Cumberland, North Yarmouth residents advocate arts, critical thinking, in SAD 51 planning forum

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CUMBERLAND — A community dialogue for School Administrative District 51 drew about 110 people and several ideas for the district’s focus for the next few years.

The district’s Strategic Planning Committee, which hosted the Nov. 10 meeting, will use information and data from other sources to shape SAD 51’s strategic plan, a document that should be complete by next summer, Superintendent of Schools Jeff Porter said Monday.

The forum’s participants met in small groups to discuss the current state of SAD 51, and how they want the district to spend its time, resources and energy in 2015-2018, the period the strategic plan encompasses.

Porter called the meeting turnout and input “terrific,” and praised the Strategic Planning Committee’s work in organizing the event.

Those in attendance, including almost two dozen students, wrote comments on note cards. Porter said ensuring that technology plays a major role in teaching was one often-repeated priority, along with encouraging students to recycle, composting, and creating a green environment.

A greater emphasis on creativity and innovation in the arts, and less on “memory learning,” was also expressed, the superintendent said, along with a deeper focus on critical thinking skills and student-centered learning.

Less time dwelling on standardized testing scores as a means of determining a student’s competency and proficiency was also encouraged, as well as investment in a performing arts center and an artificial turf field for the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.