2012-11-16 / Community

Council recommends new face for school board

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Mary House Mary House SOUTH PORTLAND – Mary House had an appointment on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 13, at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The South Portland school board candidate was worried, if she hit traffic, that she might arrive late for the candidates’ forum that evening in city hall chambers.

But traffic northward was light, she made it on time, and the five councilors in attendance at the forum unanimously recommended her appointment to the vacant school board seat for a one-year term.

The council will vote to confirm House at its meeting on Monday, Nov. 19 after missing councilors Rosemarie De Angelis and Tom Blake have had a chance to see the candidates’ forum on tape. De Angelis was teaching a course at Southern Maine Community College Tuesday night. Blake was away on vacation.

House was one of six candidates competing for the at-large seat on the school board vacated by Jeffrey Selser. Selser chose to step down from his seat to take a coaching position at Mahoney Middle School, in accordance with a state law that prevents board members from simultaneously coaching in the district. Although his term was set to expire in 2014, the term for his replacement will only last through next year, when a special election will be held to elect someone who will serve a full threeyear term.

The other five candidates for Selser’s seat were Jeffrey McDonald of Providence Avenue, Pam Koonz Canarie of Sawyer Street, Tiffanie Bentley of Morse Street, Ralph Baxter Jr. of Simmons Road and Roger Allen of Mitchell Road.

After the candidates each answered six questions and gave closing statements to support their candidacy, councilors made a recommendation. Each noted that all six candidates were qualified and commended the their desire to become involved in community politics.

“This was a month-long campaign squeezed into a couple hours – we had the concentrated essence of politics here. Everybody had something to say I haven’t thought of,” said Councilor Tom Coward.

House has lived in South Portland for 17 years and currently resides on Elderberry Drive near the Scarborough town border. She has two children in the school system, both at Dyer Elementary School.

“My number one motivation is making sure (my children) have the best educational experience, as well as the children of friends and neighbors. I’ll do the best I can for the school and the students in times I think are very difficult,” House said.

House works with Woodard and Curran, an environmental consulting and engineering firm based in Portland. She has recently focused on technology projects relating to universities, which is what took her to Massachusetts Tuesday afternoon before the 7 p.m. meeting. It was her experience with science and technology through her profession that many councilors noted was the deciding factor in their recommendation.

Coward said a focus on the STEM fields of education: science, technology, engineering and math, are “At the top of the list” for what the school community needs.

Councilor Maxine Beecher agreed. She said House was her first choice because the schools “Are really moving forward on science and math.”

House also highlighted her strengths in working with the school budget. She repeated a few times that she would strive to “Do more with less” as a member of the board.

House said while she understood that “A well-rounded student is a great student,” many of the programs South Portland schools pride themselves on to make students wellrounded compete for funding from the same budget pool, which makes decision-making for the school board a challenge.

Because House lives in the southwestern portion of the city, she had the option to run for the District 4 school board seat this November that had no candidate listed on the ballot. Incumbent James Gilboy ultimately won a write-in campaign to serve another three-year term.

House said she considered running for the District 4 seat, but didn’t feel she was prepared at that point to get the signatures necessary to have her name listed on the election ballot.

“I decided at that point, OK, I’ll keep looking for future opportunities and that was an opportunity I took advantage of,” she said of the at-large position.

House will be the only new face on the school board next year. Along with Gilboy, incumbent School Board members Tappan Fitzgerald in District 5 and Richard Matthews in District 3 were elected unopposed to serve another term.

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