AUGUSTA — The race for an at-large seat on the Board of Education pits an incumbent who says he’s not afraid to ask hard questions against a challenger who says there won’t be a more dedicated member of the board than she.

Ed Hastings, a retired marine engineer who has been a board member for about a year and a half since taking over the unexpired term of Amanda Bartlett, who had resigned, faces a challenge from Holly Kiidli, substance abuse prevention coordinator for Healthy Communities of the Capital Area.

Hastings said he first sought to join the school board, and now seeks to stay on the board, because he had questions that weren’t being answered.

“So I put myself in a position to ask those questions, to which I assume others in the community would also want the answers,” said Hastings, 58. “I’m willing to ask the questions a concerned citizen would want, even if it may not be well-received. I’ll take the heat. I’ve got broad shoulders.”

Kiidli, 25, said as a mother and taxpayer, she is extremely invested in the development and growth of the school system and in supporting the families of the Augusta area, and wants to make sure tax dollars are providing the best quality education possible.

“I want to build a stronger community with the school as a focal point,” she said. “I love this city and thought one way for me to be involved, and be part of something bigger, would be the school board. You won’t find anybody more dedicated or harder working on this school board.”

Kiidli said important issues for the schools include making sure students get a quality education even while budgets are tight; holding students, administrators and teachers accountable to standards; and helping make sure all children, even those living in poverty, have an equal opportunity to get an education. She said it is important to look beyond test scores in determining the quality of an education.

She said she doesn’t feel qualified to discuss details of the school budget and whether current funding is adequate because, not being on the board, she wasn’t involved in or familiar with the budget process.

Hastings also said the budget is an important issue for the schools, and he said he thinks the current level of spending is about right.

He said he wants the school budget to be presented in a way that is more understandable for everyone, including more of a big-picture, districtwide budget, rather than a focus on individual school building budgets.

Hastings said he wants to see Augusta students’ test scores improve, and, as a school board member, he would work to ensure there are a sufficient number of teachers to help do that. He said he’d also work to improve the image of the school system.

“I would like to see us being considered one of the top schools in the state,” he said. “I think with our shrinking demographics, and the new facility at the high school, we have the potential to be extremely flexible. Capital Area Technical Center has a program where students can get college credits. Cony has programs where our students can get college credits. I’d like to find a way to get that word out and get the notion across that we are a force to be reckoned with in the educational community.”

Kiidli said in her experience working with Augusta schools, such as in her role on the Student Health Services Committee at Cony, she hasn’t seen any problems that aren’t already being worked on or addressed. She said she does want to see more work done on third-grade literacy levels, including by the use of the Trendsetter program, in which older students read to younger students, benefiting them both by giving the older students experience reading out loud and giving the younger students a mentor who can make them become more interested in reading.

“My personal experience with Augusta schools has been phenomenal,” she said. “As a community partner, I think they’re exceptional. I think the board has done a wonderful job working on the schools. I think one of the most important qualities somebody can bring to civic leadership is the ability to listen. At the school board level, you need to hear out parents, administrators and teachers.”

Hastings said his work as a chief engineer for 18 years, in which he had to deal with multimillion-dollar budgets, complex policies, labor contracts and other issues, helps him be a good school board member.

Kiidli said her job involving policy development, community-level change and managing large federal contracts and budgets has given her skills and experience that would serve her well on the board.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Two other school board spots will go uncontested, with only one candidate for each.

Staci Fortunato is seeking the Ward 1 school board spot now held by incumbent Jennifer Day, who did not take out papers seeking re-election.

The only candidate for the Ward 4 school board position, now held by Katie Vose, who is not seeking re-election, is Kati McCormick.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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