Cumberland-North Yarmouth school district marks 50 years

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CUMBERLAND — Autumn 1966. The new music from landmark albums “Pet Sounds,” “Blonde on Blonde” and “Revolver” graced the airwaves, and “Star Trek” first boldly went where no sci-fi show had gone before.

Meanwhile, Cumberland and North Yarmouth launched their first full year together as School Administrative District 51 – a union which celebrates its 50th birthday next weekend.

Although the district’s actual anniversary was in February, the festivities were delayed until next month for better weather and a more convenient time of year, Ashley Caswell, SAD 51’s community development and resource manager, said in an interview Sept. 28.

“We’re hoping for the community to come, but also alumni from the past 50-plus years … to celebrate how the district has developed and changed, or in some cases stayed the same,” Caswell said.

Things kick off Friday, Oct. 14, with a Greely Rangers football game, at which the Class of 1966 – the first to graduate from Greely High School – will be recognized along with the school’s senior football players. The Greely Madrigals will perform the national anthem in tandem with the middle school’s Sounds of Silence combo.

Greely Middle School, 351 Tuttle Road, is the hub of most events Saturday, Oct. 15.

A pancake breakfast, running from 7-10 a.m., opens festivities that day. Sponsored by the respective fire departments in Cumberland and North Yarmouth, and with proceeds benefiting the Firefighters for Kids toy drive, tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children.

A registration and alumni check-in table is open from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and class coffee chats – allowing alums to catch up with former classmates and chat about their time at Greely – take place from 9-10 a.m.

Superintendent Jeff Porter’s welcome of attendees at 10 a.m. is followed by facilities tours, kids’ activities, and a historical display from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Children’s musician Rick Charette gives a performance at Greely Middle School at 11:30 a.m. A burrito lunch, sponsored by the Greely Girls Soccer Boosters with proceeds benefiting the team, runs from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

An open swim takes place at the Greely High pool from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

An oral history of Greely High, is being documented by the school’s video production class and includes alumni interviews, some of which will be conducted on Saturday. A trailer showing work already accomplished will be shown that morning.

Birth of the SAD

SAD 51, like other school districts developed around the time, was born in the years following the Sinclair Act of 1957, according to information provided by three local “history buffs” – Carolyn Small of Cumberland, Dixie Hayes of North Yarmouth, and Donna Damon of Chebeague Island.

The act provided incentives to Maine’s then-many small districts to consolidate into larger groups in order to achieve high school enrollments of at least 300. With their schools taxed for space, and major state funding promised, Cumberland, North Yarmouth and Pownal looked into forming one school unit, according to the historians.

Cumberland voters twice, in 1962 and 1963, defeated the proposed district, although by just a 500-494 tally the second year. A mix-up regarding votes on Chebeague, a part of Cumberland until 2007, produced a 497-497 tie.

With Pownal choosing to seek a partnership elsewhere, North Yarmouth and Cumberland residents formed a committee in 1964 to once again explore consolidation. Out of those talks came recommendations for a new elementary school (ultimately Mabel I. Wilson), a Greely Institute gym and cafeteria, and greater middle and high school classroom space, the fruition of which all depended on the two towns forming a district.

That was enough to turn the tide in Cumberland, which voted 283-107 on Jan. 15, 1966, to consolidate. North Yarmouth followed suit the next day by a vote of 84-4. With the legislature’s approval of the district later that month, SAD 51 came into being Feb. 7, 1966.

With the birth of the district came another milestone that year, when Greely Institute changed its name to Greely High School, making the Class of 1966 the first “Greely High” alumni, Caswell said.

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

Foundation 51 Fall Fling

The “Fall Fling,” an annual fundraiser hosted by Foundation 51 – an organization that supports School Administrative District 51 initiatives through grants – will take place Friday, Oct. 14.

This year’s event will be in the barn and backyard of Peter and Christine Hein, 329 Greely Road in North Yarmouth. A silent auction, live music by Captain Bangaroo, and wood-fired food and drinks from Fire & Co. will be offered.

It’s the year’s largest fundraiser for Foundation 51, which has raised more than $500,000 to support resources the school budget would not otherwise cover, according to

Some of the initiatives Foundation 51 has benefited include K-5 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) resource kits, Prince Memorial Library’s summer teen program, Etude Anthology and Parent University, and the Robotics Club.

Tickets are $50 and available at

Foundation 51 was formed in 1998 to direct “private charitable resources toward the enrichment of educational opportunities for students in MSAD 51,” according to the organization’s website.

The group has since raised more than $480,000 for grants to district schools, in areas including multilingual literacy, nutrition, African drumming and the use of electronic books for struggling readers.

Alex Lear

School Administrative District 51 celebrates its 50th birthday next weekend.

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.