The four candidates running for two seats on the Bangor School Committee this year all have children in Bangor schools. All of them have also been educators at some point in their careers.
Bangor residents Marwa Hassanien, David Rutledge and Troy Wagstaff are running for the School Committee for the first time. Carin Sychterz is seeking re-election after her first three-year term ends this November.
The election takes place Nov. 5, and absentee ballots are now available.
A 41-year-old Oklahoma native, Marwa Hassanien moved to Bangor 15 years ago and has four children in the school system: a junior and a sophomore at Bangor High School, a seventh grader at William S. Cohen School, and a second grader at Fruit Street School.
Hassanien initially came to Bangor with her husband intending to live in the area for just three years, but they decided to stay long-term.
“We chose to live here because of the schools,” she said.
As a first-generation American, Hassanien said she wants to advocate for public education because it was her parents’ reason for immigrating to the U.S. from Egypt.
Hassanien is an adjunct faculty member at Eastern Maine Community College, where she teaches English.
She said she wants a more inviting school system that promotes academic, socioeconomic and cultural diversity.
“When you bring a different voice to the table and champion all identities, I think that’s really important,” she said. “I might look a little different, but I want students to look at her and say, ‘She represents us, and represents everyone.’”
A 52-year-old Kansas native, David Rutledge has lived in Bangor since 2007. His eldest son graduated from Bangor High School, and he has two other sons attending Bangor schools.
Rutledge is a stay-at-home dad and taught in Denver Public Schools for two years before moving to Maine with his wife in 1997.
One of his sons has special needs, and Rutledge said it was like “pulling teeth” to ensure that his son received the services he needed.
“I see both the good and the difficult in Bangor schools,” he said.
He said he wants to help families who have children with special needs navigate the school system better to make sure their children are receiving the services they require.
Rutledge also said he wants to push for more transparency in school committee proceedings.
A longtime school counselor who currently works at Orono High School, Troy Wagstaff has a son at Doughty School and a daughter who will start at Fourteenth Street School next year.
Wagstaff, 45, is one of 13 school counselors in New England with a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a voluntary credential meant to show educators have met a set of elite standards for teaching.
“My whole life has been advocating for kids,” he said. “I’ve seen over the years — with school committees I’ve worked with as an educator — how the decisions can trickle down into classrooms.”
Wagstaff, said he would make pushing for the state to cover 55 percent of school costs — a benchmark the state has never met since voters approved the policy in a 2003 referendum — a priority as a school committee member.
“I would want to push for getting to that 55 percent from state funding to kind of offset what we’re doing locally and help with local property taxes,” he said.
Based on his expertise as a school counselor, he wants to advocate for social and emotional learning in school — which emphasizes students learning interpersonal behavior skills including empathy and patience.
“I would want to be making sure that the educators in Bangor schools have the resources to support kids with behavioral issues,” Wagstaff said.
Carin Sychterz, 51, said she chose to run for re-election to the School Committee because her experience from her first term will help her be more effective in a second term.
“It takes about 18 months to really figure out how things work,” she said. “I thought I could be much more effective in my second term because I know a lot more now.”
Sychterz moved to Bangor nine years ago. She said her family chose Bangor because of the schools. She works as a business development manager for the law firm Rudman Winchell, but she taught at Bangor High School when she first moved here.
On the school committee, Sychterz said she wants to contribute to long-term planning for the future of the schools. She lived in five states and saw many different school systems before moving to Maine. That experience can contribute to a unique point of view, she said.
“We are about to embark on the 10-year strategic plan,” she said. “I have a valuable voice in that.”