The Penobscot Times

Meet the people running for the RSU 26 School Board

ORONO, Maine — There are four candidates running for three vacant school board seats. We asked them to share why they want to serve on council and what they think are the most important issues facing the Orono school district. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

What other political offices have you held? If none, what other offices, honors or titles have you earned? Or groups do you belong to (Elks, Rotary, etc?)  

Mark Brewer: I have served on the RSU 26 Board of Directors since 2014. 

Leo Kenney: I was born and raised in Orono and my wife and I moved our family and business back to my hometown in 2003. I have served three terms on the RSU 26 school board and served as the Orono representative to the School Consolidation Committee.

Brian McGill: I have served on the RSU 26 school board for six years. I have been the chairperson of the board for the last five years. I also recently finished two years as president of the Board of Trustees of my church.

Patrick Rowe: I have not previously held political office. 

What is your career background?

MB:  I am a professor of political science at the University of Maine, where I have worked since 2004. Prior to coming to UMaine, I was a visiting faculty member at Colby College for three years. I earned my Ph.D. at Syracuse University in 2001.  

LK: I have owned and managed our sales consulting business SBK Consulting for the past 24 years.

BM: I am a professor in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine where I teach and do research. I previously worked with an information technology consulting company for nine years. 

PR: I am a dentist with a degree in public health. I’ve worked as the dental director for the Vermont Department of Health, and previously started a not-for-profit dental practice. My family recently moved here for my wife’s career and I transitioned to being a stay-at-home dad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What made you decide to run for the RSU 26 School Board?

MB: I recognize how important education is to the life chances of all people and the health of a community. Given this, I wanted to work to improve the education provided by RSU 26.

LK: As a current member of the board, I am proud of the work we have done over this past year to maximize opportunities for all students. The best board decisions are made when differing views and opinions are respectfully shared and discussed and I want to continue being part of this process.   

BM: I believe educating our youth is the most important thing we can do. My day job and most of my volunteer work centers on education. I feel between my passion for education, my own experience as an educator, and my experience as a manager, school board is a place where I can make a real difference in the community.

PR: I began attending virtual school board meetings last March, since I was deeply invested in the quality of our child’s education. I believe that having a board member with a public health background would be appropriate at this time. If elected, I would be the only board member with a child at Asa Adams when the next school year begins and that representation on the board is important to me.  

What do you feel should be the board’s top priority moving forward?

MB: The board’s top priority moving forward, as it always should be, is working to ensure that RSU 26 provides the best educational experience it possibly can to each and every student that walks through the doors.

LK: While physical safety for students and staff remains a high priority, the data continues to grow on the mental health epidemic resulting from the pandemic. Our students have been greatly impacted over the last 11 months and it is imperative that the board continues to identify ways to support them.

BM: Response not submitted. 

PR: The top priority should be keeping our schools and community safe and not impacting the educational mission by letting our guard down too soon. We will have to think carefully about how the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants could challenge the successes we have had so far. 

What do you see as the most important issue facing the RSU 26 school district now and in the future?

MB: The most important issue facing RSU 26 in the immediate future is recovering from the wide variety of issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic. RSU 26 needs to focus on adapting to meet the needs of today’s students, while at the same time serving as prudent stewards of the public resources we are provided.  

LK: Recovering from the mental health, academic and financial impacts of the pandemic.

BM: Continuing to simultaneously maximize education and safety during COVID-19 remains the top priority. Next year will be a critical year as we work to help kids recover from educational and social-emotional deficits built up during COVID.

PR: Maintaining educational excellence while developing a responsible budget is always the most important issue. Having run a not-for-profit business, I have experience developing lean budgets. Being flexible and not just doing things as we always have in the past will continue to be a critical part of the job.  

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

MB: If elected, my primary goal is to work diligently to ensure that each RSU 26 student receives a top flight education that leaves them well positioned to achieve their goals.

LK: To continue to advocate for all students as we develop our recovery plans. 

BM: I believe if you get the decision-making process right, the right decision will emerge. It is vital that the board be highly transparent and highly accessible to the community including parents, students and staff. We can deliver the best education for our students by working together. 

PR: My primary goal is to make sure that students can receive the best possible education under the current circumstances. We should be constantly asking how our decisions will impact that mission amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Why should people vote for you?

MB: People should vote for me because I’m honest, I work hard and I have the experience and expertise to do a good job on the RSU 26 Board of Directors.

LK: I bring seven years of direct school board experience to the position, with a focus on school finance. I have been a highly active member in the community, participating in many committees and local initiatives. Orono was a special place to grow up, in part due to the commitment of previous generations to give back to the community. I have followed this example for the past 17 years and will continue to do so.  

BM: I believe my combination of experience as a manager and my enthusiasm for education and for transparency are a strong combination that make me an effective school board member. If people like the direction the schools have moved over the last six years, they should vote for me.

PR: A vote for me would be a vote for evidence-based decision-making on the school board, prioritizing the education of our students and the health of our community.  

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