Interest is high for seats on RSU 29 school board
HOULTON, Maine — Interest in serving on the RSU 29 school board is once again high for the upcoming November elections.
Seven candidates have emerged to fill three available positions on the school board, giving voters ample choices when they go to the polls Nov. 8.
Four candidates are seeking two open three-year seats on the school board. Those candidates are A. John Hyman, Ellen Askren, Robert Nuccio and Frederick Grant. Askren and Grant are the incumbents, while Hyman is also currently filling an unexpired term on the board after being appointed by the Houlton Town Council in April of this year.
Three candidates are also competing for a single, one-year seat on the board. Those candidates are Gary Lovell, Michelle Henderson and David Carmichael. All three are newcomers to the school board.
The Houlton Pioneer Times posed the same questions to all seven candidates. Their responses are below.
A. John Hyman
Party Affiliation: Republican
Why are you running for this office? I have been on the school board since April when I was voted on to fill a vacancy. The pandemic has created holes in the students’ educations over the past 2 1/2 years. I want to partner with administrators, teachers and parents to fill in these gaps and bring the focus back to academic excellence, above all else.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice.
Employment: Former Houlton Police officer; Department of Health and Human Services for the past seven years; currently working as a bail commissioner (14 years); and referee for Peewee and Junior High football, 13 years.
Family: Married for 38 years, two adult children and six grandchildren.
What are your top three priorities if elected? 1, Education; 2, Full transparency; and 3, Work with all parties to make sure our children and faculty are both safe mentally and physically, while traditional education is still being taught in the Houlton school system.
Party Affiliation: Registered Democrat; however, I vote for the candidates that I feel are best qualified.
Why are you running for this office? I am running for reelection to the RSU 29 Board of Directors so that I can continue to serve the people in RSU 29. As a retired teacher, I have a vested interest in the education of our students. I feel that this is a way that I can give back to the communities that provided me with 40 wonderful years of teaching.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education, University of Maine.
Employment: Retired teacher.
Family: Husband, Bob, is also a retired RSU 29 teacher. Three adult children.
What are your top three priorities if elected? First, to have a voice in ensuring that all students receive a quality and well-rounded educational experience to be successful in our ever-changing world.
Second, to promote effective communication among School Board members, administrators, all staff and community members. Third, to continue serving on the Region Two Cooperative board, of which I am chairman. You need to be on the RSU 29 Board of Directors to be on this board.
Party Affiliation: While I am a registered Republican, I vote for the candidate, not the party. I vote for the candidate that has the policies and platform that align with or are closest to mine.
Why are you running for this office? I have attended school board meetings over the last year, and there have been many times when I had questions on a subject or presentation that I could not ask. I had kids in the schools and was often perplexed by policies or board decisions without anything I could do. I know other parents do as well. I want to be someone parents can contact for answers for questions they have. I want to be a voice for the students who are often left behind as adults make decisions for them without consulting them because the adults know what’s best for them. I have been working with youth for almost 20 years and want the students to see that RSU 29 takes their needs, their concerns, their safety, their education, and their input seriously.
Education: Master’s degree in youth and family ministry.
Employment: I am the youth and discipleship director at Military Street Baptist Church
Family: I have been married to my wife, Sara, for 16 years. I have three children ages 13, 9, and 6.
What are your top three priorities if elected? First, put education first. While RSU 29 is doing many great things, education needs to be the No. 1 priority. We have students struggling or behind post-COVID. Many students are where they need to be academically, many are not. If nothing is done, they will have a hard time in the future.
Second, we need to ensure that RSU 29’s culture aligns with our community. It is great to look at other districts around the state/country and glean ideas. At the end of the day, decisions have to be made on what is best for our students and staff. We cannot copy policies and practices from other districts just because it worked for them.
Third, mental health, including anxiety and depression, is a huge issue for our students, especially our teens. We need to find ways to help students who struggle in this area and remove the stigma.
