June 11, 2012

Election 2012: Two incumbents face competition for SAD 51 seats

Declining enrollment is among the issues in the Cumberland/North Yarmouth races.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Two incumbent school board members in School Administrative District 51 face challengers in June 12 elections in Cumberland and North Yarmouth.


The Board of Directors of School Administrative District 51, made up of Cumberland and North Yarmouth, will hold a public hearing and community vote June 7 on a proposed $30.4 million spending plan for the 2012-13 school year.

The proposed budget is up $1.5 million, 5.3 percent, over current spending, said Todd Nicholson, finance committee chairman. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Greely High School.

About two-thirds of the budget increase covers contractual salary and benefit increases and a more than $500,000 reduction in federal funding, Nicholson said in a message to residents.

The rest is earmarked to help the district implement a new teacher-evaluation system, improve technology and enhance professional development.

Each town will hold a referendum on the proposed budget during the June 12 primary elections.

In Cumberland, Karen Campbell is being challenged in her bid for a second three-year term on the board by former Town Council member Jeff Porter.

In North Yarmouth, Todd Nicholson is being challenged in his bid for a second term on the board by former town selectman and school board member Jim Moulton.

The district has a 10-member board of directors and about 2,000 students who attend Mabel Wilson Elementary School, Greely Middle School and Greely High School in Cumberland, and North Yarmouth Memorial School.

Campbell, 50, is a married stay-at-home mom whose three children attend district schools. A former human resources administrator, she has a bachelor's degree from Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., and a master's degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, both in business administration.

Campbell is the board's vice chairwoman, having served on the finance, strategic planning, negotiating, communications and policy subcommittees. She's seeking a second term because, "after three years on the board, I feel I understand the complexities of running a school district."

Campbell said the board is at a critical point in deciding what to do with the aging North Yarmouth Memorial School and developing a strategic plan for the district. With reductions in state and federal funding, more responsibility is placed on local communities, she said.

Porter, 46, is married and has five children passing through district schools. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Southern Maine and is director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Portland. He used to work for former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

Porter served four three-year terms on the Town Council, ending in June 2011. During that time he was chairman three years, on the finance committee seven years and a member of the recreation, housing and Greely Middle School building committees.

Declining enrollment is the biggest challenge facing the district, Porter said, noting that SAD 51 was designed to serve as many as 2,400 students and enrollment is projected to drop to 1,700 without significant intervention.

"We will not be able to have the high quality school system that we enjoy if we continue to lose student population," Porter said. He said the town must promote development to attract more businesses and families, consider enrolling foreign tuition students and increase regionalization to share programs and costs with other districts.

Moulton, 63, operates Jim's Auto Repair on Mill Road, having graduated from the former Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute. He's married with two grown children and four grandchildren, three of whom will be attending district schools next year.

Moulton was a selectman from 2005 to 2008, a board member from 2002 to 2005, a selectman for several years before that, as well as a zoning board member and a Cumberland County budget advisory committee member.

"I decided it was time to get back in it," Moulton said. "I think in these economic times, we've all got to live within our means. We're down 200 to 300 students and our rising budget doesn't reflect that."

Moulton said he would encourage a more regional approach to purchasing and busing, looking to share costs with other districts. He also would take a close look at hiring practices to see if teachers and educational programs could be shared.

Nicholson, 46, is director of advancement at the Maine Audubon Society and former director of merchandising at L.L.Bean. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Colby College and a master's degree in American and New England studies from USM.

He's married with three children who attend district schools. He's seeking a second term on the board because "it takes a while to understand the whole process. I feel the job would be half done if I didn't seek a second term."

Nicholson said he's looking forward to the district's continued work on a new teacher evaluation system that's designed to improve teacher practice and student performance.

"It's really quite complicated," Nicholson said. "It would be great if we could be a leader in the state on this."

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: kbouchard@pressherald.com


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