District 5 School Committee candidates Chris Breen (top) and John Coyne. (photos/courtesy Breen, Coyne)
Voters’ Guide: School Committee District 5
By Chris Busby
Regardless of who wins the race to represent District 5 on the Portland School Committee (an area that includes the Riverton, Deering and North Deering neighborhoods), the real winner will be the cause of brevity in political speech.
Neither Chris Breen, an executive with a local printing company, nor John Coyne, a juvenile probation officer, was moved to loquacity by the Voters’ Guide questions below. Perhaps they’ve been taking cues from James DiMillo, the school board member whose departure is leaving this seat open this year. DiMillo has been a conservative voice on the committee, on those relatively few occasions he’s chosen to use it.
More background on the candidates can be found in our earlier piece on this campaign, “Sore knuckles in the District 5 race.” Some answers – very few, actually – have been edited for clarity and length.
Does the military have too much access to students?
Chris Breen: “No. I think the military is an option for some people, and it’s OK for them to be there.”
John Coyne: “No, I do not.”
Is teachers’ pay (including benefits) too low, too high, or just right and fair?
Breen: “Just about right and fair these days.”
Coyne: “Portland teachers are paid well, but nobody’s really paid what they’re worth in the education field.”
Should the words “under God” be in the Pledge of Allegiance?
Should the school budget be tied to inflation and enrollment?
Breen: “No. Enrollment’s gonna drop for the next four years. By saying yes to that, it’s like saying, ‘Let’s cut the budget by $8 million. I don’t think there’s much room for that right now.”
Coyne: “The thought process is to use [a budget figure based on enrollment and inflation] as a guideline. I would agree with that process.”
Should “intelligent design” be taught in science classes?
Breen: “It should be mentioned.”
Coyne: No. Perhaps in a class about philosophy.
Is there enough emphasis placed on abstinence in sex education courses?
Breen: “I would say it’s there,” but no.
Coyne: Yes. Abstinence is rightly part of the sex-ed program, but students “also need to know how to be healthy adults.”
Are art and music education suffering from a lack of funding?
Coyne: Not sure.
Should corporate advertising be allowed in any form in schools or athletic fields?
Coyne: “I think we’d have to weigh it out and see what the message is we’re sending out in the ad.” Cola ads, for example, could send the wrong message, though ads for local businesses could show community involvement.
What’s the single most effective way to improve education?
Breen: “I would say accountability, to make sure that nobody’s slipping through the system. People tell me they drop out [of school] and no one’s asking where they are. We need to account for where the students are and how they’re doing, and [take account of] the teachers, the quality of their teaching.”
Coyne: “I think with the strategic learning plan put in place this year, it’s going to be a great guideline that allows us to forecast where deficiencies are and where we need to steer our ship.”