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- The Forecaster
CUMBERLAND — The three seats up for grabs June 10 on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors have attracted five candidates.
Bob Vail created one vacancy when he decided not to seek re-election after 15 years on the board.
Members John Simpson of Island View Drive and Pete Wilson of Oak Ridge Road – who the Town Council appointed in July 2013 for one-year terms after co-Chairmen Jeff Porter and Bill Richards resigned – are running again.
Tim Ferris of Turnberry Drive, who also sought appointment by the council last year, is on the ballot, along with Vickie Bell of Willow Lane and Leo Paquin of Old Colony Lane.
Bell and Ferris are running to fill the final year of Porter’s term. Simpson, Wilson and Paquin are competing for two full three-year terms.
Bell, 48, is married and has two sons attending SAD 51 schools. Until last March she worked at Hannaford Bros. Co., first in real estate development and then human resources, where she primarily worked in the Retirement Benefits Department, addressing communication and compliance issues. She formerly practiced law at Verrill Dana.
A Cumberland resident since 1997, Bell is treasurer of the Greely Parent Teacher Organization.
“I’m very passionate about public education,” Bell said Bell, whose parents and grandmother were teachers.
She also said she pleased with the level of education offered in the school district.
“I’d like to have an opportunity to give back to the community,” she said.
Bell said she has volunteered weekly in her sons’ classrooms, “so I’ve seen a lot. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the teachers and the administrators.”
She praised the School Board’s work this year in creating a budget, saying she has attended budget meetings in the last several years.
“I like the approach that the tax implication is the most critical issue, but also there are other factors that need to be considered,” Bell said.
She said she has an interest in learning more about the performance-based diploma system, adding that “I’m just curious how that’s all going to shake out … I’m very concerned about getting everyone to that proficiency basis, but what about the folks who may start a little bit ahead of that? How are we going to help those students as well?”
Ferris, 58, is married and has three children. He has lived in Cumberland for 10 years, and moved to the area to practice law at Pierce Atwood. He is now an energy attorney with Advanced Engineering Associates International, an energy consulting company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and primarily works at home.
Ferris said his recent service on three committees for SAD 51 – to screen and select a new Greely Middle School principal, Greely High School assistant principal, and superintendent of schools – was a key factor in his decision to run for the School Board. He also comes from a family of educators.
“I realize that the importance of seeking and experiencing the best education available has always been in my family, and I’m trying to carry on that value … with my family, and in a little bit bigger way, with the community that I live in,” Ferris said.
He said he is not running with “a pre-set agenda,” adding that “rather, I recognize that MSAD 51 is one of the best school systems in the state. … I want to help maintain the status quo, but in addition I want to help them continually improve. Because we are in a dynamic situation with education in this country, and the world, and we always have to strive to keep improving.”
Ferris said he has had much global experience and perspective, and has been to many different countries.
“I’ve seen what it’s like out there,” he explained. “And I recognize that education is all-important, and it really is a factor for someone’s ultimate success and satisfaction in life.”
Paquin, 56, is married and has two children. He spent much of his life in Maine, where he worked for Catholic Charities, before living 10 years in Oklahoma and Michigan. He moved to Cumberland nearly three years ago.
“When we moved from the Midwest, we chose Cumberland because of its school system,” he said.
Now a stay-at-home dad, planning to teach online college courses, Paquin has a doctorate in organizational structure and renewal. He is also a certified mediator, taught at the college level for 15 years, and has been a social service director.
Paquin most recently was vice president for mission and ethics at a hospital in Oklahoma City, and was then chief mission and ethics officer in Michigan for a seven-hospital system.
“I’ve seen my share of boards,” he said.
Being on the School Board is an opportunity to give back, Paquin explained, and “to effect the good for many years to come.”
He said he would like to see the district broaden its elementary science program, preparing students earlier for later programming, and to achieve better test scores at the national and state levels.
Paquin said he would bring proven leadership skills in health care and education to the School Board, as well as planning skills, and would be an engaged and effective member.
Simpson, 53, has lived in Cumberland for 12 years and has two children. He is an attorney with the North Yarmouth firm of Thaddeus Day, and his background includes work in corporate finance, law and information technology.
Simpson has also owned and managed MacImage of Maine, a computer software business, where he tried to establish a statewide, commercial provider of county records.
Simpson has coached student athletes in three sports seasons each year for 10 years.
“My primary concern (in running again) … is that (SAD 51) high school students are not performing as well academically, as a group … as the schools that I think I consider our peer schools,” Simpson said, referring to those in Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Yarmouth.
Seventy-two percent of 11th graders at Greely High School in Cumberland are proficient or have exceeded proficiency according to state standards in reading, writing, science and math, according to Simpson, “which is better than most of the rest of state, so we should be happy about that.”
But he noted that peer schools are reaching 80-85 percent, with similar per-student expenditures in their budgets, “so it tells me that there are some issues that need to be addressed.”
Simpson added that with Sally Loughlin hired as interim superintendent, “there has been a change in direction at the school, and I think that that’s setting us in the right direction, but until we see results that match our peer schools, we know that we can do better.”
Simpson, who has previously run for Cumberland County register of deeds and commissioner, and the state Senate, called himself “a thoughtful, patient listener” who is passionate about SAD 51’s students doing as well academically, and having as many career opportunities, as possible.
Wilson, 67, is married and has three children, and has lived in Cumberland most of his life. Now retired, he had worked in the field of corporate income tax.
“In my view, it’s really important to focus on the … building blocks of the school,” said Wilson, who once served on the town’s Board of Appeals. “We have policies and bylaws that contradict each other … and we have some standards that are our written standards, but we ignore them because they’re deemed obsolete.”
He also noted that the district’s accounting system “doesn’t yield all the expenses,” explaining that it is cost center-focused, and that it is difficult to see totals for items like salaries and supplies.
“I think that’s a critical part of being able to analyze financials,” Wilson said.
Development of well-documented and well-defined proficiencies under the Common Core standards, and incentives built into teacher contracts, are also important, Wilson said.
He said he would bring to the School Board a “good understanding of finances, (and) the ability to analyze things. I’m a good listener, I tend to … make clear statements, and I expect others to make clear statements, in order to be able to have a good dialogue.”