Mount Desert School candidates share reasons for running

MOUNT DESERT — Four candidates are running for two seats on the Mount Desert School Committee in the May 2 election. Members of that committee, which sets policies and adopts the annual budget for Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES), also serve on the MDI High School board and the MDI Regional School System board.

The Islander recently talked with each of the candidates about why they are running.

John “J.B.” Brown

John "J.B." Brown

John “J.B.” Brown

Brown is running for his second three-year term.

“I am committed to the goal that every student excels to the best of his or her ability,” he said. “We have a vibrant elementary school that has seen continued growth of the student population while maintaining responsible budgeting oversight including continuation of mixed-age classrooms to maximize staff utilization.”

Brown’s son is an eighth-grade student at MDES.

Having served two terms on the Tremont School Committee in the 1990s, Brown said he has a “long-term perspective” on the issues faced by the high school and school system.

The transition to a proficiency-based diploma and standards-based education is “theoretically a good idea,” Brown said. “However, it is vital that oversight and review be ongoing … to ensure that the outcome meets expectations.”

Brown said implementation of standards-based assessment and reporting got off to a rocky start this year, but he has seen “positive developments … with teacher advocacy and engagement.”

He said an important task for the next three years is to refocus efforts to improve instruction and to look at “what can be done, including additional resources, to support teaching staff.”

Brown is half-time finance director at both Camp Beech Cliff and the Abbe Museum.

Todd Graham

Todd Graham

Todd Graham

Graham said he is running because of his children. His daughter is in fifth grade and his son is in second grade at MDES.

“I’ve been involved in their education since pre-school, and I enjoy that,” he said. “I want to be there to make sure that families are being heard and that faculty and staff are being heard.

“The most important thing for me in any kind of position where there are groups of people with concerns is that you listen to all sides. That’s really important on school boards.”

Graham said he doesn’t have an agenda or a particular issue he’s focused on.

He has been very active in MDES’s parent-teacher organization.

“Being on the PTO has been great,” he said. “You get to hear from parents and from faculty. It keeps you in the loop of what’s going on, and I’ve really enjoyed that.”

Graham said he appreciates that the teachers at MDES “really do think about the children in every aspect of their education and what their lives are like,” and he wants to support that. “The school and the community mix together well; I love the way they interact.”

Graham is a graduate of College of the Atlantic. He is operations manager at Acadia Corporation, where he has worked for 21 years.

Travis Jones

Travis Jones

Travis Jones

Jones said he is running primarily because of his two daughters, who are in the first and third grades at MDES.

“I have a vested interest in trying to make sure they, as well as all of their classmates, have the best possible educational experience,” he said.

“I feel like I’m a pretty approachable person. And I like to think I have a fairly level head on my shoulders.”

He said his job as regulatory compliance manager for the town of Bar Harbor’s wastewater treatment plant has given him knowledge and experience that would serve him well on the School Committee.

“I have a pretty good grasp of municipal budgeting and the roles that town government plays,” he said. “Understanding the budgeting process is a strength that I could bring.”

Jones said he has no specific issues or concerns.

“I don’t have any agendas whatsoever,” he said. “I feel like the school is very, very good, and that I’m fortunate to be able to send my children to such a school.

“I’m not necessarily looking to change anything. I would just hope to be able to continue to build upon the reputation that the school already has.”

Jones is a graduate of MDI High School.

Teresa King-LeClair

Teresa King-LeClair

Teresa King-LeClair

Last year, King-LeClair was elected to a one-year term to fill a vacancy on the School Committee.

“I think we work as a team for the best interest of the students, as well as the teachers, parents and support staff, to try to have everybody feel comfortable with how it is run,” she said.

She said her work as a licensed clinical professional counselor gives her insight into “what children may need in their development and what parents may be going through when they’re having challenges with their children.”

King-LeClair is a graduate of MDES and MDI High School. She has a daughter in seventh grade and a son in fifth grade at MDES.

Noting that budget constraints have forced schools in some places to curtail offerings such as world languages, art and music, she said she wants to help make sure that never happens here.

“The more you can have children broaden themselves with different opportunities, it helps their brain function, it helps them socially and with every aspect of their lives.”

King-LeClair said the transition to standards-based education is a work in progress.

“I think when there’s more understanding and things are clearer, it will be a good match,” she said. “It’s not an easy transition, but the best change comes when there are challenges to work through.”


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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