SACO – Former State Senator Justin Chenette has indicated interest in filling the Ward 5 vacancy on the Saco School Board, after Art Tardif resigned last month due to medical reasons.
“As a proud product of Saco schools, I would be honored to step in to assist the board over the next few months until the newly elected board member is sworn in,” said Chenette. “Because of the shortened timeframe, my experience in the legislature and on the state board of education, in addition to my longtime connections in our schools, will enable me to hit the ground running.”
In 2008, Chenette was appointed by Governor John Baldacci as the first student member on the Maine State Board of Education. There he approved school construction projects, similar to the one being planned for Young School.
Between 2012-2020, Chenette represented the Saco area as both a Senator and Representative in the legislature, working to increase the state’s share of education funding, updating the state’s anti-bullying laws, and successfully passing legislation to make service learning a component of Maine’s high school graduation standards.
“I’ve spent a great deal of time in our local schools teaching Saco students about how their government works, reading to them, and empowering them to use their voice to make a difference. They inspire me to advocate for the best interests of those in the classroom,” he said.
Chenette previously provided arts grants to Saco Middle School and CK Burns to improve their performance stage, purchase over 20 instruments, and double the strings budget.
The Ward 5 term is set to expire in December. According to rules outlined in the city’s charter, the school board must appoint someone to fill a vacancy when the remainder of the term is less than a year. The Saco School Board is currently fielding letters of interest from Ward 5 residents prior to an interview process, vote, and swearing-in.
See Chenette’s full letter of interest to the Saco School Board below:
Superintendent Ray & Saco School Board members,
I appreciate your consideration as you decide who best to fill the vacancy left in Ward 5. I think I speak for all of us in thanking Art Tardif for his many years of service to our city.
I’m Justin Chenette and I reside at 284 Bradley Street, Unit #5 with my husband Eduard who works as an adjunct professor and engineer. I am a proud product of the Saco school system having attended Saco Middle School and graduating from Thornton Academy.
As the State Senator and Representative for Saco for the past 8 years, I have championed increases in the state’s share of education funding, helped update our anti-bullying laws, and made service learning a component of our high school graduation standards, among other things. I’ve worked closely with Education Commissioner Pender Makin on advocating for a new Young School, even taking her around to tour our schools, and can leverage that relationship for our district.
In 2008, I was appointed by then-Governor John Baldacci as the first student member on the Maine State Board of Education. There I helped approve school construction projects, like the one we are waiting for regarding Young School, and visited with students, faculty, and staff across the state to see the innovative ways local districts are adapting to meet the needs of 21st century challenges.
Throughout my years in office, I spent a great deal of time in our local schools teaching Saco students about how their government works, reading to them, and empowering them to use their voice to make a difference. They inspire me to continue my passion for public service and advocate for the best interests of those in the classroom.
As the President and CEO of the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, I fundraised for and provided over $10,000 worth of scholarships and grants to local students and schools. This included funding improvements to Saco Middle School’s performing arts stage and equipment, CK Burns music program purchasing 20 instruments from different counties, and was responsible for CK Burns doubling their strings budget. Numerous high school students received college scholarships and we funded Veterans to take free courses through Adult-Ed. I continue this work with a nonprofit scholarship fund setup at Thornton Academy. In the private sector, I also run a scholarship foundation that provides millions of dollars in college scholarships for Maine students staying in state for school.
During my fellowship at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, I advanced my understanding of innovative partnerships by examining new models of collaborative governance and gained best practice tools used by senior executives in state and local governments from across the country.
I would be honored to step in to assist the board over the next few months until the newly elected board member for Ward 5 is sworn in. Because of the shortened timeframe, my experience in the legislature and on the state board of education, in addition to my longtime connections in our schools, will enable me to hit the ground running to ensure proper representation for our ward.
I can use my platform on social media, in the newspaper, and via email to keep students, parents and residents informed, updated, and engaged in our decision-making process. My goal is always to increase civic awareness and participation in the process.
It’s also not lost on me the important message my appointment would send to LGBTQ+ youth in our community, that they are valued members of our school system and deserve to have their voices heard. Representation matters.
Thank you for your consideration and as always, thank you for the work you do on behalf of Saco’s next generation.
Rep. Justin Chenette
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