WATERVILLE — Residents in three city wards on Tuesday will consider re-electing incumbent members of the Waterville Board of Education or choosing from new candidates.

The polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at a new location this year — the Harold Alfond Athletic Center at Thomas College, on West River Road.

In Ward 2, incumbent board member Susan Reisert, a pastor and teacher, is being challenged by newcomer Patrick Roy for her seat, which she has held since 2015.

Susan Reisert

Reisert, 53, a Democrat, said she is running for re-election to a three-year term because she wants to continue serving, and it takes a while to get up to speed and feel comfortable with what a member does on the board.

“I feel pretty confident in what I’ve learned, so I’m not quite ready to let that go,” Reisert said. “I feel that I am providing something important for the students, and I’m finding it to be rewarding even though it’s a lot of work.”

Roy, 70, a Republican, said he is seeking the seat because the biggest part of the city budget is the school budget and he wants to work on that.

“Right now, our schools are at 50 percent capacity (student population),” said Roy, a retired start-up manager and night supervisor. “We’ve got a lot of room, and I think it’s time to close one of the school buildings and save money for the taxpayers. Taxpayers are tired of paying the big tax bills.”

Reisert said she wants to keep an eye on rates of student proficiency and other issues facing schools. Providing a good learning experience for and supporting all students is a priority, according to Reisert.

“There are a lot of issues — school funding, for instance,” she said. “It’s really important to make sure that funding is adequate for students to get a good education and have options available to them — arts and sports and a variety of options are really important to the students — and try to maintain that while also being financially responsible.”

Patrick Roy

Roy said he met a teacher while campaigning door-to-door who asked him what can be done about students who don’t want to be in school.

“I said, ‘We have to find out why and work with them,'” Roy said. “He said some sell drugs. I don’t know how much truth there is to that, but I want to find out.”

Roy said he also wants to examine teacher salaries in Waterville compared to those at other area schools.

“The (teacher) said he applied to go to work in another town that pays $10,000 more,” Roy said.

In Ward 4, incumbent Maryanne Bernier, a Democrat, is being challenged for a three-year term by newcomer Rebekah Kathryn Collins, who is running with no party affiliation.

MaryAnne Bernier

Bernier, 60, an educator, has been a board member since 2003. She said she wants to ensure those students who must meet standards in courses such as mathematics and social studies to receive proficiency-based diplomas are supported.

“I think if students need extra support, we have to support them, and they need a good education to meet the workforce,” she said.

Waterville also is looking at leaving Alternative Organizational Structure 92, and that must be financially feasible and not a burden on taxpayers, according to Bernier. Also, as administrators age and move toward retirement, new leaders must be sought, she said.

Rebecca K. Collins

Collins, 25, a homemaker, said she is seeking the seat because she always has been interested in being involved in the community and she thinks the Board of Education is a good place to start because children are so important. Having graduated from high school only seven years ago, she can recall the school experience but also has had experience as an adult.

“I have a very unique perspective,” Collins said. “I can see both now, so I’m able to bring a perspective that most people can’t.”

Bernier said she has enjoyed serving on the board, and as an educator, she is able to see both sides of issues.

“It gives you a broader perspective on education,” she said.

She said she attends city budget and council meetings because she wants to work with councilors. She said she is concerned about taxpayers being pitted against each other and understands the city has to meet financial obligations while keeping in mind that some people cannot afford high taxes. While she was knocking on doors, seniors have asked her to support struggling and at-risk students, she said.

Collins said preparing students for the real world and getting them ready for college and jobs is one of the biggest challenges facing schools. There is a focus on testing now, but educators must ensure students have a variety of skills, she said.

“I think we need to be very focused on how we can prepare students,” she said.

In Ward 5, incumbent Mary Ellen Fitzpatrick, an independent, is being challenged by Julian A. Payne, a Democrat, for a two-year term.

Mary Ellen Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick, 62, an educator, was asked in May to fill the unexpired term of Tiffany LaLiberty, who moved out of the ward. Payne, 48, and a retired, stay-at-home-father, said he has attended every City Council and budget meeting over the past two years.

Fitzpatrick said she is running for the seat because she had been asked a few times in the past to serve on the board, but at the time she had younger children and other obligations. When asked this year to fill LaLiberty’s unexpired term, she decided to do it.

“Much to my surprise, I really love it. It’s very interesting,” Fitzpatrick said. “Of course, I believe really strongly in education.”

Many students in Waterville are eligible for free lunches, she said, and many are more well-to-do.

“It seems like there should be top-notch education for every kid in Waterville. That just seems very important to me,” she said. “It’s very important because everybody should be able to have a chance at a good education.”

Julian Payne

Payne said he has gotten to know the residents of his ward during the last two years he has been involved in politics and understands their concerns.

“They overwhelmingly encouraged me to run for this position,” he said. “It is through massive support in Ward 5 and bipartisan support. When I went to the caucus, I had overwhelming support from the Democrats of my ward.”

Payne maintains that schools are asked more and more to do the work of parents, thus filling a gap in society.

“Consolidation needs to be explored at least so we can get the money in the classrooms,” Payne said. “Maine has one of the highest graduation rates for high school and one of the lowest for people actually going into university. I think we need to be successful in bridging that gap.”

Fitzpatrick said problems facing Waterville schools include declining student population and the challenge of not having enough money to offer certain courses at the high school that students need and want.

The state, she said, must fund 55 percent of education, as was set by referendum many years ago.

“It’s a constant battle,” she said. “I feel if there’s anything I can do in that respect, I will. I think we should be funded and offer good services.”

Payne said the city should be doing as much as possible to get the state revenue sharing funds it is due, as it is a loss for the schools otherwise. He also said he thinks school board members should attend some council meetings so they understand budget issues and can relay correct information when residents ask questions.

“If elected to that position, you should be able to present facts to taxpayers, parents of schoolchildren and the general community,” he said.

In Ward 6, incumbent Elizabeth A. Bickford, a Democrat, is running unopposed for a three-year term on the board.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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