2014-10-31 / Front Page

Three run for two spots on S. Portland board

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Three people are running for two spots on the Cape Elizabeth Board of Education, including incumbents Karen Callaghan and Mary House, along with newcomer Christopher Hershey. Information provided by Hershey and House is provided below. Callaghan did not respond to emails requesting a completed candidate’s survey.

Name: Christopher Hershey

Age: 40

Street: Fairlawn Avenue

Residency: Three months

Occupation: U.S. State Department (four years)

Family: Married, three children

Education: Master’s degree in Public Administration, North Carolina Central University

Political experience: Former chief of staff for the city of San Antonio; former executive director of Meals on Wheels; served as former White House international policy advisor / foreign affairs officer

Community activities: Volunteer for Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.

Why are you seeking elected office?

As a parent of three and someone committed to public service, I want to contribute to making sure our school communities in South Portland are preparing young people for a great start, a lifetime of learning, and the solid skills to create good careers in the future.

In addition to 22 years of public service and leadership experience, I bring a high level of accountability and oversight experience as well as extensive practice in policy formulation, contract negotiation, day-to-day operational analysis, managing and motivating personnel and strategic planning and working with local government and political leaders.

I have also maintained a record of accomplishment, building and improving complex operations and have championed their growth and effectiveness.

What are your top three education issues (in order of priority)?

First, I’d like to get a dialogue going about bullying and microaggressions, particularly those between boys and girls, to empower our children to think while they learn. I recently published a book, “The Art of Peace,” which … features a bullying component. Creating such a dialogue would allow students and educators to access the root causes of maltreatment and bullying issues, which can distract.

Secondly, when it comes to test scores, food is rarely the subject of conversation. As a former executive director for Meals on Wheels, I recognize as a society, many look at administrators and teachers for answers about student performance and test scores, but nutrition also plays a critically important part. If you are not eating well, it can be harder to absorb and retain knowledge.

Finally, children should be able to learn in a flexible way that works for them. Explicit knowledge of content is not the only type of knowledge, and every child learns differently. We need to create a viable education model that fosters imagination and creativity and enrichment in the classroom. In allowing this, educators develop creative environments the students can thrive and excel in.

What, if anything, can be done to control the cost of public education?

We must do everything we can to ensure we are good stewards of our resources, whatever the amount, and make certain we use those funds to create the most auspicious outcome to educate our children in South Portland.

A budget is not the spending estimate you put together on holiday to impress others. It must be the result of coordinated input and effort by staff and leadership at local and state government. This makes it a task that requires thoughtful planning and deliberation regarding the investment being made. That is the crux of the question. To be clear, the money spent ought to be viewed as an investment for our children, for our community of South Portland, and for the state of Maine.

Name: Mary House

Age: 43

Street: Elderberry Drive

Residency: 19 years

Occupation: Senior project manager at Woodard & Curran for 19 years

Family: Married, two children

Education: Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Political experience: South Portland School Board, 2012-present

Community activities: Dyer School volunteer; Parent Teachers Association; South Portland Youth Cheering event volunteer

Why are you seeking elected office?

I care deeply about the students of South Portland and want them to have the best education possible. I am the parent of two young children and am proud to have them in the South Portland school system. I love living in South Portland and feel very connected to the community and our schools. I spend time in many of the schools and with parents across the city through my family’s involvement in community and school activities and sporting events. I am passionate about education and want to see students have a variety of educational opportunities both in the classroom and through extra-curricular activities. I have a background in science, engineering, technology and math and want to continue to see these as important parts of our program. In my professional career, I actively manage projects that give me direct experience in how to be fiscally responsible. In the past two years I feel I have contributed positively to the board of education and would like to continue working hard on behalf of our students and families.

What are your top three education issues (in order of priority)?

The top education issue is providing great opportunity for our students while being fiscally responsible. I want the most for our students, but appreciate this must be accomplished within the confines of what the community can support. Responsible choices must be made to balance student need and cost. In today’s world, there are enormous challenges facing school systems. Some of these include meeting ever-changing state mandates, accommodating health and other special needs, creating a safe learning environment, and providing a diversity of opportunities, all while not diverting from the core mission of educating our students. We must keep the educational experience current and relevant to the students of today’s world by creating a dynamic environment, implementing new programs, providing students with technology, and training to teachers so their course work is relevant and prepares our students for today’s job market.

What, if anything, can be done to control the cost of public education?

Making good choices is critically important and finding creative ways to maximize every dollar spent. We can also find ways to engage the community, which South Portland continues to do very well, through community partnerships with businesses, volunteers, boosters and local colleges and universities. We are lucky to have many great resources in South Portland supporting our schools. To that end, hiring the best and brightest will continue to bring new ideas of how we can best support our students in financially responsible ways.

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