Three school board seats up for grabs in SAD 27 election
FORT KENT, Maine — Maine School Administrative District 27 voters in Fort Kent and Wallagrass will decide which of five candidates will fill three open school board positions during elections to be held the last week of March.
SAD 27 board representation is divided among seven subdistricts, based on location and population, with seven board members who represent the district towns of Fort Kent, New Canada, St. John Plantation, St. Francis and Wallagrass. Only voters who reside in subdistricts with open seats can vote in the March election.
Subdistrict 2, which includes all residents of Wallagrass (541) and some residents of Fort Kent (234) has an open seat as representative Isabelle Lozier, whose term expires in March, has opted not to run in the election.
This seat is uncontested, with Shannon Lugdon being the only person listed on the ballot. All Wallagrass voters and Fort Kent residents who reside North on Aroostook Road (Route 11) to 213 Pleasant St., including Paradis Circle and Bradbury Road, can vote for the Subdistrict 2 representative.
Incumbent board members Toby Jandreau and Leroy McKenzie are running to keep their seats in Subdistricts 4-7, which also expire in March and are voted for at large.
These subdistricts represent 3,253 Fort Kent voters not residing in other SAD 27 subdistricts.
David Soucy and Tanya Voisine are contesting these two seats.
Voters residing in Subdistricts 4-7 are those who live from 112 St. John Road bordering the St. John River heading east to the Fort Kent town line on Route 1, then from 209 Pleasant St. heading North, then from the railway crossing on Market Street (Route 161) heading North, and from 213 South Perley Brook Road heading West, including Morin Avenue and McKenzie Drive.
Fort Kent residents will vote from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 28, at the Fort Kent town office. Wallagrass residents will vote from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31, at the Wallagrass town office.
All of the candidates running for the open school board seats were asked the same questions. In alphabetical order, here are the candidates and their responses:
Party Affiliation: I am a registered Democrat, but have historically been unenrolled.
Why running for SAD 27 school board: I believe in this community. I believe we can thrive, unlike other rural areas. The only way we can accomplish this is to ensure that our schools are not just sufficient, but exceptional.
Education: I have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono in philosophy and a Juris Doctor degree from University of Maine School of Law.
Employment: I have been running my own law office in Fort Kent for the past 12 years. Prior to that, I worked as a case manager in the York County Drug Court. I did outreach with at-risk teens in northern and central Maine prior to law school. In between school and more steady work, I planted trees, worked on a golf course, installed hardwood floors, among other things.
Family: My wife Jennifer and I have two children, Rosie and Sophie. We have three cats named Charlie, Buttercup and Daisy. We have one dog named Rowan. My children are both enrolled in school in this district.
Biggest challenge facing students today: The uncertainty of what’s to come. I was fortunate enough to come of age with the belief that I could go to college and get a good job with benefits right out of the gate in a field that existed prior to my graduating from high school. Today’s middle-schoolers will be doing work when they graduate that likely didn’t exist when they were in middle school. It is important that we teach basic skills so that our students can adapt to a rapidly adjusting world.
Biggest challenge facing teachers today: The challenges of teaching during the pandemic, decreased funding, ever-changing expectations combined. It is an ever-changing bundle of societal problems that ultimately fall on the teachers’ shoulders to address.
Party Affiliation: I am a registered Independent.
Why running for SAD 27 school board: I’m running for school board because I believe Wallagrass residents deserve representation on the board. I believe education is vitally important to the future of our children and our community. I truly want to support SAD 27 educators, students and their families.
Education: Wisdom High School graduate and a Bachelor of General Studies from University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Employment: Permanent substitute at Wallagrass Elementary until they closed. Department of Community Education at UMFK for two years, then last three years as the Development Officer at UMFK.
Family: Did not answer.
Biggest challenge facing students today: Ever-changing landscape of their world due to the pandemic; unlimited access to information through the internet and limited guidance on how best to use and process it in the most beneficial way.
Biggest challenge facing teachers today: The pandemic and how it has changed everything from the needs of their students to how they meet the educational and social, emotional needs of the students.
Party Affiliation: I am a registered Republican, but I don’t feel that my political party affiliation has any bearing on me running to keep my School Board seat.
Why running for SAD 27 school board: I am running for the school board because what decisions we as board members make now affect our children’s lives directly. For me, being able to be a good role model for my daughter, while being a voice for parents, is an honor. I want to be able to personally impact my daughter’s and other children’s future in the best possible way. Children first.
Education: I am a 2021 University of Maine at Fort Kent graduate with a degree in computer science. I graduated from Community High School in 1992. I have also been fortunate enough to be selected to attend multiple leadership colleges. In 2020, I graduated from the Maine American Legion College and then again in 2021 when I graduated from the American Legion National College.
Employment: I am a United States Air Force Veteran of Desert Storm. I work at Frank Martin Sons in Fort Kent in the parts department. I have been in customer service-related positions for more than 20 years and have held multiple management roles. I am also deeply involved with the American Legion where I am the District 17 commander and the commander of Post 176 in Eagle Lake.
