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6/4/2014 2:00:00 PM
Two Candidates Run for GSB School Committee

By Tim Badgley

On June 10, Damariscotta residents will vote for a write-in candidate to fill Sally Farrell's seat on the Great Salt Bay School Committee. Dana Orenstein and Angela Russ each declared their write-in candidacies for the three-year term in May.

Dana Orenstein

Dana Orenstein said her business experience, particularly in budget management, along with having the time and energy to devote to the work of the committee, makes her a viable candidate for the position.

"In every single one of my jobs, I always had budgetary responsibilities," Orenstein said. "Since the economy has not been very good for many years, the school budget could be looked at more closely." Orenstein's business career began at AT&T in adult education and training program development, where she worked for 20 years. She worked the next 10 years for the New York Institute of Finance, a division of Simon and Schuster, where she established training programs for Wall Street professionals, oversaw the business curriculum, and turned her department's $500,000 deficit into a $2.1 million profit-making venture.

"I did that by improving and enhancing the curriculum, offering more programs, and cutting expenses," Orenstein said. "I really get down to the detail. I literally examined everything on a line-by-line item basis." As a parent of two sons who attended GSB, Orenstein said some of the needs of her children were not met. She said she has often wondered why foreign language classes are not offered.

"It's a good school. I'd like to see quality education continue in the area," she said. "Not being part of that culture or the PTO, I'm coming in with a different set of eyes." A native of Belle Mead, N.J., Orenstein and her husband raised their three sons in Scotch Plains, N.J. They vacationed in the Damariscotta area for 10 years before moving their family here on July 4, 2003.

Her husband, Ronn Orenstein, is in his second term as a member of the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen. They had planned to retire to the area, but made the move much earlier due to the 9/11 attacks. Orenstein's offices at the New York Institute of Finance were on the 17th floor of 2 World Trade Center in New York City, one of the buildings destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.

"It was time," Orenstein said. "This is a great community." Orenstein went to work at The First bank in Damariscotta as the assistant branch manager. She now manages tahe loan processing department.

If elected, Orenstein said she is willing to ask a lot of questions without making assumptions. She said she wants to listen to parents, teachers, school staff, and the PTO. "I will fight for what I truly believe would benefit the children," Orenstein said.

Angela Russ

Damariscotta resident Angela Russ said that as outgoing co-president of the GSB Parent-Teacher Organization, the next natural step would be to join the school committee. She said better budget management and more open communication by the school committee is necessary. For the past five years, Russ has served on the executive committee of the PTO, beginning with two years as secretary when Rebecca Tilden was president, and ending with three years as co-president with Jenny Mayher.

As co-presidents, Russ and Mayher created the nonprofit Friends of Great Salt Bay School Inc. in order to apply for grants and raise money to build the new playground at GSB. The organization will continue to be the 501(c)(3) entity of the GSB PTO. "Its mission is simply to enhance the education of GSB students," Russ said. During Tilden's tenure as PTO president, Russ followed her example of attending school committee meetings.

"Over the last five years I've gone to many school board meetings," Russ said. "I've learned so much about the inner workings of the school and the school board - a tremendous amount of knowledge that would go to waste if I didn't use it." Russ said the 2013-2014 school year was one of change and transition. "New principal, new vice principal, a lot of cuts, a lot of teachers in different positions - the ground sort of felt unsettled," Russ said.

According to Russ, bookkeeping errors were made in the GSB budget. "There were mistakes made. That's a red flag," she said. Russ cited the discovery of $70,000 left in the budget for a loan for roofing repairs that had already been repaid. Russ credits school committee member Stephanie Nelson for working hard to study and understand the budget more thoroughly both with fellow committee members and with parents.

"I feel really good about where GSB is right now," Russ said. "It just feels promising and hopeful and good." Russ said that feeling is rooted in her being privy to information because she has been present at board meetings for so many years.

A native of western Massachusetts, Russ moved to Cape Elizabeth with her family during her freshman year of high school, where she met her future husband, Andy Russ, now a pediatrician at LincolnHealth Pediatrics in Damariscotta. Following her graduation from Bates College, Russ served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, working in public health and sanitation. Upon her return she entered the University of Pennsylvania and earned her nursing degree.

She worked in obstetrics in labor and delivery until three years ago, when she became a school nurse substitute for the Central Lincoln County School System. Andy and Angela Russ have three children who attend second, fourth, and seventh grades at GSB.

Russ said it is good to have school committee members who are actively involved in the school as she has been. "I have three children who come home every day and I'm experiencing school with," she said. If elected, Russ said she is "looking forward to really understanding the school budget and how that works and being another set of eyes and making it as efficient as possible."

The polls will be open at the Damariscotta town office from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 10. The town office reminds voters to check the box next to the name of each write-in candidate to ensure the vote is counted.

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