Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 4, 2013
Surry Town Meeting
Three candidates vie for two three-year seats
by Anne Berleant
Voters are called to town meeting on Friday, April 19 at town hall to elect a moderator and school and municipal officials from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The business portion takes place on Monday, April 22, at 7 p.m. at the Surry Elementary School.
Three citizens are running in a contested race to fill two open three-year seats on the school board. In addition, Pat Hollenberg, who was appointed to fill a vacancy, seeks to fill the remaining year of that term. Dale Sprinkle seeks a second term on the board of selectmen.
Three-year seat candidates
Don Driscoll, incumbent
Driscoll has lived in Surry for 14 years. He grew up in New York and worked for 39 years as teacher, assistant principal, dean of students and athletic director in Rockland County.
Why seek reelection? “It’s pretty much giving back to the community, being involved. “I have a lot of expertise, a lot of experience with schools.”
Pre-K: “I’m very much in favor of it. Research tells us pre-K makes a real positive difference in the future.” However, the board “has to make sure the interest is there and we have the numbers to support that. Presently we haven’t.”
Carry forward: The school’s “carry forward” —money left in the budget at the end of each year—stands at $832,000 with $275,000 budgeted toward 2013-14.
“I think it’s the right amount,” Driscoll said. “We had to put a substantial amount of money in an account [for a recently settled lawsuit] and some of that money was utilized, some not.” Driscoll said accountants advised that to return the remaining money into the budget in one year would “disturb mil rates. I think putting it back gradually over a few years is a good idea.”
Current board: The current board has “made a lot of improvements in the school,” Driscoll said. “We have great faculty, an outstanding principal [Cathy Lewis].” He noted the school’s 2012 award as a high achieving Title I school.
Driscoll also points to infrastructure improvements: a new playground, new discharge system, new gym floor and new lights. “All that without increasing school taxes for three years.”
After spending 36 years with the United States Postal Service—the last 13 years as postmaster in Surry—Sullivan seeks to serve on the school board. He retired from the USPS in 2012.
Sullivan has served for six years on both the Surry Fire Department as safety officer, assistant chief and chief, and the Board of Appeals.
“There’s a lot of challenges in the school department,” he said. His focus is budget and curriculum.
Financially, the school department is “the biggest cost center in any village,” and in Surry “the budget is being blown out of the water.”
At the same time, Sullivan said, students could be better prepared for high school than the Surry school presently prepares them.
For students who are “going to be plumbers, carpenters” there are no shop classes available, Sullivan said. “Not every child is for college. We need to tailor studies.” Sullivan recommends a consolidated middle school for students “to grow into” high school.
Pre-K: The money “could be better spent,” Sullivan said. “Let a four year old be a baby. If you’re going to put money in, I’d like to see it put into after school programs.”
“Carry forward”: Those accumulated funds, said Sullivan, are partly a result of “wishy-washy” state budgeting that placed a penalty on Surry for not joining an RSU, then reversed the decision, with the result that the school “got a chunk of money from the state.”
Sullivan sees 10 to 15 percent of the annual budget as a “reasonable” carry forward. “Other than that, it should go back to the taxpayers. That’s where the money came from.”
Current board: “I think it’s adequate…They could be more aware that the taxpayer is not an enemy.” Sullivan said information should be forthcoming from the board. “The people of Surry should know what’s going on.”
Moon grew up in Surry and attended Claude L. Bonsey and Surry Elementary School. Moon is assistant tax assessor for the city of Ellsworth. Budget and curriculum are her focal issues.
Moon held Maine professional teacher certification from 2008-2013, taught at Penobscot Job Corp Academy and spent five years as an advisor and mentor for Skills USA, a nonprofit organization that partners teachers, students and school administrators. She said her “real world” experience with students who “have been failed by the traditional education system…is something missing from our board.”
While the recently adopted national common core standards “are heading in that direction,” Moon said the Surry curriculum should match up with “where the kids need to be their first year in high school.” Having a union-wide curriculum coordinator is “a huge service. I think [Rachel Kohrman Ramos] has done a great job.”
Pre-K: “I would only support a pre-K program if we have already met our requirements under the law to the students that we are mandated to serve. And we are not preparing the students we are serving now for where they are going.”
Carry forward: The accumulated fund is “excessive and unnecessary. I think it’s insulting to the citizens of the town of Surry. For the school board to think they can hold on to large amounts of money when people in Surry are suffering…I think it’s outrageous and that’s why I’m running for school board.”
Current board: “I don’t think the current board is meeting the direction they’ve been given by the legislature. I don’t think they are serving the citizens of Surry well financially.”
One-year seat candidate
Pat Hollenberg was appointed to the board in October to fill a seat left vacant by resignation.
Serving the community and creating “a positive and safe learning environment in a fiscally responsible way,” which Hollenberg said the board accomplished with the 2013-14 budget—are the reasons she seeks to keep her seat.
“We’re attuned to the community needs. We’re seeing community involvement in the school. We can enhance that by encouraging and backing up those efforts…It’s not our job to institute those things but to validate them and hold them accountable,” she said.
Hollenberg has a master’s degree in English from University of Maine at Orono and taught junior and high school for 30 years, most recently as a substitute at Ellsworth High School.