5 candidates vying for seats on RSU 29 school board

HOULTON, Maine — Interest in serving on the RSU 29 school board appears to be at an all-time high as five candidates are seeking to fill three open seats on the board.

When voters go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 2, they will be asked to select three residents to fill three-year terms on the school board for Houlton. Those candidates are Tammy Goetsch, Michelle Henderson, Gary Lovell, Darryl Scott White and Margaret York.

The following questions were posed to all of the candidates.

What other political offices have you held? If none, what other offices, honors or titles have you earned? 

Henderson: Mom of two and owner of Michelle’s Dog’on Grooming Salon in Houlton.

Goetsch: I have held no other offices outside of school board director. Honors and titles I have held or are holding the following: I served for over 20 years in various roles as a youth leader in both California and Maine. I am a member of the Aroostook Policy Advisory Council, Houlton Police Department Neighborhood Watch Advisory Council, Adopt-A-Block of Aroostook, Southern Aroostook County Community Justice Collaborative, and was the recipient of the 2018 HPD Community Service Award. 

York: I served on the Board of Directors for MSAD 70 for almost eight years while living in the Hodgdon district. I also served on the Region 2 Board for five years. I am the current president of the Houlton Rotary Club.

Lovell: School board SAD 57 (Waterboro); planning board Lyman, Maine, chairman.

White: I have been a school board member since 2010.  

What is your career background?

Henderson: Degree in business administration, as well as a degree in science in respiratory therapy. I currently own a dog grooming business in Houlton.

Goetsch: I am presently the director of Adopt-A-Block of Aroostook and P/T administrative assistant at MSBC. The scope of my life’s work has been 25 years as an elite competitive gymnastics coach in California. After retiring from coaching I worked as an administrative assistant for a video production company, an interior designer and then for a non-profit organization that worked with therapeutic horseback riders. I have worked with children and youth most of my life. 

York: I worked with children and families as a licensed social worker (LSW) for seven years before having my own children. To stay at home with my kids as a full-time mother, I started doing sales and marketing for my father’s organic vegetable farm in 2004. I now co-own/manage Nature’s Circle Farm, as well as doing the sales, marketing, and bookkeeping for our farm.

Lovell: I served in marina management with 30 employees; was president of a homeowners association; creator of a respite program for developmentally disabled adults, owner; commercial hot air balloon pilot 30 years, owner; substitute teacher RSU 29 for the past 10 years; community educator with Restorative Justice, Vermont and Aroostook County.

White: I attended NMVTI for auto body and automotive technology. I worked in body shops for several years. Twenty-five years ago, my wife Pam and I started Aroostook Auto Glass in Houlton. 

What made you decide to run for the RSU 29 school board? 

Henderson: I have had great success and support from the community with my dog grooming business and felt the need to give back in a way that would make a difference.

Goetsch: I have been on the school board for the past 12 years. I have served and advocated for children and youth for the past 30 years in many various capacities of employment and as a volunteer. With the intense struggles that are going on in the world today, now more than ever we need people to serve that are willing to listen to all the people we serve. Now is not the time to shrink back but to press ahead by serving all areas of government, the school board being one. 

York: A fellow Rotarian mentioned that there was an opening and encouraged me to run for it. My older son attends RSU 29 and I am very interested in learning more about his education, as well as the values and policies of the institution he attends. As a tax-paying citizen of Houlton, I also have an avid interest in the education of our young people in this area. 

Lovell: I believe in community service.

White: I have four daughters and wanted to be a part of their education, as well as be of service to my community.

What do you feel is a top priority for school board members? 

Henderson: As a mother of two, I believe becoming a member of the school board means to not only listen to parents’ concerns, but to address each and every one of them. And hopefully come up with acceptable solutions, together. A school board member’s top priority needs to be to listen to the community.

Goetsch: The school board should be quick to respond and approachable to parents, staff, students and the community we serve, always encouraging an open conversation. The board should entertain all input from all groups and weigh all the facts before making a decision. A board member is a representative of the community that elects him or her. That person should be open to join together with all members of the community; that includes the district staff. Anyone that comes before the board has the right to be heard, not just to speak. A school board member must build public understanding, support and participation. 

York: Working to ensure our students are prepared for future success while focusing on their health and safety, as well being fiscally responsible and transparent. I really feel that it is important for school board members to listen and learn from administrators and teachers as well as parents, students, and other tax-paying citizens. It often requires paying attention and doing your homework to make informed decisions.

Lovell: To engage in a civilized and thorough discussion of the complex operation of a school district.

White: To hire the best superintendent available. To ensure they are successful in implementing the board’s policies.

What do you see as the most important issue facing Houlton today and in the future?

Henderson: I believe critical race theory is a major issue that is increasingly becoming the norm across the country. What we teach our children today becomes their future as well as future generations. Though this has not become an issue in Houlton just yet, we need to prevent this type of diversity from happening within our great community.

Goetsch: An important issue in Houlton today is the drug epidemic. Drugs destroy families and affect children’s ability to learn and thrive as families are crumbling on a daily basis. When parents are absent, or out of work, it affects the children in the household. Often children suffer in silence but adverse childhood experiences can affect them for a lifetime. The trickle-down effect is devastating for all involved, especially the children. Families are essentially the building blocks of society. Family units serve as the caretakers for the citizens that will one day become the population of a society. In other words, families are responsible for the development of children into the adults that will later collectively be society. 

York: Within the past few years, I think de-population, physical/mental health, and economic hardship have been concerns. I feel it is important for a small, rural district to be open to collaboration with other districts, not only for cost-savings when appropriate, but also for educational and extra-curricular opportunities. With our advanced technology, this is a more auspicious time than ever to accomplish this. I think a current challenge with this young generation is utilizing independent and real-world skills, as well as entrepreneurial skills. I would like to see our youth have the dual experience of cutting-edge educational opportunities, as well as partnering with area businesses for internships to learn more career development and interpersonal skills. As our future generation in Aroostook County, our students’ education and training will contribute to the overall health and success in our region.

Lovell: I see that the community has long been thoughtful and generous in the support of its youth. I wish to see that continue.

White: Today, it would be keeping kids in school. Going forward, the hurdles of educational shortfalls caused by the pandemic will be high. 

What do you see as your primary goal, if elected? 

Henderson: To bring dignity and God-given morals to the table. To be a team player, a good listener, a good communicator and a voice for all.

Goetsch: My goal as a school board member is to serve all children in the district; one child is no more important than another one. Our schools are supposed to serve the educational needs of all the children. All caregivers, parents, district employees, and administrators as well as students need to work together if we want to see change, and I am willing to do that. 

York: To actively participate and communicate with administrators, educators, students, parents and citizens to help make informed decisions as a team that will positively impact the future of our students, staff, and our educational system.

Lovell: To bring a voice of experience and reason and to consider a full and thorough discussion to the items brought before the board. 

White: To continue to make educated decisions based on best practices and evidence.

Why should people vote for you?

Henderson: I was born and raised in Houlton and have always felt proud of our little town. Now that my children are a bit older, I felt the need to become an active citizen that stands up for what I believe in. I believe my faith will help guide me in this journey to be an asset to the school board and to the community.

Goetsch: If what I have said here resonates with you then you should vote for me. 

York: People should vote for the candidates that best support their values and beliefs. Helping to facilitate the best educational opportunities possible for our students is one of my core values. 

Lovell: I will bring considerable experience to both the business/budget aspect of the RSU as well as ensuring the well-being of our youth be the primary focus.

White: I will continue to do what is best for our district. 


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