Dale Landrith Sr. said May 9 that he was running for a seat on the Five Town Community School District and School Administrative District 28 school boards because he was concerned about the local school system.

Camden voters will elect two representatives for the three-year positions currently held by John Lewis and Matthew A. Dailey. Dailey and Willard J. “Bill” Hibbard will also appear on the ballot.

“I’ve been working with [the advocacy group] Value In Education for two years,” he said. That committee advocates for reducing costs while maintaining quality education, he said.

Landrith’s two children were students in the system he hopes to serve, and two of his three grandchildren are now students in the districts.

“I want to have good schools for them, but at the same time you have to control costs,” he said.

“Schools are obviously a place where children should be learning the basics of how to function in society,” said Landrith. “That’s academics as well as sports and some of the social aspects of it. We have to make sure the kids are challenged and at the same time have the tools to perform.”

He said one solution was to use technology to allow those in rural communities to take part in programs that would not be feasible to deliver otherwise.

“You can take four or five districts and put them all in the same virtual classroom,” said Landrith. “That has great promise, even at the elementary level.”

“We need more business minds involved in the school process,” he said. “Historically, schools take last year’s budget and add to it.”

Landrith said he was a proponent of zero-based budgeting. In an interview in 2010, Landrith said zero-based budgeting began with a determination of the organization’s income.

“You have to forecast expenses to come in line with your income,” he said at that time.

“The CSD pays a huge share of the Mid-Coast School of Technology [budget],” said Landrith. He said the formula was based on total student enrollment, rather than the number of students a district sends to the technology school.

“Vocational technology is hugely important,” he said, citing statistics that show high graduation and college attainment rates for the CSD.

“The reality of life is that, of those, a significant portion don’t make it past the first or second semester of college,” he said.

He said more involvement in the vocational technology program would help those students who may not finish college to prepare for life.

“Mid-Coast School of Technology has some terrific programs,” said Landrith. “We in Camden and Rockport need to figure out how to better utilize them.”

“At the CSD we have what many of us in VIE view as big duplications with what MCST does,” he said. “That needs to be addressed.”

He said he supported arts programs and that his daughter majored in and teaches music. He said arts and music programs at the CSD were very good and had a place in the curriculum.

Landrith said current economic conditions were such that equipment from discontinued high school technical programs, now being stored at Camden Rockport Middle School, needed to be sold or sent to the high school.

“I don’t know what the need is [at the middle school],” he said.

“What the voters should understand is that, if there’s no program there right now, I don’t see it being expanded in the future,” said Landrith. “I think the program at the high school is sufficient.”

“There’s a challenge at the high school right now in having kids in industrial arts, to keep a teacher employed full time,” he said. “If you have a half-time schedule you can’t expand the program.”

“My experience with kids’ experience is that, if you get their interest and you challenge them, you won’t have any problem getting them to sit still,” said Landrith. “It comes down to the curriculum and the teacher.”

“A system administrator has to be one who can look at an overall picture, comprehend what’s going on, and be able to manage it,” he said “The head administrator also has to have a vision for the future, and can’t be anchored in the present.”

A school administrator, such as a principal, has to have more of an ability to work closely with students, he said. At the same time, principals should recognize the problems and challenges that face teachers.

“At the middle school we have an excellent example in Maria Libby,” he said, adding that the high school administrators were also very good.

Landrith said that further consolidation with Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville was not a good idea for SAD 28.

“I was at the hearings in Augusta two weeks ago,” he said referring to discussions about bills to lift penalties for districts that have not merged. “There was a lot of work done by the committees.”

He said elementary schools in Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville are the center of their towns, and that rural towns were concerned about losing control of their communities.

“At the high school level, we already did what the state wanted done, and we’re not getting credit for it,” said Landrith.

He said he thought a bill to lift the penalties would go forward in Augusta.

Landrith said voters should know that VIE was responsible in part for keeping the school budget increase to 1.34 percent. He said the presence of the advocacy group, and its opposition to last year’s budget, caused the board to take budgeting more seriously.

“This year [VIE] will go wholly supporting it,” he said.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by -mail at sauciello@villagesoup.com.