Augusta Board of Education candidates Aaron Kregenow, left, Susan Parks, Jane Maguire-Tyce and Martha Witham participate in a candidates’ forum Wednesday night at Lithgow Public Library. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Candidates for four spots on the Augusta Board of Education answered questions furnished by students Wednesday night during a public candidates’ forum at Lithgow Public Library.

The event provided an opportunity for city residents to get to know the six candidates on the November ballot, although two candidates — James Orr and Charles Hicks — were not in attendance. A City Council forum followed the gathering for the Board of Education.

Amanda Olson, former chairperson of the Augusta Board of Education, moderated the forum, and students in Cony High School’s Advanced Placement class on the U.S. government furnished the questions for the candidates. The questions asked the candidates their opinions on a variety topics, including board policies, vaping and students’ mental health.

The candidates for the vacant Ward 2 seat are Aaron Kregenow and Susan Parks.

Kregenow spoke first, saying he wants to make sure students in the district “receive the best education they can get” by having great teachers who are paid at a “competitive wage.”

Jane Maguire-Tyce during taping Wednesday night of a candidates’ forum at Lithgow Public Library in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Parks, a longtime educator who has worked as a consultant with the Maine Department of Education, said she is running for the board to stay involved in education.


They were asked, “How can the educational/school department support mental health awareness in schools?” and “How can the school make better efforts in helping students find postsecondary education goals?”

Susan Parks speaks during taping Wednesday night of a candidates’ forum at Lithgow Public Library in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It has come to me before that students in special education use what’s called a transition plan,” Parks said, “and what the school does for those children — and it can translate nicely to general education — is to have a transition team to figure out post-school if they want to be employed or go to a post-secondary school, or community college, or take a year off. With a goal set, the students can decide what is necessary and the outside resources needed.”

Kregenow spoke of having job shadows and asking students in as early as kindergarten what they would like to do for a career, so they can set it as a goal from a young age.

On mental health, Kregenow suggested encouraging sports and extracurriculars to get students active, while Parks suggested mental health resources within the school, including counselors and group therapy sessions.

The candidates for the vacant Ward 3 seat are Jane Maguire-Tyce and Orr.

Maguire-Tyce has six children, two of whom are at Cony High School.


“I’ve been going to board meetings for two years and saw the position opened up,” she said. “I don’t know, but I feel like I should be an example to other parents to be involved and active in our kid’s lives. Kids need to know their parents are supporting them.”

Augusta Board of Education Chairperson Martha Witham, who is seeking reelection, speaks Wednesday night during taping of a candidates’ forum at Lithgow Public Library. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Maguire-Tyce answered questions about combating vaping at schools and whether she wants to make a change to any of the board’s policies.

She said she does not seek to change any policy, but believes students in the district should have a couple of “days of caring” in which they can volunteer around the area. On vaping, she suggested installing “vape detectors” in school bathrooms.

Martha Witham, chairperson of the Board of Education, is running uncontested and has served on the board for three years.

Witham is a longtime educator and former superintendent of the Richmond School Department, before it became part of — and has since left — Regional School Unit 2.

As chairperson, Witham said her goals are to increase the transparency of the board and have a better working relationship with the City Souncil.

“I’m only one of nine members,” she said, “and I can’t make a decision by myself.”

Hicks is running for the open at-large seat on the board now held by Kimberly Martin, but did not attend Wednesday’s forum.

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