HOULTON, Maine – Four election hopefuls are vying for three Board of Directors seats on the Regional School Unit 29 in Houlton.
Long-time school board member Susan McLaughlin is seeking her third three-year term. Incumbent Michelle L. Henderson, elected to a one-year term in 2022, is seeking a three-year term in this year’s election.
Gary Lovell and write-in candidate Richard Tarr are competing for the remaining three-year seat.
Lovell ran for the one-year seat in 2022 against Henderson.
While each candidate has particular interests, all are focused on helping students succeed and working with parents.
Name: Michelle Moore Henderson
Party Affiliation: Conservative
Why are you running for school board? I am running as a write-in candidate this year for the school board. Major changes to our district have recently taken place and we have been told that we have “no choice” but to follow the “new rule of law” in the public-school setting. Serving on the board this past year has been an eye opening experience. Though I still have lots to learn, I can say for a fact that our district is blessed with wonderful dedicated teachers and staff who have done a wonderful job teaching our children traditional academics over the years.
Education: Associate in Business Administration / Associate in Science
Family: I have family throughout our community and in Canada, as I am a Houlton native.
What are the priorities you wish to address if elected? I feel the biggest issue with our school district right now, is the fact that our Maine Department of Education Commissioner, Pender Makin, stated: “Traditional academic learning, like reading, writing and math, should be a lower priority in Maine schools than social-emotional learning and programming on race and gender.” This thought process has overflowed into Maine schools and our district is no exception; especially since we have recently become associated with an organization like www.outmaine.org. Contrary to others beliefs, I feel parents in fact DO have the right to know all that is happening with their child’s education, including the curriculum, the types of books in the library and the new controversial ”LGBTQ movement” that has many parents concerned about the district’s future.
This district owes it to parents and our community to be completely transparent about what our children are being taught and exposed to. A community workshop would be helpful, with a Q&A so parents could leave with a better understanding of the new laws as well as the changes made in our system.
Though we have a tremendous number of dedicated principals, teachers and staff who are committed to safely and effectively guiding our children to success during their academic journey, their hands are tied due to these new laws. We should be supporting parents and the community by keeping them informed on these new laws and how they affect their children; in the classroom, locker rooms, sporting events and religious conflicts.
Name: Gary K Lovell
Party Affiliation: Independent
Why are you running for school board? I have experience on this school board and another previously.
Education: Marietta College Ohio, Bryant and Stratton business school Boston
Employment: Retired hot air balloon pilot, retired community educator.
Family: Wife, three grown children.
What are the top three priorities you wish to address if elected?
- To address each issue before the board through the lens of what is best for the student.
- To maintain a civilized discourse on each issue before the board.
- To ensure district policies and procedures align with current and changing laws.
Name: Susan C McLaughlin
Party Affiliation: None given
Why are you running for School Board? I am running for the third time for another three years. I have been on the following committees while on School Board, Budget & Finance, Facilities, and Curriculum. I am also on the Region II school board. I have been part of negotiations of two contracts with the teachers’ union.
I have been on the search committee for the last two superintendents. I believe It takes a few years to get an understanding of how the school district runs and then to find the
areas that you really want to help focus on. Once you have found your passions, then you need to dig in and become involved.
Education: Associate degree in Radiology Technology
Employment: Radiology Manager at Houlton Regional Hospital. Manager for 26+ years, employed at HRH for over 30+ years.
Family: Married to Jon McLaughlin for 42 years; Children: Josh McLaughlin, married to Sarah McLaughlin lives here In town with 3 children, Dawson, Sidda, and Saylor; Jason McLaughlin, married to Kristy McLaughlin, lives In Farmingdale with 2 children, Eileen, and Emily.
What are the top three priorities you wish to address if elected? COVID was hard on everyone, and we need to get our district back to the way It was; and then make it better. Students need more now than they ever have before. We need to help the entire student. Our facilities need work, we need to find ways to Improve them and make all our buildings run efficiently. We also need to look at our enrollment at the different schools.
We have a new superintendent that will do a wonderful job guiding our district into the future.
I look forward to working with RSU 29 to make it the best It can be. There are a lot of great things happening In our district and we need to get the community involved in our schools again, along with getting our students and employees involved In our community.
Name: Richard Tarr
Party Affiliation: Republican
Why are you running for school board? My granddaughter is in first grade at Houlton Elementary. Also, I was on the school board in Southern Aroostook.
Education: Oakfield High School graduate
Employment: I am retired, but I farmed potatoes for 34 years in Oakfield and Smyrna. I was on the Maine Potato Council and served three years in the U.S. Army.
Family: I have three daughters and two granddaughters.
What are the top three priorities you wish to address if elected? Better pay for teachers. Work with the school system superintendent to make sure we are doing everything for the schools. I would work to do the best for the people who elected me.
A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Gary Lovell as a write-in candidate.