2015-10-23 / Front Page

Election 2015

Four seek three seats on Cape board

Four candidates are vying for three open seats on the Cape Elizabeth Board of Education. Candidate surveys appear here in alphabetical order by last name.

Name: Heather Altenburg

Age: 44

Address: 31 Olde Colony Lane

Occupation: Yoga teacher

Family: Married with three children (ages 7, 5 and 4)

Education completed: Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of New Hampshire

Organizations and activities: Pond Cove Scholastic Book Fair co-chairman (three years); Classroom volunteer

Top three issues:

1. One of the issues facing the Cape Elizabeth School District is the Maine and federal policies regarding the common core, standardized testing and teacher evaluations.

2. A second issue is working within the budget and setting new budgets for the upcoming year that support the schools and education while taking into account the needs and concerns of those in the community without children in the school system.

3. The third issue I see is continuing to develop, create and increase innovative learning strategies that evolve with the times and most up-to-date research in order to stay current and competitive with other schools and other communities.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I am best suited to serve on the Cape Elizabeth School board based on many years of experience as an educator and parent. I have taught both in the traditional classroom and experiential setting.

I am running to help keep our schools strong for my children and the rest of the town. An exceptional school system is the best investment to support a connected community while upholding robust property values for homeowners. My goal as a school board member is to be open and receptive to the issues without presenting a personal agenda. I am a strong listener and I will hear what families, as well as people who don’t have children in the schools, have to say and bring those interests to the board. In working with the budget, not only will I consider the needs of the school, but will also be very aware of the budgetary squeeze some families experience and look at every number. My communication skills will allow me to cultivate clear and timely communication between the three schools, the administration and our community as we work toward our common goals. My hope is to expand on the already increasingly innovative learning strategies so students can continue to develop and mature through new and different types of challenges. Most importantly, if elected, I will be open-minded on all issues with the best interest for our children, their futures, and our community.

If you could change one thing about Cape Elizabeth, what would it be and how would you do it?

No answer provided.

Name: William Gross

Age: 70

Address: 7 Sea View Ave.

Occupation: Retired engineer

Family: Married with two children

Education completed: Bachelor’s degree in engineering science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Organizations and activities: Volunteer in Dr. Efron’s Grade 9 honors physics class (7 years)

Top three issues:

1. Continuous teaching skill improvement for teachers. Replace professional development based on expensive outside consultants with a system similar to what the Japanese call jugyokenkyu (loosely translated as “lesson study”). Jugyokenkyu is basically a practice of having teachers observe another teacher teach a class followed by long, collaborative work groups in which all the teachers share ideas and techniques to determine the best way to teach that lesson. We have an enormous reservoir of teaching expertise right here within our staff. But we don’t do enough to encourage our teachers to share this expertise.

2. The amount of time students spend in class. The school board can make small changes to increase class time by reducing the number of times students are released from school early for extracurricular activities and by eliminating achievement period and giving the time back to the teachers’ classes. But the real gains could come from extending the school year into the summer. Any extra time in the summer should mimic the existing Open Door Studio summer program we began two summers ago (e.g. 3-day week, mornings only, no homework, no tests)

3. The budget process. In order to avoid last year’s acrimoniousness conflict between the town council and the school board over the school budget, the town council and school board should meet and agree on a joint cap for both the school budget and municipal budget at the beginning of the budget cycle. The superintendent should use this cap as a guide when preparing the “official” line item budget.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I want to serve on the school board in order to balance the requirements of our quest for educational excellence with the needs of our teachers and the burden on our taxpayers.

Cape schools are great today because we have good teachers and our students come from stable families with parents who care deeply about the quality of our schools.

I believe the two most important factors, that our school board can control, which affect the quality of the education our children are the quality of our teachers and the amount of time students spend in class.

I believe that our school board should develop a 10-year plan that concentrates on these two factors. We should start planning now for the $1 million annual budget surplus we will begin to enjoy when the current capital improvement program ends in 2024.

If you could change one thing about Cape Elizabeth, what would it be and how would you do it?

The teachers’ contract. Today pay and seniority depend only on the number of years a teacher is employed and the academic degrees they hold. I believe that teacher evaluation should also be a factor that affects teacher pay and seniority.

Name: Elizabeth Scifres

Age: 40

Address: 22 Longfellow Dr.

Occupation: Tennis coach; former high school English teacher

Family: Married with two children

Education completed: Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College; Teacher certification from the University of New England

Organizations and activities: Cape Elizabeth Board of Education (one term, with one year as vice-chairman); Pond Cove Parents Association Executive Board

Top three issues:

1. The most pressing concern for Cape Elizabeth Schools continues to be budget. Looking at historical data, our state subsidies are completely unreliable and unpredictable. Sources of revenue that used to be dependable are gone. How do we continue to provide the high quality education this town is known for while minimizing the tax impact to ourselves? I believe we must have a wisely but wellfunded school system.

It’s a perennial, difficult balancing act.

2. I also believe that communication is a major area in need of improvement. Clear, timely, effective communication — between the three schools, among educators, from school to home, from school to community — must be a priority.

3. [No third issue given]

Why are you seeking elected office?

I am running for school board to protect, preserve, and improve upon what is working well in Cape Elizabeth schools, while supporting innovation and changes where needed.

If you could change one thing about Cape Elizabeth, what would it be and how would you do it?

I would love to see a town culture that was not divisive. Elected officials, such as town council members, are the best people to model that attitude.

Name: John Voltz

Age: 54

Address: Philip Road

Occupation: Consultant

Family: Married with two children

Education completed: Bachelor’s degree in biology from Grinnell College; Master’s of business administration in finance and marketing from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.

Organizations and activities: None

Top three issues:

1. Maintaining excellence. Cape Elizabeth schools have a well deserved reputation of excellence. I believe maintaining excellence requires hard work, foresight, diligence, and innovation. I plan to strive to make Cape Elizabeth a district that attracts and retains high-quality teachers, administrators, and staff who work together to deliver an excellent wellrounded education to all students.

2. Communication. I believe it is important to foster a supportive positive learning community with open active communication among teachers, administrators, staff, parents and the school board. Actively fostering this type of environment is vital to maintaining high-quality schools in the long run.

3. Transparency. Much of what the school board does is already available to the public. I know the current school board values transparency and works hard to support this goal. I also think there is more that can be done. I plan to actively work to make the budget and the process more understandable, and to encourage and promote better and more comprehensive data in support of the budget. I will also work to encourage and support greater visibility and participation in important district decisions where possible.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I was an active citizen participant in the budget and planning process last spring, and I felt I could make a greater contribution in the future as a member of the school board.

Cape Elizabeth has a tradition of great public schools. Our schools are one of this community’s greatest assets. I hope to contribute to their stewardship, actively maintaining what is excellent and driving prudent innovation to make them even better for all students, teachers, administrators, district employees, and residents.

If you could change one thing about Cape Elizabeth, what would it be and how would you do it?

I would like to see greater civility and cooperation between the town council and the school board. The surprising decision of the town council to reject the proposed budget of the school board was unfortunate and unnecessary. If elected, I will work to engage directly all members of the council to avoid such surprises and discord. I will encourage advance participation by the council in the process and I will work to make clear reasoning of that underpins the budget to the council and to the public.

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