New-look SAD 51 board ratifies leadership

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CUMBERLAND — The School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors on Monday unanimously ratified the election of Karen Campbell as chairwoman and Virginia Dwyer as vice chairwoman.

While the board had voted on the matter at a retreat July 15, two new members – Pete Wilson, who was absent Monday, and John Simpson – had yet to join the panel. One way the board could be more inclusive was by ratifying the election results of the July meeting.

Had the full board failed to ratify the election results, a new election would have been held.

According to minutes of the July meeting, Dwyer nominated Campbell for the chairing role, while Jim Moulton nominated Bob Vail, who had suggested an interim chairman serve during the summer until the board’s first regular meeting this month.

Campbell was elected chairwoman by a 4-2 vote.

Moulton on Monday questioned whether the ratification vote still had to occur that night, with one member absent. Campbell – a former board member who rejoined the panel this year – said Wilson informed her that he was satisfied with the vote proceeding without him.

Board members are hoping to put a rocky year behind them. After a series of votes for a chairman last September resulted in repeated 4-4 deadlocks, the board unanimously compromised on Jeff Porter and Bill Richards as co-chairmen.

Eventually, a security system the district purchased, which was significantly more expensive than originally expected, was a key element in Porter’s decision to leave the board July 1 with two years remaining in his term. Fellow Cumberland resident Richards also resigned around that time, since he and his wife were moving out of the district.

The Cumberland Town Council appointed Simpson and Wilson to fill the vacancies July 29. They will serve until June 2014, when elections will be held to fill the final year of Porter’s unexpired term and to elect a successor to Richards for a new, three-year term.

Bethany Hanley and Geraldine Sanchez are also new to the board this year.

Vail, who has served 14 years on the board and said this one would be his last, urged collaboration in the year ahead during Monday’s meeting.

“I think all of us are well-intentioned with what we want to do, and where we see ourselves,” he said. “I think the opportunity exists for all of us to get in the same boat and row together. … There are new board members here with new ideas, and they should be encouraged to bring them out … and see how they can be implemented.”

Simpson advocated for consensus-building, noting that with nine voting members, he could see much potential for 5-4 votes.

“I would hope that we make a great deal of effort to try to reach as much consensus as possible,” he said. “I would urge that … when we have a 5-4 position, that we maybe think about tabling it for another meeting and try to work for a greater consensus.”

Earlier in the meeting the School Board heard reports on the opening of SAD 51 schools. It also heard a request to reconsider its decision not to expand Greely Middle School’s gym for multiple uses in light of the fourth- and fifth-graders moving in next year from the soon-to-be-closed North Yarmouth Memorial School.

The board, which along with the public approved expansion of other parts of that school, plans further discussion of the matter at a future meeting.

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.