YORK, Maine — Two candidates are vying for a single seat on the York School Committee this year, in the only contested race heading into the town’s May 16 election.
David Herbein, the incumbent, is finishing up his first term on the committee. He’s being challenged by Joseph Amend.
Herbein, a retired naval engineer whose five children graduated from the York school system beginning in 1992, said he is seeking reelection to provide continuity to the committee.
“There is a tremendous amount of work put in behind the scenes by the committee members,” he said. “In the first year, you’re trying to figure out what this job is all about. In the second year, you think you know. But it’s really not until the third year that your feet are firmly on the ground and you understand how a school committee works in the State of Maine.”
When asked about some of the challenges the York School Committee faces, Herbein referenced the turnover in the Special Education Department.
“We lost our Director of Special Education in November,” he said, “and that is an area that needs to function at a high level, as it delivers services where they are most needed.”
Other areas that will require the committee’s attention, Herbein said, are revisiting the school department’s strategic plan and issues related to declining enrollment. Herbein said last fall that the reasons for declining enrollment, especially in higher grade levels, remain unclear.
Enrollment is just one of the issues that challenger Amend aims to address. Amend, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, has lived in York for 12 years. Prior to moving to that, he worked in private industry, implementing IT projects, according to his bio.
Asked why he is running, Amend said, “I want to do something for York, to use my talent, education and professional background to benefit the town.”
Amend said he has seen statistics showing that the York school system once ranked eighth in the state but has fallen to 18th.
“That should not happen,” he said, adding the he’s met some of the young students, and they seem well-rounded, but they “are missing some of the core elements schools should be teaching, like civics and American history.” Many kids “are unable to do math in their heads,” he added.
Amend also referenced the “1619 Project,” a series by The New York Times that confronts the role of slavery in this country.
“That project is going to be introduced into the New York City schools, and it is not accurate,” Amend said.
Some historians have criticized certain parts of the series, particularly for its suggestion that the American Revolution was in large part fought to preserve slavery in the colonies. In an opinion piece published by Politico earlier this month, Northwestern University Professor Leslie M. Harris wrote that she had warned the Times that “critics would use the overstated claim to discredit the entire undertaking.”
In his bio, Amend describes education as “the future of our civilization” and children as “a treasure beyond all measure.”
Amend said he believes his organizational experience and realistic vision, along with his ability to appreciate and work with others for a common goal, will serve him and the town well.
The uncontested races in this year’s town elections are for two positions on the Board of Selectmen, sought by incumbents Robert E. Palmer Jr. and Elizabeth Blanchard; two positions on the Budget Committee, sought by incumbent Michael D. Spencer and newcomer Marla W. Johnson; one town moderator position sought by incumbent Russell Osgood; one water district trustee position sought by incumbent and current President Richard E. Boston; one sewer district trustee position sought by incumbent Nicholas Donis.