Hampden-area school board candidates want to move beyond contentious COVID debates

Three incumbents on the Regional School Unit 22 board will face a competitive election on June 14, when voters in Newburgh and Winterport go to the polls to elect their representatives to the Hampden Area School Board.

RSU 22 serves Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport and Frankfort, but Newburgh and Winterport are the only towns to elect school board representatives this month.

John Holmes and Kenyon Humphrey, who represent Winterport, are running for re-election to their seats for a three-year term and a two-year term, respectively. Heath Miller, the current school board president, is seeking another three-year term to represent Newburgh.

Leah Kresge and Brooke Miller run for the seat held by Humphrey, while Katherine Collins challenges Holmes. Jonathan Purdy and Heather Frye race against Miller.

A number of candidates said they were eager to get out of the contentious debates over COVID-19 protocols that dominated school board business last year. Others cited more transparency, financial concerns, equity among different district schools, and special education student needs as priorities. Two said students were learning about inappropriate topics, such as sex and LGBTQ identity.

Candidates for Winterport are listed below in alphabetical order. Newburgh’s candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.

Clockwise from left: Katherine Collins, John Holmes, Kenyon Murphy, Leah Kresge and Brooke Miller. Credit: Courtesy of the contestants.

Katherine Collins, Winterport

Katherine Collins, a business owner, coach and mother of six with two children who currently attend RSU 22 schools, said if elected she would tackle the “hypersexualization of children” in the district.

She said her children were shown books that dealt with sex and other subjects she deemed inappropriate for their age, and that she successfully advocated for one of those books to be removed from the library at Reeds Brook Middle School.

Collins said RSU 22’s use of COVID funds to add a third floor to Hampden Academy was inappropriate and the money would be better spent on hiring more counselors to address students’ mental health needs and improve outcomes. standardized tests.

“I think there has to be accountability for the money. There has to be accountability for what these kids are learning, and I don’t see that happening right now,” she said.

John Holmes, Winterport

John Holmes, who works for the Eastern Region Agency on Aging, touted the council’s support of outgoing superintendent Regan Nickels as the third superintendent of RSU 22 in 50 years and the district’s COVID response as significant successes during his six years on the school board.

He said he wanted to focus on board transparency and said the board would host a community forum later this month to be accessible to parents and community members.

Holmes said he also wanted to focus on catching up with students who have fallen behind on remote learning and reaffirming that educational issues are a priority for a new school year now that the pandemic has receded.

“I just hope that now we can focus on our strategic plan, and just put education more front and center and help these kids who have really fallen behind,” he said.

Kenyon Humphrey, Winterport

Kenyon Humphrey, a Spectrum employee who joined the board last June, said his main concern if re-elected was to ensure that the budget for RSU 22 would not increase so that residents would not not see a corresponding tax increase.

“It’s important to a lot of people right now, with the price of everything else going up,” he said.

He also said he would advocate for lacrosse to become a varsity sport by next spring, which he pushed for as a member of the athletics committee.

Humphrey said he hopes social issues like mask mandate debates don’t dominate the next school year. Her daughter struggled with remote learning during the pandemic and fared much better when she was allowed to resume in-person classes with universal masking.

“Last year the mask mandate was such a big thing. I thought it was more important to have kids in school than to have parents or students choose masks and then have to move to remote learning because we [had] massive outbreaks of COVID,” he said.

Leah Kresge, Winterport

Leah Kresge, who works at a synagogue and has two children who attend RSU 22 schools, said she wanted to ensure equity between schools.

She pointed out as an example that students at Reeds Brook Middle School were allowed to take accelerated courses at Hampden Academy, while students at Samuel Wagner Middle School in Winterport were not, and said that she would push the council to address the inequities that RSU 22 found in an equity audit last year.

“I strongly believe that all children deserve equal access to education,” Kresge said. She said she also wanted to lead the board in supporting the teachers and administrators of RSU 22.

“Our children listen to board meetings and they need to know that there are adults out there who will stand up for them, stand up and support the staff and directors,” Kresge said.

Brooke Miller, Winterport

Brooke Miller, an airline pilot who homeschools her two children, said she wants to promote fiscal responsibility and restore community-school relations if elected.

Miller said heated debates over masking policies, which she wanted to leave up to parents, had divided parents, teachers and administrators, leading her to push for RSU 22 to hold a more public forum. later this month to allow participants to speak outside of a school. board meeting framework, which limits public comments and how directors can respond.

She also said she was concerned that RSU 22 would spend its American Rescue Plan Act money on expanding Hampden Academy, rather than hiring more teachers and aides or counselors to meet health needs. mentality of students.

“The problem is that every time you go to state and federal with a document, there are conditions attached,” Miller said.

Heather Faye, Heath Miller and Jonathan Purdy. Credit: Courtesy of the contestants.

Heather Frye, Newburgh

Heather Frye, a former RSU 22 kitchen manager whose five children attended district schools, said she would advocate for students with special needs, who she said had “fallen through the cracks” during the distance learning.

“Some students are not computer science students. Some students are very, very active. They need this instruction,” she said. “I’ve seen a few students who have struggled to do all the schoolwork given to them during COVID and it hasn’t been split into what they should have been for the [individualized educational plan] they had.

Frye also said she would push for schools to “go back to basics” in reading, writing, math and science, and downplay teaching about LGBTQ identity.

“Let the parents take care of it. Teachers have to teach and it’s not something that has to be taught,” she said. “He has to stay home and let the parents take care of what they need to, if it’s something they’re okay with.”

Heath Miller, Newburgh

Heath Miller, a dairy farmer who has served on the board for nine years and has served as chair since 2019, said it would be important to ensure continuity of leadership as RSU 22 welcomed Nicholas Raymond as new new superintendent in July.

“I think it’s important that we have this transition period with a president who has been there for a while, with a brand new superintendent,” he said.

He also said he would work to make the board as transparent as possible, especially about how district financial decisions were made.

“We have to go beyond,” Miller said, “and put ourselves in the shoes of that parent who maybe isn’t following everything the board does, at every board meeting, at every community meeting, and try to do our best to let the public know.

Jonathan Purdy, Newburgh

Jonathan Purdy, a private chef, said his family moved to Newburgh from Arizona in 2015 for a slower pace of life and specifically so his three children could attend RSU 22 schools.

He said the district’s rankings had ‘slipped’ in recent years, citing declining standardized test scores, and wanted to refocus on education and ensure students have the best possible educational foundation to succeed. after high school, whether they went to the military, started a business, or attended college.

The most recent standardized test data, from the 2018-2019 school year, showed that RSU 22 students outperformed their statewide peers in English language arts, math, and language arts. science.

Purdy said he also wanted to make sure the district was ready for greater enrollment in the future, as towns around Bangor have grown over the past decade. Her twin children were in the largest kindergarten class at RSU 22.

“Most of these kids are still in the district, so when they get to high school, we just won’t have enough space for them,” he said.

The district needs to “really budget things wisely and plan accordingly,” Purdy said.

About Marie A. Gingrich

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