WATERVILLE — The Waterville Board of Education on Monday appointed Spencer Krigbaum to fill the unexpired term of former board member Julian Payne.

Spencer Krigbaum Contributed photo

Krigbaum, 29, is senior software engineer with Tyler Technologies, based in Falmouth.

“I am glad that I have the opportunity to serve on the school board and influence the future curriculum and policies and the direction that they will be heading,” Krigbaum said after the board voted to appoint him.

Krigbaum said in a telephone interview after the 6-0 vote that he hoped to help steer city schools toward even greater success by introducing software-development courses or logic-oriented courses at Waterville Senior High School.

Such training, he said, would provide students knowledge in those areas, and help those who cannot afford college to build solid foundations for careers in high tech.

He also said as Maine and much of the United States struggle through tumultuous times, including protests, the coronavirus and other issues, he has been informing himself on those issues and would take them into account in his position on the board, which came available when Payne resigned because he is leaving Waterville.

The board interviewed four candidates, one of whom, Chris Veilleux, bowed out midway through his interview after board member Greg Bazakas asked if he had direct experience with the Waterville Public Schools. Veilleux said his wife is an education technician in the school system, which board Chairperson Joan Phillips-Sandy said would be an issue. Superintendent Eric Haley agreed.

“There is a statute that a spouse may not be gainfully employed by the school system when the spouse is on the school board,” Haley said.

Haley said Veilleux could run for the position, but his wife would have to leave her job if he wanted to keep the seat. Veilleux said he was thankful for the opportunity to be interviewed and decided he would opt out, saying there were other qualified candidates.

Stephen Crate, a former school board member and city councilor, and Jeffrey “Steve” Kahl, a Thomas College faculty member and former high school teacher, also were interviewed for the seat.

Board members interviewed each candidate separately and asked the same questions of each one, including why they wanted to be on the board, what strengths they felt they would bring to the board and schools, what they saw as important goals of public education, what they thought Waterville public schools do well, how they think the schools are perceived in the community and how they would approach someone with a differing opinion.

They also were asked to describe how a teacher in their lives made a lasting impact on their education or personal development.

Kahl is a professor of environmental science at Thomas College. He also hosts a radio host on renewable energy on WERU-FM in Orland.

Kahl said he is a member of the board of Quarry Road, and has been active in the Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition.

A former high school chemistry teacher, Kahl now includes former Waterville Senior High School students among those he teaches at Thomas.

“I find the students are getting better, just in the five years I’ve been there,” he said.

Crate has more than 35 years of experience in the private and public sectors, working in human and organizational development and training. He is spiritual care coordinator at Northern Light Inland Hospital and subdeacon at St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church, both in Waterville.

Crate told the board he is a lifelong educator and former school board member and city councilor who has taught elementary school and high school. In response to a question from board member Pat Helm about how he would approach someone with a differing opinion, Crate said he is always open to others’ opinions.

“I really believe in people having free-thinking and people having their own opinion,” he said, “and I am willing to express my opinion.”

Crate said he could not guarantee he would run for the seat in November if the board appointed him Monday.

Krigbaum told the board he wanted to take what he has learned in his career in science and technology and help prepare youth. The most important goal for public education, he said, is to help prepare students for the real world.

He spoke of a high school English teacher who was extremely kind to him when Krigbaum was a student. He said that teacher did not give up on him. She worked with him, noticed he liked reading and encouraged him in his studies.

Krigbaum also said a chemistry professor at Kennebec Valley Community College taught in a way that made him enjoy the sciences. That professor pushed him in the direction of software, he said.

“Without him,” Krigbaum said, “I would not be anywhere close to where I am today.”

Krigbaum will serve in the Ward 5 the seat until the election in November when he plans to run for the position. If elected, he would serve Payne’s unexpired term of two years, which ends in 2022.

In other matters, the board voted unanimously to renew contracts for Haley, the school-year secretaries and the full-year secretaries.

The board also approved the first phase of the Maine Principals’ Association guidelines concerning coaches working with student-athletes this summer, after Heidi Bernier, athletic director at the senior and junior high schools, updated the board on the issue.

Bernier said the guidelines call for athletes to participate in two-week, outdoor activities in groups of 10 people that require social distancing. If social-distancing requirements cannot be met, the athletes must wear face masks.

No equipment would be used, Bernier said.

She said phase one allows student athletes to become reconnected with adult mentors and do cardiovascular and agility exercises for an hour a day, three times a week. Haley will have the authority to curtail the activity if the final guidelines do not reflect what the board reviewed Monday.

The Board of Education is next scheduled to meet July 20, unless its members decide to convene sooner, according to Phillips-Sandy.

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