Raymond School Board Candidates Night
Raymond' s Candidates Night on Feb. 21 drew only a small group of residents, many of them candidates themselves, with Christina Vogel coordinating the event and Doug Vogel serving as master of ceremonies.
For the school portion, two school board seats are open at the March 14 election. Janice Arsenault signed up for the two-year term, and while no one had filed for the three-year seat, Maurice "Moe" Titcomb stepped forward as a write-in candidate. Both are thus running uncontested.
Arsenault said, in the interests of full transparency, that her son and daughter work for the Raymond School District so there could be times, if elected, when she would recuse herself.
From the audience, Joshua Mann asked about the proposed outsourcing of food service. Arsenault said she knew a great deal of research had been conducted but she was not privy to that information and as such did not think she was in a position to comment on it. Titcomb’s view was that food service jobs should be saved for Raymond residents.
The candidates were also asked about school choice and voucher programs, and whether town money should follow students whose parents elect to enroll them in other schools.
Titcomb said he thinks parents should have a choice, and if the voucher system improves the educational product for students, he favors it. He said there might be circumstances where local tax money should follow a student placed in another school. He added, however, that Raymond public schools should be the first choice of parents.
Arsenault said she supports public education and thinks Raymond schools offer quality education, but if there is a special circumstance where the school district does not offer what the student needs and the student is placed in a school that can meet that need, the town should pay for it.
Resident Peter Buckingham asked if either candidate had any specific ways to spend school dollars more effectively and efficiently and also asked whether they thought the default budget should be dealt with by the Budget Committee, as it has consistently come in higher than the operating budget over the last decade.
Arsenault said she had no specific efficiencies in mind. She said she thinks the school board has done well to hold the budget increase to 1.6 percent, and she didn't think it would make any difference who handled formation of the default budget. Titcomb said he would look into the default budget if elected, and said it should be lower than the proposed budget.
To a question about what the candidates would do to keep students from leaving the Raymond schools and how to make Raymond schools more competitive, Arsenault said she would encourage parents to bring their concerns to the board, along with their suggestions for improving the educational offering, but said the district has made strides forward. She said she thought the Raymond schools were headed in the right direction, and cited offering foreign language in the middle school and AP (advanced placement) courses at the high school as examples of how the schools are improving their offerings. Arsenault said she would work for a curriculum that enables graduating students to be competitive educationally and career-wise and would expect accountability from all parties. Titcomb suggested more interaction between parents and teachers and administration and improving how the administration works with parents.
Resident Robin Jordan asked the candidates how they might improve the use of federal money in the school system. Arsenault said the previous No Child Left Behind push had some good parts because it sought accountability and checked on progress through testing, but the testing aspect had reached the saturation point. The current Common Core also has good aspects, she said, but she thinks Raymond could improve its standardized testing program. However, she added that it is critical to ensure the district spends federal dollars effectively. Titcomb said he had mixed feelings about Common Core but overall thinks Raymond needs to spend federal dollars more wisely and in areas where it does the most good.
The candidates ended the session with Titcomb saying his experience made him a good candidate because he knows how the budget and school district work. "I think I can bring a fresh perspective and I'm open minded," he said. "I know we can make the schools better."
Arsenault said that as a parent of children who attended Raymond schools and having worked for a school district, even though she doesn't have all the answers she is willing to work hard to find them. "I have no agenda," she said. "I will look at all of the issues independently and will do the research and get the facts, and vote for what is best for the schools and Raymond."