Each candidate filled out our own personalized League-style questionnaire.
How many years have you lived in Maine?: 41 yrs.
What experiences, motivations, and leadership styles will make you an effective School Committee representative?:
I have been a full-time law Professor for 40 years. I am currently an Emeritus Prof.
I have taught courses in state-local govt. and administrative law; I have a graduate degree in economics; I have been on the City Council and the Planning Board. This background gives
me familiarity with the workings of govt. I would apply this background to current issues that confront the school board. I am also a committed supporter of public schools. I attended
them growing up; my four children all attended Portland schools and benefitted from that experience. I care about the city and the school system
If elected, what would your top three priorities be? How do they affect young people in Portland?:
Obviously the budgetary crisis of the moment must be solved, and long-run budget stability needs to be achieved; School consolidation linked with the capital improvement needs of particularly our elementary schools is also important. Finally, developing and maintaining a curriculum that meets the needs of today's high-tech society and the largest number of Portland students is an important and on-going responsibility. Young people, all of the citizens of Portland, will be benefitted if these three areas of concern can be handled more effectively than they have in the recent past.
Please share one positive change you have seen in our schools and in the School Committee over the last year?:
The Council, School Board, parent committee addressing the Clifford school issues augurs well for the future.
Please share one frustrating change you have seen in our schools and in School Committee over the last year?:
The continued and deepening inclination of the School Board and the Administration
to leave the City Council and the public out of critical decision making.
What competing responsibilities do you have: professionally and personally?:
Having retired from full-time teaching I am freer than I have been in years. I am teaching one course a year; I am writing a great deal; but my schedule is largely of my own making-- thus taking on school board responsibilities is both possible and something I would welcome.
How would you make Portland schools more effective and cost efficient?:
There are some consoldiations of function with the City that should be explored, but
beyond that I would want to review with other board members, the school administration, and parent groups the whole range of needs, programs, and costs before offering concrete proposals. Shooting from the hip is not the way to proceed.
Where do you see Gov. Baldacci's consolidation plan or school closings fitting into your measures to increase cost effectiveness?:
We need to understand the law; see how it impacts us; talk to neighboring school districts, see what's possible and then develop policies and goals that make sense to us and that benefit Portland's schools. Consolidation programs are going on across the country. They are not going away. Economies of scale save scarce tax dollars. We need to be on board.
What is the role of School Committee in determing the school budget? What ways would you improve the process of school budgetting?:
The School Committee needs to take the lead in school budget development. We need to carry the water for students, teachers, the school administration. We need to be on top of the numbers. If we don't understand it how can we explain it to the public and get the support we need. I'd improve the process by making it far more open than it has been in the recent past. Hiding the ball suggests that you have something to hide-- the public grow mistrustful.
With the current reality of Portland's school budget, cuts seem likely. What would you cut and why?:
It's too early for me to be definitive; but as I said in an earlier answer I'd look at consoldiations of functions with the city; and in the short run I'd examine our immediate hiring levels, our school tranportation policies, our athletic program policies, particularly at the Jr. High school level, and the ratio of central office staff personnel to classroom personnel.
What priority in funding would you give Portland's new Expeditionary Learning High School?:
The program has a great deal of promise but it needs to be examined in terms of its longer run cost implications measured against the benefits we anticipate from the program. It's the type of program that is easy to begin--hard (costly I suspect) to maintain. As a knee-jerk reaction to the current budget crisis, I would not urge that it be scrapped, but at the same time it must justify its existence in terms of cost and benefit with a wide range of other valuable school programs.
How do we increase the number of graduates that go on to pursue post-secondary education? What benchmarks would inform Portland schools towards reaching these goals?:
If I had a short, sure-fire answer to this question, I'd bottle it and become a millionaire. One thing I am sure of--we need to talk more positively about the social and economic value of post-secondary education. We need to make it easier for students to access USM and other post-secondary institutions immediately available to Portland students. In my view, this could/should begin when students are in their senior year.
Data shows enrollment is declining in Portland schools. Why do you think this is? What, if anything, should be done about it?:
stable population base; fewer families in the city; smaller families. It's a trend that may slow dowen but is unlikely to turn around in any dramatic way any time soon.
Do students for whom English is a second language have access to a quality education?:
Yes. Is the situation as good as it could/should be-- propably not; but given the number of languages extant in Portland, the effort being made is admirable.
Do you think student transportation needs any changes? Why or why not?:
Almost certainly; the costs of our present transportation policies have risen sharply in recent years-- these cost increases can't be borne indefinitely. Moreover, many parents, and this candidate remember when walking to school was the norm. Some return to this past may be in order. The issue needs to be reexamined.
Do you have children and where did/do they attend school? If they were schooled privately, what was the single biggest factor in removing them from public education?:
4 children: all attended Portland public schools--McLellan, Butler, Reiche, King,
Lincoln, and Portland High. All did well; one Valdictorian; 3 are academics today.