Family: I have an amazing wife of four years, Heather McKenzie (Belanger) and together we have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter Lux, who is the biggest blessing we could imagine. Lux will be starting at Fort Kent Elementary School this year. We do not publically post pictures of our daughter, which is why you don’t see her other than in person. We have a few pets who are our best friends, the cats: Lima, Echo and Auggie. We also have my longtime pup Pheonix. Add several fish and you have the McKenzie clan.
Biggest challenge facing students today: I think that to say there is a single “biggest” challenge would be unreasonable. Older students will not have the same challenges as younger students. For the high school students, fitting in as they get older, juggling school, sports/activities, and work are big challenges. Sometimes even home life can be a big challenge. For the past several years, COVID-19 has traumatized our youth with a barrage of restrictions. These restrictions, like it or not, have played an effect mentally on our students, and that isn’t just the high school students. For the younger student, bullying will remain a big challenge. As these students grow up and come into themselves, they start to have the uncertainties and insecurities that can make them encounter drastic highs and lows.
Biggest challenge facing teachers today: The biggest challenges educators face range from policing student masking to professional development opportunities. Educators need to be able to spend more time teaching than time policing masks. They need to go to conferences and get refreshed so they can bring these tools to our schools and children. Educators need to have the best tools to allow children to cooperatively learn.
Party Affiliation: I am not enrolled in a party (independent). In the past I was enrolled as a Democrat. The introduction of partisan politics into local decision-making is not a helpful thing. Typically, everyone on local boards works together in a problem-solving effort not guided by ideology.
Why running for SAD 27 school board: Our community is struggling with major changes. The unified schools controversy, followed by COVID-19 disruptions, layered over tightening economic limits and declining student populations, has challenged us. Trust is frayed and tempers are short. Some people are angry and afraid. I don’t think anyone has easy solutions to the serious problems facing our community, but we’re going to have to work through these issues. Consensus may not always be possible. But if the decisions made by the board and the superintendent are to be respected, they must be worked out through a process that is transparent, open, honest, and accountable, in an atmosphere that is respectful and fair, and where everyone must follow the rules of engagement. I want to work with others to create and sustain such a process.
Education: I was a member of the last graduating class at St. Louis Elementary School in Fort Kent, and also graduated from Community High School. I graduated from Bowdoin College in 1977 and from Georgetown Law in 1980.
Employment: After completing school I came back to Fort Kent and set up a solo law practice. Over the course of the following 40 years, I practiced law in Fort Kent solo and with others, and also held public service posts, most recently as the Maine District Court judge presiding in Fort Kent, Madawaska, and Caribou. I retired from this post a few months ago.
Family: I married Lise Pelletier in 1994. She brought three young children into my life. Regarding pets, over the years, the family household hosted a menagerie of dogs, cats, aquarium fish, turtles, rabbits and various species of mice. The children are all grown up now, and we have six grandchildren, who are the focus of much of our attention. Lise, a former teacher of French, retired last year from her work as director of the Acadian Archives in Fort Kent.
Biggest challenge facing students today: Obviously, all of the changes caused by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been very challenging for students. Looking past the obvious, the problems faced by each student are special to each of them. A student may have difficult family circumstances, or may be the victim of bullying. A student may encounter learning difficulties, or self-esteem issues, or even boredom. Each student is unique. A declining student population creates opportunities for our schools to tailor the educational program to the particular needs of each student.
Biggest challenge facing teachers today: If we can ever get the pandemic behind us, we ought to ask them that question, and listen carefully to their answers. In the meantime, dealing with the effects of the pandemic must be tremendously difficult for teachers. They deserve our respect for their work in the face of the extraordinary circumstances the pandemic has presented to them.
Party Affiliation: Not answered.
Why running for SAD 27 school board: I am running for this school board seat because our children need to be heard. I am a mother to three beautiful children. Two of those children attend Fort Kent Elementary School. The students in school have sacrificed and missed out on so many activities due to COVID-19. It is time for those students to return to normal.
Education: I graduated from Community High School in 2005. I attended the University of Maine at Fort Kent and graduated with a degree in Elementary Education in 2009.
Employment: When I graduated from college, I worked for MSAD 27 as an educational technician for three years. I own a small business as a family child care provider since 2012. I also work part time as a server at Swampbuck restaurant. I have been there since 2009.
Family: I am married to my high school sweetheart Michael Voisine. Together, we have three children and two cats. My parents, Vernon and Mona Potvin, live in Fort Kent. I have three siblings and six nieces and nephews. I also have one brother-in-law and his wife along with my nephew who reside here in Fort Kent.
Biggest challenge facing students today: The biggest challenge facing students today is the catching up of learning. While the school did the very best with the given circumstances, students will be playing catch-up with skills that couldn’t be taught remotely. Those young learners need to see the faces of their peers and teachers.
Biggest challenge facing teachers today: The biggest challenge facing teachers today is retention. The burnout among teachers is real and we need to make sure they feel supported. Our staff has done a phenomenal job over these past two years and they need to be validated for their efforts.