WINTHROP — Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Winthrop School Board, including one vacated by the current chair.

Timothy Wess, a current board member, is on the ballot for reelection, along with former board member Joe Pietroski Jr. Newcomer Monika McLaughlin, a longtime Winthrop resident, is also competing to win one of the three-year terms.

The Winthrop School Board oversees Superintendent Jim Hodgkin and the $12.8 million school budget. The two soon-to-be elected candidates will serve with existing members Catherine Emery, Ivy Corliss and Alicia Lawson.

The current board chair, Kelley Hooper, chose to not run for reelection and would not comment further.

All candidates have teaching experience and shared the same idea of what makes the Winthrop community unique and worth serving — the community — and most agreed that there are great opportunities for students who are high-achievers and on sports teams. Pietroskiand McLaughlin spoke about creating more opportunities for students who do not fit in the mold of sports teams and clubs, and Wess wants to focus on teachers’ needs moving forward.

Pietroskiserved on the board for five terms until he was elected in 2022 to serve as a Kennebec County Commissioner, the first Republican to hold that position in three decades. According to Maine law, a school board role is one of the only other offices he can hold while being a commissioner. Pietroski, who is a retired teacher, said he decided to run again for the board because of “unfinished business” the board started and he wants to make it his goal to work toward putting in place a strategic plan to set goals for the future of Winthrop Public Schools.


Joseph Pietroski Jr., center, chats with fellow Kennebec County commissioners Patsy Crockett, left, and George Jabar II, right, before a swearing-in ceremony in Augusta on Jan. 3. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

“The strategic plan we had 15 years ago accurately predicted the problems we were going to have,” Pietroski, 76, said. “For instance, how are we going to hire people to teach kids? I think everyone on the school board should be worried (about that).”

Pietroski served his last term on the board with Wess, who has completed one three-year term on the board.

Wess, who is a special education teacher in Skowhegan-based Maine School Administrative District 54, wants to run for reelection because of his dedication to the education community.

“It’s a subject area I know about,” Wess, 45, said. “I’ve been teaching for 22 years, and as a teacher I understand how the school system works and what’s needed and not needed for a school to run, and what the students need. I’m a big believer in ‘you need to do something to give back to the community,’ and my knowledge is in teaching.”

Monika McLaughlin Contributed photo

Like Pietroskiand Wess, McLaughlin has experience in education, as she formerly worked for two years as an English teacher at Winthrop High School and as a faculty member at Thomas College in Waterville. McLaughlin, who is now a writer, said that being away from her students while she works on a novel has made her miss being a part of the education system.

“I love my kids, and this is an opportunity where I am home, not working as an educator, but I can still make a meaningful impact on lives,” McLaughlin, 59, said.


McLaughlin, who has not held an elected office before, said she wants to focus on creating opportunities for students through the community, such as inviting a member of the Kennebec Historical Society to teach a lesson in a history class or creating a club for students who do not participate in sports – such as a gaming club, where students can still connect over a shared interest, form a community and not fall through the gaps.

“One thing I know my kids wanted when I was a teacher is a gaming club,” she said. “There were a lot of kids that were gamers and it could be an opportunity for them to get together where the hub is school and the base of school is to build relationships and friendship through things that matter to them.”

Tim Wess Contributed photo

Wess said the school board is good at listening to the needs of students, but his goal if elected to a second term is to listen to teachers more.

“I think they are being questioned too much,” Wess said. “People aren’t trusting them and we have to trust them more. They are doing a good job (teaching) and 99% of the time they are putting the kids first.”

All candidates agreed that Winthrop’s community is at the core of what makes Winthrop schools unique, and spoke on how the community regularly comes together for sports teams, scholarships and support in the classroom through volunteering.

“We are a single-town school district which is rare for Maine, so it kind of creates a close-knit community and group between parents and administration,” Wess said.

The vote for the two school board members will take place on Election Day, Nov. 7, at the town hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The school board meets bi-weekly on Wednesdays in person at the Winthrop town hall at 6 p.m., and all meetings are streamed over Zoom.

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