Two Randolph residents are running for one of the town’s seats on the Gardiner-area school board that’s open this year.

Nancy Fortier-Brown, 50, is completing the second year of her first term.

Fortier-Brown, office manager at Clark Marine in Manchester, said she’s running again to be able to see through the completion of the Teresa C. Hamlin School project.

While the School Administrative District 11 board voted earlier this year to close the school and send its 40 or so students elsewhere, the district still must figure out what to do with it.

Fortier-Brown was a write-in candidate for a two-year term in 2016. While she had been asked to run in the past, she said she wanted to wait until her four children — two sets of twins, ages 26 and 21— had graduated before she took that on so she would not be influenced by how board decisions would affect them.

“My bottom line is, because of my past experience raising my children, there are certain things I have that I add to the school board,” she said.

Fortier-Brown said has seen what goes on in classrooms, and she knows where teachers need support.

Every decision she has made on the school board — except for one — she has based on true thought and not emotion, she said.

The only exception has been her vote to continue the high school wrestling program when the board considered eliminating it in 2017.

“I spoke up emotionally because I know how great a program that was for my children,” she said. “Everything else, I use logic, I use experience, I use what I feel is best for the children.”

Elissa Tracey, 40, said she’s running because she’s concerned about transparency in the school district, and she thinks there should be more.

“Not that they’re doing anything wrong,” she said, “but there should be more transparency.”

That includes keeping materials up-to-date on the district’s website. Tracey said when she has looked for information, she has found items that have not been updated, which is confusing.

As an example, Tracey, who has worked as information technology director for the federal courts in Maine and as a consultant for state government, said the school board recently voted to change the name of the elementary school in Pittston.

Earlier this year, the school district opted, after a series of meetings, to close Hamlin School in Randolph and transfer the 40 or so remaining students to Pittston Consolidated School.

Tracey, who had been the head of the Parent Teacher Organization at the Randolph elementary school, said she was unaware a decision to change the name until it came up in passing.

“They just did it,” she said.

In this instance, Tracey said, she had no opportunity to know that the board would vote to change the name at that meeting. As a constituent, she said, she can know before a meeting what’s on the agenda. But if a new topic is raised at a meeting and it’s decided on, no one has a chance to decide whether to weigh in, and they won’t know about it until the minutes are published.

“Couldn’t we have talked about it as a community? Wouldn’t that have been a good sort of team-building experience for these two schools to come together to talk it through?” Tracey said. “Not that it’s not a good idea, but now it’s, I guess, apparently the Pittston-Randolph Consolidated School.”

She has worked at local, state and federal government and on committees in the past. School committees she has worked with have been more transparent and rotate the chairperson position among the members.

“I am not trying to move mountains here,” she said. “It just seems like we keep going down the same path of a few people that make decisions, and the rest of the folks are left to find out. Not everyone is as tenacious as I am.”

Fortier-Brown said she understands the chain of command and respects the district’s “one-voice” policy, under which the board chairwoman is the spokeswoman for the board.

She said when people send emails to the board, board members might not always respond, but they are sent along to administrators and addressed at future meetings.

“I have questioned other school boards, and that’s just how they work,” Fortier-Brown said.

She said anyone who approached her, Fortier-Brown spoke with.

“I will not entertain a conversation that’s going to be all negative,” she said. “I am happy to have a conversation, but I am not going to get into the ugliness that sometimes conversations that are emotionally driven can become. We have to be a reflection of how we want our children to respond.”

This year, the SAD 11 board was able to deliver a budget that resulted lower assessments for its four member communities — Gardiner, Randolph, Pittston and West Gardiner — even though the budget was 3 percent higher than the previous year, because not all of that was raised through local appropriation.

Fortier-Brown is a member of the curriculum and policy committees, so the budget is not her area of expertise, she said.

“I feel we’re incredibly lucky to have our business manager, Andrea (Disch). She is phenomenal,” she said. “She, along with the administrators, keeps our budget in check. It’s a lot lower than other districts and that’s because of their due diligence.”

Closing Hamlin was a decision that helped the district financially, Fortier-Brown said, and allowed staffing to be brought on to support students.

“We are running a very solid budget, compared to other areas,” she said, adding that she’s finishing her second year and still has a lot to learn.

Tracey, who has served a three-year term on the Randolph Budget Committee, said she learned a great deal about budgets during that time.

She said she doesn’t have a lot of concern about the district’s budget, but she would like to get into the line items to understand it.

“I think they have a good perspective on a per-pupil basis, I get that,” Tracey said. “But if we’re going to keep closing schools, and this (has) a master plan, you should kind of know what it is by now and be able to tell people. In five years, if you have a plan, shouldn’t you be able to write it down and update it every year, rather than keep going through this panic and reaction mode that keeps happening?” As a project manager, she said, she looks for those details.

Fortier-Brown said all four of her children, who attended school in the Gardiner-area school district, including the now-closed Randolph elementary school, will be college graduates. When she got on the school board, the closure of Hamlin was the last thing in which she expected to be involved, but as a Randolph resident, she made it a point to be involved in the whole process. Fortier-Brown served on the ad hoc committee charged with making a recommendation about the future of the school and attended all the public meetings and forums.

“I took it very seriously. I really reflected on what would be best for the children,” she said. “And what was best was closing the school. I didn’t know how I was going to vote until the very end.”

Fortier-Brown said the reports she’s heard have been favorable, which helps her to know the decision she made was the right one.

Tracey said she’s looking ahead to how things might change in Randolph. She wants to get involved in her own community and feels running for the school board is important.

“I not only want to represent us here, but I want to have a voice in working with the other towns,” she said. “That’s important.”

It’s also a natural step from her role on the Parent Teacher Organization.

“It’s about transparency, not that anyone is doing anything wrong, but there should be more transparency,” Tracey said.

In SAD 11, board members are paid $25 for the regular monthly meeting and $15 for special board meetings.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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