New school board member chosen 

MOUNT DESERT — On the recommendation of the Mount Desert School Committee, the Select Board has appointed Cathy Oehmke to fill the school committee seat previously held by Todd Graham, who resigned last month. 

As a local school committee member, she automatically becomes a member of the MDI Regional School System board and the MDI High School board. 

She will serve until the town meeting in May, when she may choose to run for election. 

Oehmke grew up in Machias. She has both a master’s and a doctoral degree in education and was a teacher for 26 years, mostly in Minnesota and mostly at the elementary school level. She taught last year at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor. Her son is a student at MDI High School. 

“I strongly believe that it is the job of all adults who work in and in support of schools to remember our sacred responsibility for the care and education of all children,” Oehmke wrote in her application for appointment to the school committee. 

“We must be especially vigilant that we are closing opportunity gaps and redressing the injustices and systemic racism that have resulted in differential experiences and outcomes for historically marginalized student groups. 

“I have been impressed with how our schools prioritize student learning,” Oehmke continued. “We were one of the rare districts that found a way for students to be in school in person full-time last year during the pandemic, and I think that speaks to the commitment of the district to doing the hard work of meeting students’ needs.” 

She said that as a parent and former teacher, she appreciates the way the school district has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I appreciate that they are urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated,” she said. “I support even more stringent mitigation procedures if experts deem them prudent; for example, I support requiring participation in pooled testing for students who want to take advantage of extracurricular opportunities.” 

Regarding the school system board’s search for a someone to succeed Marc Gousse as superintendent next year, Oehmke said, “I hope…the board will consider candidates who can restore trust and communication between board/administration and teachers. I think it’s important to search for a visionary leader who can follow through on the district’s stated commitment to equity and anti-racism.” 

Following the Select Board’s vote to appoint Oehmke on Monday, School Committee Chair Gail Marshall thanked the board for “the marvelously collaborative relationship that made it happen.” 

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]

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