Cumberland Town Council won't discuss SAD 51 vacancy before July 8

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CUMBERLAND — It will be two weeks before the Town Council discusses appointing a replacement for School Administrative District 51 co-Chairman Jeff Porter, who last week announced he will leave the School Board July 1.

Town Manager Bill Shane said he will need written notice that Porter has resigned “so that we can begin the process” at the next scheduled council meeting on July 8.

Porter said Monday that he planned to submit notice before July 1. With only one year of his three-year term completed, he cited ongoing frustration last week with what he called a “dysfunctional” board, in which “the tail wags the dog. The School Board reports to the superintendent, not the other way around.”

Shane said councilors will probably discuss their decision-making process with the town attorney in executive session to understand how to operate under state law, and to ask any legal-related questions.

“Until they meet as a body, there’s really not going to be any action taken,” the manager explained. “… It’s a very important position in the community … and I’m very sure we’re going to get a lot of people that’ll have interest.”

Shane said some people with interest in serving have already asked process-related questions, including whether they must submit a resume or application, and to where, and what the deadline would be.

“I think people don’t want to miss the opportunity, and just to know what’s next,” he said, noting that he expects Porter’s replacement would be on the Cumberland-North Yarmouth board by the time school resumes in the fall.

The School Board’s discovery in March that a security system the district purchased was significantly more expensive than originally expected was key in Porter’s decision to leave the board. He has criticized the nearly $276,000 purchase – up from the $50,000 to $60,000 presented in January by Superintendent Robert Hasson – as a violation of board policy, saying the board should have been more involved in the decision-making process.

Hasson has said the system purchase was about keeping students and staff safe, but acknowleged that “the mistake that was made was that I didn’t keep the board informed. The project was moving very quickly, there was new information coming in, and I should have kept them informed as to the movement on the (cost).”

In terms of reaction to his decision to resign, Porter said Monday that “I would say people are very sad. They had hoped that I was going to be able to change things.”

“There are plenty of good people in this community, and plenty of good people who can serve on that board,” he said, “and hopefully that will continue.”

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

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.