GARDINER — Three Gardiner residents are vying for two positions on the Maine School Administrative District 11 board of directors.

The three-way race is between Matthew Marshall and Cullen McGough, who both currently sit on the board, and Diane Potter, who is running for one of their spots.

MSAD 11 consists of Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittston and Randolph. Voting will take place at the Gardiner Area High School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2. Absentee ballot voting has already started and.

Last year, when a Gardiner school board member resigned, Cullen McGough stepped into the role with his children in mind.

Cullen McGough Contributed photo

“I’m in it for the long haul,” he said. “I believe public institutions are only as strong as the civic will to engage, and I’m willing to put time and effort into it to make the schools great. How can you not do that as a parent if you want them to succeed?”

McGough, 44, has a degree in fine arts from Boston University and settled in Gardiner with his wife four years ago. The couple has two children, 5 and 3.


“Kids are so vulnerable and the disruption to education (from the pandemic) is so massive,” he said. “It’s important to sit with the experts and trust they come up with plans  — and make sure we can afford it.”

McGough believes that if there is a strong foundation for students, it’s likely they will come back to Gardiner to create a strong community.

He says he also has his eye on the long term in other ways. “Looking 12 to 14 years (ahead) in the school system, we want to make sure we have great teachers and are succeeding academically and managing the school properly.”

Challenger Diane Potter has served on the MSAD 11 school board before.

Diane Potter Contributed photo

“I hope when I finish this term, they won’t want to do an article on the oldest school board member in Maine,” joked Potter, who is 78.

Potter previously served on the Gardiner-area board for two terms, totaling six years. She has lived in the town since 1974 and has two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s. She said she has always worked in jobs involving children, including at Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and at a branch of Catholic Charities in Farmingdale.


She said that if elected, she will use her spot for the greater good of the children and teachers.

“I’m passionate about the students all feeling valued, whatever their strengths or weaknesses are,” Potter said.

Potter said with her prior school board experience and her age, she can bring a unique perspective to the school board.

“I was a teacher once before I came to Maine. I taught high school and I know how hard it is, preparing lessons and (being) concerned about different children, trying to meet the demands of the district, of parents, of supervisors and the children themselves,” she said.

Current board member Matthew Marshall said he also enjoys serving the community. In 2016, he ran for a seat on the City Council. When he didn’t get enough votes, he wanted to find a way to help in another area of public work.

“I have an itch to help the public,” he said. “It’s always important for me to be a part of the team and I really think kids are our future. It’s important for me to get involved and learn budget stuff and how it works with children, the curriculum aspect.”


Matthew Marshall Contributed photo

Marshall, 53, works as a government contractor at Bath Iron Works. He has three children, ages 26, 18, and 10.

On the school board, he says, “My number one job is to take care of the health and welfare of kids, and the next part is to weigh that with the taxpayer burden in the district,” he said.

Part of what makes the board work well together, Marshall said, is its ability to listen and “value everyone’s opinion.” He added the board is lucky to have Superintendent Patricia Hopkins with her ability to “lean forward and tell it like it is.”

Over the past 18 months, with the pandemic raging, being on the school board has been “extremely challenging,” he said. “But it’s not something we can’t overcome.”

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