The race to represent Manchester on the Regional School Unit 38 school board pits an incumbent, current chairwoman of the board against a newcomer.

Terri Watson, 65, said she’s running for re-election because she wants to continue to support the innovative changes Maranacook Area Schools have made over the last several years aimed at making sure all students are successful in learning.

“I’m excited about Maranacook Area Schools, we’re doing interventions to make sure all students achieve academic success, and I want to support those efforts,” Watson said. “I have experience and you can trust me to put your child first.”

Kaleb Pushard, 22, director of after school programs at a local martial arts school, said he’s always had an interest in trying to help better the community any way he can and has decided to run for the first time. Pushard said he has extensive experience working with local youths and can bring a fresh perspective to the school board.

“I feel as though I can bring a youthful insight. I work directly with youths, and adults, in the community every day,” Pushard said. “My number one priority is the students. Kids are first in my book.”

The election is June 13. Voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the fire department.

Voters will also be asked whether they approve of the RSU 38 school budget. Aside from the school board race between Watson and Pushard, all other elections for local positions are uncontested.

Pushard, a 2013 graduate of Maranacook Community High School who has also attended classes at Central Maine Community College and University of Maine at Augusta, is director of the summer camp and after school programs at Maine Isshinryu Karate Academies, or MIKA, a martial arts school and family business in Manchester.

While in school he served for several years as the student representative to the school board, and also served on the student council.

Watson, who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire and did some graduate study at the Harvard University Commission on Extension, Administration and Management, works as a medical transcriptionist.

She has previously served as chairwoman of the Manchester Board of Selectmen from 2003 to 2009, as chairwoman of a committee which studied Manchester getting a town manager form of government, is currently in her second year as chairwoman of the RSU 38 school board, and third year as a member of the board, and has served as chairwoman of the Kennebec Behavioral Health Board of Programs and Services.

Watson said the challenge of implementing proficiency-based diplomas is an important issue the school system is working to address, as is aligning and coordinating the curriculum between the district’s elementary schools, and complying with state mandates. She said the school system’s administrators are doing a great job and she wants to continue to support them.

She said ways the district could be improved include being willing and able to adapt to new requirements, and finding ways to increase community support and parent involvement in the schools.

Pushard said he is currently researching, and thus not 100 percent educated nor able to comment, about current issues the school system is facing. He did say he would work, with other board members and school officials, as a group to make sure they come to good decisions.

He said the district could be improved by having better, more open, communication between the school board and community members, including finding a way to make meeting minutes more accessible to people.

Both candidates agreed that mold and air quality concerns at Manchester Elementary School have been, or more specifically regarding air quality, are being, addressed.

The district has remediated the mold found in the elementary school and officials believe it is no longer an issue. And the school board is looking into installing a new ventilation system at the school, to address air quality concerns.

“The RSU board is looking at options to install a new ventilation system at the Manchester Elementary School, so that should be taken care of,” Watson said. “Any issue that has been identified is being taken care of.”

Pushard agreed the problems seem to be under control but added, “I feel the concerns were warranted so I’m glad to see the board has something in place to deal with that. I want to put provisions in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Both candidates also said they have life experiences that would help them be good members of the school board.

Watson said for her that includes attending Swarthmore High School in the 1960s, which she said was one of the best in the country and where she said every student was valued, learned a lot and went on to do well in life.

“I had the experience of knowing kids who learned at a slower pace still did well in life,” she said. “I know it is possible for every student to get a really good education, before they graduate high school, that can serve them for the rest of their lives.”

Pushard said his work at MIKA has given him valuable experience with youths and the ability to work well with others.

“I work directly with youths here, manage 24 coaches in the summertime, and I work great in groups,” he said. “We throw out ideas, have group discussion and we all work well together to come up with a good solution that works for everybody.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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Twitter: @kedwardskj