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Cumberland council picks Simpson, Wilson for SAD 51 board

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Cumberland council picks Simpson, Wilson for SAD 51 board

CUMBERLAND — In separate votes Monday, the Town Council appointed John Simpson of Island View Drive and Peter Wilson of Oak Ridge Road to two vacancies on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors.

The new members, who will serve for a year, replace two former co-chairmen: Jeff Porter, who resigned from the board July 1 in a disagreement over the working relationship between the board and administrators, and Bill Richards, who stepped down July 8 because he was moving out of the district.

Bill Dunnett of Mulberry Lane, Tim Ferris of Turnberry Drive, Stuart Hill of Orchard Road and Brad Hilton of Blanchard Road also applied for the seats, although Hill withdrew from consideration prior to public interviews of the applicants Monday night by the Town Council.

During the interviews, Councilor Shirley Storey-King, who served as moderator, asked each candidate the same series of questions. The council later went into executive session to discuss the applicants.

After reconvening in public, councilors approved Simpson by a vote of 6-1, with Councilor Peter Bingham opposed. Wilson was approved 5-2, with Bingham and Councilor Michael Edes opposed.

Bingham said Tuesday that he favored applicants with more financial experience, and who offered more continuity to the School Board. He said he would have preferred the applicants be voted on as a pair, but since they were voted on separately, he voted no so as not to single anyone out.

"This was not a personal thing; it was just a philosophical thing," he said.

On the other hand, Storey-King said, "We were looking for somebody who's going to take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously, and these guys both have a strong background in finance. ... Plus they seem like very good communicators, so hopefully we can move forward."

Dunnett was the only applicant with prior School Board experience, although he did not seek re-election this year.

"With all respect to the current board members, I think that there's maybe a little bit of a void in terms of leadership on the board, and I think I can be helpful with the finance work that I've done in the past," he said Monday before the meeting. "Also I'd like to make sure that the board works well in the next year, and I would work hard at that as well."

Simpson, who has lived in Cumberland for 11 years, is married and has two young children. His background includes work in corporate finance, law and information technology, and he owns and manages a computer software business. As owner of MacImage of Maine, he has tried to establish a statewide, commercial provider of county records.

He has also coached student athletes.

"I am requesting appointment to the School Board primarily because I want to do my part to help our schools remain strong," he said. "... Educational expenses consume the lion's share of our tax dollars, and I want to make sure those funds are well spent."

As a School Board member he will not be a micro-manager, Simpson pledged, "but I will also not be a rubber stamp. It's no secret that this last year has been challenging for the School Board, and I think that that needs to change."

While divergent points of view are important and strengthen the board, he said, "members really must commit to working as a team to promote the common agenda of the school district."

Wilson has lived in Cumberland all his life, and he and his children attended Cumberland schools. He said he was trained as a certified public accountant.

"I've spent all my meaningful work life in the finance area, mostly on taxes," he said.

Education is "the most important thing that the town does," Wilson said. "And I'm very interested in ensuring ... that we provide what is beneficial to kids, and that we don't waste money in doing it."

The new appointees 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.

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