Meet the people running for the RSU 34 School Board
OLD TOWN, Maine — We asked the people running for two uncontested seats on the RSU 34 School Board this year to share their opinions about why they want to serve on the board and what they think are the most important issues facing the district currently.
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?)
Teagan O’Toole-Roy: I am a newcomer to politics and have never run for an elected office.
Hunter Umphrey: I have been a member of the RSU 34 School Board since 2017.
What is your career background?
TR: I have worked as a physician assistant with Penobscot Community Health Care since 2011.
HU: I am a lawyer. I work for the state of Maine Office of the Attorney General as an assistant attorney general. I work in the Child Protection Division. My practice is split between trial work in Skowhegan District Court and appellate work before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
What made you decide to run for the RSU 34 School Board?
TR: I was inspired to run for RSU 34 School Board by my vested interest both as a parent of an RSU 34 student and as a community health provider.
HU: My wife and I are the parents of three young children, so it is important to me that our schools remain as strong as they have historically been. It is also important to me that we strengthen our school system whenever and however possible. My wife and I are also homeowners in Old Town, so it is important to me that our tax dollars are spent wisely.
What do you feel should be the school board’s top priority moving forward?
TR: My top priority will be, and I think the top priority of the RSU 34 School Board needs to be, advancing the education of all children in our district while protecting the health and safety of our community.
HU: Priority no. 1 has to be getting more children back in the schools for in-person instruction. The pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges, and our teachers, administrators and support staff have all risen to the occasion. The next step will be safely transitioning more children back to in-person instruction.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the RSU 34 district today and in the future?
TR: 2020 has been a challenging year on many levels. Families have struggled with loss of child care during the shift to remote learning, educators have worried about losing connection and missing education opportunities with their students, all while everyone has feared for the health and safety of our community during the COVID-19 crisis. We have all struggled to best respond to this pandemic, knowing full well that both lives and futures hang in the balance and there is rarely a clear-cut or easy answer.
HU: Again, it has to be our response to the ongoing pandemic. A year ago, I would have had a different answer, but right now the most important issue is definitely making sure that remote learning is going as well as it can and that we are transitioning students back to full-time in-person instruction as soon as that can be done safely.
What do you see as your primary goal, if elected?
TR: As a practicing physician assistant I hope to use my experience and knowledge of medicine to work with other board members and stakeholders to approach the challenges yet to come with nuance and care. Mainers are a practical and no-nonsense group overall. Our level-headed and science-driven leadership at the state level has given us some of the best outcomes in terms of economic performance and health outcomes during this turbulent year, and I am confident our academic outcomes will be just as good. As an involved parent and member of the Parent Teacher Club of Old Town Elementary School, I have been blown away by the passion, dedication, talent and grit of the educators in our community.
HU: My primary goal will be to help the board find a way to continue steering through the pandemic safely without sacrificing the children’s education. If we can figure out a way to bring back more students for in-person instruction, then I will be all for it.
Why should people vote for you?
TR: If elected you can be assured [sic] I will rely on science, reason and common sense to guide my decisions along with invaluable input from the RSU 34 community and staff.
HU: I am asking for the community’s votes for three reasons: I am invested in this community as a parent of three young children who are and will be coming up through the school system and also as a homeowner; I have the experience of participating in and contributing to the Board’s deliberations over the past three years. I am not afraid to stand up for what is right even when I am on my own. I alone voted against ending the 2019-2020 school year early. I did that because I felt it was a disservice to the students to give up on that school year, no matter how incredibly challenging it was. I will continue to use my independent judgment similarly in the future.