Two candidates, one school committee seat

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 8:15am

Incumbent Chelsea Taylor has a challenger in her bid to stay on the Wiscasset School Committee. Michelle Blagdon is also on the June 13 ballot for the lone seat up for election June 13. It’s a three-year term.

Taylor has served since 2014. She said she is running again because she feels there’s still a lot of exciting work to be done, including trying to help residents be better informed on the school department and more interested in it. “It’s important to me to stay involved and try to get people to participate more (and) come to meetings. I kind of feel like in the last year I’ve started to get my voice, and not be intimidated to speak up and say how I feel about certain issues.”

The 2007 Wiscasset High School graduate said she is excited to be on the new planning committee for a sixth grade move from Wiscasset Elementary School to Wiscasset Middle High School.

Asked what she sees as the biggest challenge facing the department, Taylor said it’s the task of coming up with budgets the town will accept and that still offer students a good education: “I think that so many people really only think about that tax bill,” especially those who did not go to school here or have children in school, she said. “I just don’t think that they see the value, which is unfortunate, because I think having a good school supports the entire community.”

Taylor supports keeping both schools open. “I don’t know what the future will hold and I always try to be open-minded, but I think, we did consolidate to two schools and that lifted a huge burden (from) our budget, but it wasn’t that long ago that we withdrew from RSU 12. The grass is always greener, people think. But who’s to say we don’t get into some agreement with another regional high school and then everyone feels the same way in another year or two. Then it’s another mess. We’re still kind of picking up the pieces from this withdrawal, and I think for right now we need to run with this.”

Taylor, 27, has an associate’s degree in business administration with a management focus from the University of Maine at Augusta. She has just left her job of over five years at First National Bank in Damariscotta to have more time to grow her business, the Comfort Zone, a group fitness studio in Damariscotta. She plans to also be back at work this season at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset.

Blagdon, a southern Maine native, moved to Wiscasset in 2002 with husband Mike Blagdon. She has served a number of roles in Wiscasset schools, first as a volunteer and a co-chair of Partners in Education (PIE); then she subbed for a couple of years and for the past two years has been an educational technician in special education at Wiscasset Elementary School.

Asked why she is running, Blagdon said, “Because I think we need to start looking more to the future (about) how to build back up and stop having a rotating of kids coming and going, and give them a reason to stay here ... Wiscasset is fortunate to have an amazing staff.” But there need to be more programs that get students out doing things instead of being behind a desk all day being tested, she said. It might take having the board of selectmen talking with the state about the testing requirements, Blagdon said. “It’s too much. The kids don’t need it. And teachers don’t want to be in a classroom all day.”

Blagdon, 43, has one child each in fourth, sixth and seventh grades.

The biggest challenge for the school department is classes’ student-teacher ratios, she said. Adding more staff would allow for smaller class sizes and would help serve students with special needs, Blagdon continued. Also, she described the elementary school building as cramped. “There’s no space to grow ... We’ve got to figure out how to fix this. And it might cost us some money to get back to where we need to be, but we’ve got to really research how to build our school back up.”

She supports keeping both schools open. “We need to just build up what we have not tear it down. Maybe talk to Dresden and see about Dresden students coming back. I’ve talked to parents from there. They’d love to send their kids back here.”

In addition to her experience in the school system, Blagdon feels being the “driven person” she has always been will benefit her work on the committee. Her senior year at Biddeford High School, she spearheaded a business the school’s vocational center opened, selling Maine products in Saco, she said. She would like Wiscasset to give more attention to teaching skills like working with wood and cooking. “People have to stop thinking everything’s about computers.”