Two on ballot for Raymond seat on RSU 14 board

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RAYMOND — Education project manager Kate Leveille and social service program manager Jake Stoddard are going head to head for the one available seat to represent Raymond on the RSU 14 School Board.

The School Board match-up is the only contested race on Raymond’s June 12 ballot.

Raymond has one seat open on the Selectboard, and Budget/Finance Committee Chairman Marshall Bullock is running unopposed. That seat is now held by Joe Bruno, who decided not to run for reelection.

There are also three, three-year seats on the Raymond Budget/Finance Committee for which Sheila Bourque, member Robert Gosselin and Kevin Oliver have turned in papers. There’s an additional two-year seat on the committee for which Crystal Rogers is the only candidate.

School Board 

Kate Leveille

Age: 38

Occupation: Education project manager

Previous Political experience: None

Why are you running for School Board?

I believe and support our public education system and am running to use the knowledge and experience that I have to support our students. We are at a critical point in our state. We need to ensure that our communities are educating students to the best of their abilities. We need to start our youngest students off with a strong foundation, support students as they transition from one school to the next, and encourage our older students to explore multiple pathways to success through skilled trades, vocational education and college degrees. We need to engage the future of our community to explore their passion while they are young in hopes that they become good citizens of our community.

What skills and experiences do you bring to the table that you think can help the RSU 14 School Board?

I would bring a fresh outlook to the RSU 14 School Board. I have implemented and taught programs in Maine schools to help middle school students explore their career pathways and how they can connect it to their learning and skills. I manage a project to support students over the summer as they pursue their college and career pathways after high school. I lead a group of influential education and business leaders working to improve the education and aspirations of Maine students from pre-K to the completion of their education after high school. I am a strong communicator and leader. I work with many personalities and organizations as we all try to reach a common goal to improve the aspirations of all Mainers. I would bring this knowledge, support and connections to the RSU 14 School Board. We need a passionate voice to support the students of Raymond and Windham on the School Board and I will be that voice.

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing RSU 14? And greatest opportunity?

Budget concerns are always a great challenge, especially as the state changes their funding formulas. I believe RSU 14 has done a good job to manage these budget challenges and still provide our students with a quality education. They’ve leveraged partnerships by working with outside organizations to provide low- to no-cost experiences for all students.

There is so much opportunity in our community and in our state. We have great jobs available from skilled trades to professional careers. We need to take advantage of this opportunity by exposing our students at a young age to these careers, helping to foster their aspirations and excitement for learning. We need them to value their future and recognize that no one path is the right answer. I am a strong supporter of involving the business community with education experiences and would help to bring some of my own experience with this model in other communities to the RSU 14 School Board.

Jake Stoddard

Age: 33

Occupation: Program manager of a social service agency (Section 21 Group Home)

Previous Political experience: 2011-2016 Buxton Budget committee member, serving as acting chairman in 2016; SAD 6 School Board Member 2012-2016, serving as vice chairman in 2015-2016.

Why are you running for School Board?

My wife and I moved back to the neighborhood she grew up in, and our daughter started attending Raymond Elementary School. The staff couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming people, but the curriculum seems to be over-representative of photocopied pages from corporatized education workbooks, or web-based workbook-like programs. I certainly believe that the curriculum can be altered to empower the classroom teachers to more substantially actively engage the students.

In a town with as many senior citizens as Raymond has, I believe tax relief is important, but I believe RSU 14 can allocate its budget more wisely. A centralized curriculum coordinator only takes more choice, and opportunity, away from our classroom teachers, who I want to more empower. And any windfall in budgeting should go to improving the educational opportunities for students; not hiring more administrators, as our administration costs are some of the highest in the country.

Those situations are a couple of the catalysts to why I chose to run.

What skills and experiences do you bring to the table that you think can help the RSU 14 School Board?

Prior experience – I’ve seen the way other districts run. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, and there is no such thing as perfect – only varying degrees of better. In addition to coming up with new ideas, I can bring currently practiced ideas to the table. In some cases, I’ll know what questions to ask, and when. I’m ready to serve on Day One.

In my professional life, I work in all areas of the Section 21 agency. I manage budgets, ensure compliance with state and federal law, resolve personnel matters, among other things. If I don’t know an answer, I generally know where to find out. Finding administrative rules, department with jurisdiction, or other issues are not new skill for me to learn.

I care. When I served on the MSAD6 Board we saw a student for disciplinary matters that obviously did not come from families like mine. This student’s living conditions were/are horrendous … I often find myself thinking about that MSAD 6 student whose family won’t provide those opportunities. That is why our community schools need to be the best that they can be – so that every student can have a shot.

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing RSU 14? And greatest opportunity?

We need to provide all the opportunities that we can for students. We need to always remember that students come first, and we are here to serve their needs. We offer many great programs, but we can always do more and better. I want to see more extra and co-curricular opportunities for elementary and middle school students, as well as expanding opportunities for high school students. Our students should thrive in their educational environment.

Obviously the challenge is doing that within existing resources. Windham and Raymond are growing, but our populations are getting older, which generally means fixed incomes. Our school population is also shrinking. RSU 14 is down almost 5 percent enrollment since 2010. This only adds economic stressors. I believe we need to take a hard look at our budget, and make sure that our resources are spent in the most prudent manner.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Kate Laveille

Jake Stoddard

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