Dresden resident sworn in as new Hallowell Area School District board member

Jeffrey Bickford Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Bickford

DRESDEN — Jeffrey Bickford is the newest member of the Regional School Unit 2 School Council.

Appointed Tuesday evening by the Dresden Select Board, he was sworn in on Wednesday to replace former member, Jeffrey Piercewho resigned in early May.

Bickford has four children in the district, two of whom have just graduated, and has spent several years supply teaching in every RSU 2 building in addition to Monmouth schools.

He lived for 13 years in Farmingdale before moving to his current residence in Dresden and said he “had been in the community for a long time”. Bickford said he coached a “majority” of RSU 2 students in Little League, T-Ball or as a scoutmaster.

“I don’t think it’s an understatement to say…schools have come under the public microscope, and rightly so,” Bickford said. “It is our children and our communities, and the residents who are paying for this. It’s important that we have a voice, and I hope I can do the job my city chose me to do.

Bickford is originally from Pittston and attended schools in the Gardiner area. After high school he joined the US Army and recently he went to the University of Maine at Augusta and earned a degree in Business Administration.

He worked as a substitute until the coronavirus pandemic, working there when he could while helping his children learn remotely. His wife, Leah, is an Army recruiter.

“Everyone was learning at home and I was at home with my six children,” he said. “I knew what they were going through at all levels, middle school, high school and elementary.”

Through his experience in front of the class, he was able to help his children through remote learning in a way he admits was lucky compared to some families where parents couldn’t stay home.

Through his experience helping his children during the pandemic and the people he has spoken with in the community, he believes parents are more invested in their students’ learning and classroom time than ever.

This helped shape his ideas for the RSU 2 budget for next year, which was a talking point for municipalities last spring, especially the city of Dresden. Bickford has expressed his position on the budget via the unofficial City of Dresden Facebook page, and he thinks the community “should have a say in what they want”.

“I had concerns about the budget, it continues to grow every year,” he wrote, “every resident’s tax dollars are growing and we should get a return on investment. …”

Bickford said that because children were learning at home, the pandemic was “eye-opening for most parents” about how their children were learning.

“I think in the past, parents would go to work and do their jobs to support their families, and didn’t depend so much on (their own) education to teach the kids,” he said.

But it also led Bickford to have strong opinions about what is taught in public schools.

On the same post on Dresden’s unofficial Facebook page, he said the budget should be rejected, in part because “schools are filled with indoctrination that teaches our children about the new cancel culture, white people are racists and America is bad. Don’t believe me, go there one day and see for yourself.

Bickford maintained this position in an interview with the Kennebec Journal.

“I’ve seen some teachers within the school system who are very attached to their position instead of teaching the subject,” he said. “They let their personal biases into the classroom, and sometimes it’s hard, or they feel strongly, and I get that, but teaching a subject has to stay in the subject.”

Bickford said he was referring to some “social justice issues” and received comments from parents.

He said he wanted to be a voice for parents if they feel uncomfortable with something or have concerns about the district.

“I know I’m going to take on some of the comments I made on Facebook, or people will think I feel a certain way,” Bickford said. “There’s absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for the kids in the system who are stepping forward to make sure they reap the good benefits of a good product that works, and ultimately, if they want something, voices must be heard.”

His ultimate goal is to “leave the job better” than he found it.

To do this, Bickford plans to sit down with Pierce and said he has already shown up RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold.

Whether he will take Pierce’s place on the committee exploring Dresden’s potential withdrawal from RSU 2, he said it depends on the perspective of the city – and its people.

“I’ll be careful of the will of the city, and that’s what I’m going to go with,” Bickford said. “Obviously, if there’s someone in the community who is 100% against, they also need a voice. I’m going to do my best for the city, the residents and the students, and they all matter. on it.

The first Bickford School Board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on July 1 via Zoom.

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