LITCHFIELD — The only local contest on the ballot Tuesday is for a seat on the board of Regional School Unit 4, which serves Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales.

Incumbent Joan Thomas, 69, is seeking another three-year term as one of three Litchfield representatives. She has been a school director for more than 20 years.

She is being challenged by Robert Gordon, 46, who served seven years on the Litchfield School Committee.

Both candidates say they oppose privatizing the district’s busing, an issue that has proved divisive over the past few months.

Thomas voted repeatedly in favor of keeping the busing and the drivers in house. “It didn’t make sense to throw 19 people out of work,” she said.

Gordon wants the district in control of busing as well.

“As far as I’m concerned, private companies only guarantee one thing — profits to the exclusion of all else,” Gordon said. “At least with it under our control, we can control the training that those bus drivers receive, and as a board, ultimately our responsibility is to the students. And I don’t believe that a private company is going to provide the same training and oversight that we can.”

Thomas pointed to two goals in particular she would work on during the next three years: continuing to move forward with standards-based education program, a new model that aims to give students more freedom in showing they understand topics, and repairing the districts two pre-kindergarten-grade two schools.

“We know we have to do renovations, and we have to borrow money for that right now,” she said. “There isn’t any other way.”

Thomas also said she wants to see more concrete financial data on the various proposals residents will see in a non-binding referendum at the polls on Tuesday.

Superintendent James Hodgkin summarized the choices: “Do people seem to favor leaving pre-k to (grade) two in their towns or do they favor closing one and building an addition in either Sabattus or Litchfield?”

The primary school in Wales was closed a year ago in a cost-saving move by the district.

About a dozen residents turned up for two recent public forums explaining the issue. One of the options in the straw vote involves a $1.8 million bond for five years of repairs.

Gordon’s preferred option is to make repairs without issuing a bond.

“If you take out a note for the repairs and do it all quickly, you’re going to be paying just in the first year alone $36,000 in interest,” he said. “By taking that extra time and doing that within the budget, all the taxpayers’ money goes into repairs, not into bank interest.”

He’s going to write in his own option on Tuesday’s ballot, he said.

Gordon, a director of information systems for Harron Communications, the parent company of Metrocast Communications, has four children in the district’s schools.

He ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for a seat on the board when the regional district was formed and ran again in 2010. Last year he ran for selectman. His four children attend schools in the district.

Gordon said if he wins the election to the school board, he intends to tackle a school-funding formula that has Litchfield paying $1,800 more per student than Sabattus.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


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