Why are you running for this office? I’m running because I believe I can continue to be of service to the schools, our board, and our community. Education is facing multiple challenges on multiple fronts and a successful board needs members who are not only passionate about education, but also have relevant experience in the world schools are operating. As a business owner, parent, tax payer and involved community member, I believe I can continue to offer real-world support in navigating the challenges facing our schools.
Education: Houlton High School Class of 1988; bachelors in education from the University of Hartford, masters in business administration from Adelphi University.
Employment: Owner of WHOU radio station and Market Pizza.
Family: Wife Renee of 28 years; son Connor – U.S. Air Force; son Benjamin – MBA student at Thomas College; daughter Ellie – speech therapy major at UMaine Orono.
What are your top three priorities if elected? First – While students demonstrate proficiency in their classes, they should also demonstrate skills needed to get ahead. Skills include – timeliness, gratitude, resiliency, creativity, persistence, and hard work among others. It’s imperative that we formally integrate these habits into the curriculum and assess students on their success in developing them.
Second, we have seen a significant increase in students who require additional help including home-life issues, food insecurity, or social service needs. Increased effort is required to address basic needs to help students succeed.
Third, regionally we have seen the cost of education rise and a decrease in both students and staff. Continued collaborative efforts with other districts must continue. If re-elected I will continue to advocate for a regional high school that helps improve educational options, works collaboratively with vocational education to prepare students for immediate employment, and enhances services to the entire region.
Gary K. Lovell
Party Affiliation: Independent
Why are you running for this office? I’ve raised three children; worked in the school system; worked with juvenile justice and as a community educator, served on a school board. I think that gives me a well rounded perspective.
Education: I attended Marietta College in Ohio, Bryant and Statton business school in Boston. But my education has been more of starting my own businesses over the course of my career.
Family: Julie Dunn, significant other.
What are your top three priorities if elected? 1, To maintain a civilized, fact based debate on the issues facing the district. 2, To bring my experience in business to the operations aspect of the district. 3, To always consider the perspective of what is best for the students.
Michelle Moore Henderson
Party Affiliation: Conservative
Why are you running for this office? As a mom of 2, preparing our children for a successful future is the most important thing we could ever do for them. It all starts with a good education, without the unnecessary distractions that have infiltrated our school system lately. For the sake of our children and our community, those distractions need to end. We need to get back to basic education. Period. I also feel that parents, students, and teachers alike, should have a real voice at school board meetings without repercussions. All who attend, should feel welcome to speak up and share their concerns, no matter what side of the aisle or podium they are on. I am also not an advocate for mandates for employees and students to attend school. It should be a choice, not a demand.
Education: Associates degree in business and associates degree in science.
Employment: Owner of Michelle’s Dog’on Grooming Salon in Houlton.
Family: I have two children, Emma and Hayden, and a Ragdoll cat named Eggo. My grandmother, Jeannie Henderson, my father, Dave Moore, two sisters, nephews, cousins, a niece and extended family members on both sides of the border.
What are your top three priorities if elected? 1, The books read to our children, as well as the books in the school library, should be “age appropriate.” Some book titles and topics should simply not be part of the school system. 2, basic sex anatomy/education should be appropriately taught at an appropriate age at school. Parents not only should be informed of the curriculum, but have the option to opt out, without question. 3, To eliminate and prevent future political agendas that are infiltrating our school systems, such as CRT (Critical Race Theory), for starters.
David D. Carmichael
Party Affiliation: Independent
Why are you running for this office? I have two kids in the district now, with another not far from it. I’d like to have a say in the decisions that directly affect not just my kids, but all children in the district. I also think it will be great for my kids to know I’m involved in their education on a larger scale than just helping with homework or sports. I also was not happy with how the children were treated the past few years in our district due to Covid. So, this spring, when I saw that no one stepped up to fill this empty seat, I figured it was my obligation as a father to throw my hat in the ring and put up or shut up.
Education: Graduated from Houlton High in 2002.
Employment: Logistics coordinator at Fredericks Transport
Family: My wife Cassie and I have two sons, Carter 13, and Cortland 10, and one daughter Drew 2.
What are your top three priorities if elected? My top three priorities if elected will be 1. The students 2. The curriculum 3. The Parent/District relations.