Frank Wright, of Harpswell Neck, is the new chair of the Maine School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors. (REBECCA NORDEN-BRIGHT PHOTO)
Harpswell’s Frank Wright took over as chair of the Maine School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors on July 1.
The chair rotates among the district’s four towns — Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham — with the representatives of each town nominating a candidate to serve as vice chair for a year and then chair for the following year.
Wright, who lives on Harpswell Neck, has served on the school board since 2019, when the Harpswell Board of Selectmen appointed him after two of the town’s four representatives to the school board resigned. He won election to a three-year term in 2021. In the 2021-22 school year, he served as vice chair of the board and chair of the Finance Committee.
Wright grew up in Harpswell. He attended Brunswick High School, then Springfield College in Massachusetts, before beginning his career in education. He worked in public schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for 27 years as a science teacher and coach. He has also worked in private education.
In Harpswell, before his appointment to the school board, he ran a chess club, helped with a Lego club and read to students at Harpswell Community School. He has two children in MSAD 75 schools, who will enter eighth and fifth grade in the fall.
Although Wright became a member of the school board almost by chance, he has continued to serve because of his commitment to students and to public service.
“I’ve been involved in public service essentially all my life,” Wright said. “And so I see the need for all of us to really buy into the idea that democracies only survive if and only if people like myself are willing to step up and do the work that needs to be done.”
As a child of the ’50s and ’60s, Wright took to heart President John F. Kennedy’s plea to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” It has continued to inspire him throughout his life.
Wright called his new role daunting and his predecessor, Holly Kopp, a tough act to follow.
“We’ve just come off a really good healing year with Holly Kopp at the reins,” he said.
The job is also daunting given the tensions that have plagued MSAD 75 in the past couple of years around topics such as masking requirements and the nature of school assignments. The district has seen extensive turnover on the school board and within the administration. Wright begins his role alongside a new superintendent, Steven Connolly, as the district embarks on its fifth transition at superintendent in four years.
Wright is aware of the challenges ahead, but hopes he will be able to mediate conflict and help the board reach decisions that are best for the entire district.
“The decision-making process can be fraught with disagreements, but my goal is really to create a sense of unity on the board and continue the peace process in order to be able to function as a cohesive unit,” Wright said. “My way in which I would do that is by a consultative approach, which means that everybody’s voice is heard and everybody’s voice matters.”
Wright believes this approach is particularly important in a district like MSAD 75 that includes four towns. Harpswell sends four representatives to the 14-member board.
“It’s also important to understand that we work together as a unit,” Wright said. “We represent four towns, and so we have to be able to keep that vision alive. When we make a decision, it’s a decision for all four towns. It’s not just for Harpswell — it’s for everybody involved.”
Wright feels that his background and values have prepared him for the work ahead.
“I’m experienced. I’ve been around the horn,” he said. He has “a sense of what’s needed and required” and aims “to really move forward with a sense of camaraderie amongst the board.”
Wright’s background as a teacher and coach has shown him the value of approaching students and adults alike with a positive, encouraging attitude. He is optimistic that both teachers and administrators in MSAD 75 also follow this principle.
“You don’t have to be in education for very long to recognize who’s good, who’s not so good, and who’s a positive influence on kids and who’s not,” Wright said. “From what I’ve seen, the administrators work through encouragement. … Coming from a position of positivity tends to engender the best in everybody.”
“I see that to be true within our district right now,” he added. “And though we have had a tough time in the last couple of years, I see it moving towards a real strength. Our current board members are fantastic. It’s really a good thing.”