Committee – including on thorny issues like how school leadership would respond to the pandemic. She also emphasized her experience navigating past budget seasons.




Kellie Hall is the owner of a wellness coaching business and is an equity resources coordinator for the Westbrook School Department. She has three children in district schools.

In response to the question about student access to materials, Hall also said she trusts education professionals to choose reading material that’s right for students.

“Personally, I believe that removing certain content and or students from certain materials, creates a fracture in the school climate, specifically books that are talking about… marginalized groups of people.”

“What does that do when we say ‘you don’t have to learn about these people.’ This is a very diverse world that we’re sending our kids into and they need to know about all these different groups of people that they’re going to encounter” she added.

She and Olivares are running on a platform of equity and excellence, she said.

“We want to make sure that every student in Yarmouth has the opportunity to be successful. We want to make sure that they feel safe, valued and seen.”


She identified finding ways to connect high school graduates with economic opportunities within Yarmouth as one of her goals: “If we know that we need more small businesses, how can we create a program that tracks our high school students there?”

When it comes to balancing property taxes with investment in schools, but warned against overemphasizing taxpayer relief at the expense of investment in schools.

“We do have to sit back and think about ‘what we can do without,’ but I think that schools have been doing without for a long time.



Sarah Olivares owns and operates a local health fitness business. She has two children in Yarmouth schools and a third entering pre-K in the fall.

On student access to materials, Olivares said she’s concerned about challenges to book titles that are by queer identifying authors or deal with LGBTQ+ themes.


“I also don’t believe that we should conflate an individual’s private right to whatever their opinion is, or their freedom of religion, with efforts brought under the umbrella of objections or exemptions to bear on a public school system,” she said.

She later indicated at the forum that candidate Stetson is a part of YEA. She called the group similar to a conservative organization that has mounted book banning efforts in communities in multiple states.

“One of my fellow candidates, although he’s not said this tonight, is an active participant in the Yarmouth Education Advocates group, a small but organized group strikingly similar to the Moms for Liberty organization.” In a later interview, asked about Olivares’ remarks, Stetson said, “That’s definitely not accurate … we don’t study Moms for Liberty.”

Stetson also told the Forecaster that if he were elected he would stop attending YEA meetings.

Olivares said she knows the school budget “is of utmost concern to the citizens of Yarmouth, and I’m with you.”

“I’m a business owner and I will … strive to make the most of taxpayer dollars for priorities that matter most to our community and our children,” she said.


“But let me be clear, my top priority in running for school committee is to ensure our children receive the best education possible in a safe and equitable environment.”

Looking ahead, she thinks district leadership could do a better job of reporting out to the community at regular intervals.



Chris Stetston is the co-owner of a small business with one child in Yarmouth schools.

In response to the student access question, he said “something that holds a story about race, gender, or sexual orientation is not a reason to restrict access.

He brought up the proposed policy around student choice materials, and said that ahead of one of the School Committee meetings where the policy was discussed he read multiple books that have been the target of book bans.


“I understand both sides of the discussion on those books,” he said, noting that he did think some of the content was objectionable. But ultimately, “they should stay.”

He said he is running a “budget-focused” campaign.

“I decided to run last June when I was tempted to vote against a 9% tax increase … Instead, I decided to get engaged and run,” he said at the candidate forum. 

Stetson also identified what he sees as some tension between fiscal constraint and the town’s new Climate Action Plan.

The Climate Action Plan includes a goal of transitioning school department buses to an all electric fleet, a strategy that Steton fears will be expensive. He also questioned whether EV buses, whose range and efficiency are impacted by cold weather, would meet Yarmouth’s transportation needs.

And, he said he has concerns about the price tag associated with the goal of town and school operations reaching net-zero emissions by 2030.

Stetson praised the district’s focus “on getting people ready for other pathways than going to university and coming out $300,000 in debt.”

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