School buses parked at Cyr Bus on Ohio Street in Bangor on Jan. 20, 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Three people so far have taken steps to run for the Bangor School Committee this fall as a former committee member faces child pornography, stalking and harassment charges, and the high school’s principal faces a drunken driving charge.

Two of the three said the charges against former committee member John Hiatt and Principal Paul Butler played a role in their decisions to run for two open seats on the seven-member committee.

Candidates must submit their nomination petitions with signatures from at least 100 registered Bangor voters by Sept. 3 to appear on the November ballot. Voters will choose replacements for Hiatt, who resigned from his post on Monday following two arrests, and Warren Caruso, who said he decided not to seek reelection after serving more than a decade on the committee.

So far, Eric Crawley, Sara Luciano and Ben Sprague have taken out nominating petitions.

Sara Luciano, a candidate for the Bangor School Committee, appears in an undated photo. Credit: Courtesy of Sara Luciano

Luciano, 41, took out her nominating petition on Tuesday, the day after the district announced its plans for a mask requirement this fall.

She said she was bothered that a district-wide phone call and email announcing the mask policy had not mentioned that Butler had just been placed on administrative leave.

Butler was charged with operating under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident on Saturday night after hitting a concrete barrier outside the Bangor State Fair, according to Bangor police. Superintendent James Tager on Wednesday appointed Assistant Principal Brian Doyle to serve as interim principal.

Butler’s attorney, Terence Harrigan of Bangor, has said that his client’s blood alcohol level was 0.07 percent, below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. He also said that Butler was driving to an empty parking lot to report the crash when police pulled him over.

“I don’t see a lot of benefit in not acknowledging it,” Luciano said, recognizing that Tager was in a challenging position. “It really just does not sit well with me.”  

Luciano, who works as a data team lead for a health care analytics company, also said she’s running because her 6-year-old son, who attends Fruit Street School, was recently put on a 504 plan that helps students with learning disabilities.

“That is a wonderful thing that we’re doing right, and I would love to make sure everyone knows that they have this available to them,” she said.

Luciano also said she plans to fight for transparency for the school department.

Crawley, 39, also a first-time candidate, said the allegations against Hiatt likely gave him an “extra kick” to run. He said the allegations were extremely disturbing, especially as the parent of two elementary school-age children.

Eric Crawley, a candidate for the Bangor School Committee, appears in an undated photo. Credit: Courtesy of Eric Crawley

Hiatt has been facing charges since May related to his alleged stalking and harassment of a 34-year-old Bangor woman on social media and in text messages sent to her cellphone earlier this year. He was arrested last week on the child pornography possession charge.

Crawley, a sales representative to grocery stores for Pepsi, wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t running out of anger over what had occurred, but a desire to make sure that parents of elementary school-aged children have a voice in school policy.

He also hopes that members of the school department who don’t always receive much attention, such as ed techs and food service workers, are highlighted and properly compensated.

Sprague is the only person in the race with previous experience in local government, having served nine years on Bangor’s City Council until last year. He works as a lender at First National Bank and has three children, including two who are elementary-school age.

Ben Sprague, then on the Bangor City Council, is pictured in 2017. Credit: BDN file photo

His decision to run came independently of the incidents involving Hiatt and Butler, he said. He took out his nominating petitions before Butler’s drunken driving charge.

His primary reason for running, Sprague said, is to ensure other Bangor students received the opportunities he did while attending Bangor schools. He also hopes to improve mental health care for students in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sprague does not believe that the allegations against Hiatt and Butler, which he declined to comment on directly as they make their way through the legal system, represent any systemic problem in the Bangor School Department.

If elected, he said he’d highlight positive stories from the city’s schools. Such efforts would be even more important if the recent events led to any public misgivings about the school department, Sprague said.

“It’s a great school system, one of the best in the state,” Sprague said. “A good communication strategy that’s transparent, proactive and honest with people is going to really help.”