Two Cumberland seats on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors are up for grabs.

Incumbent Mike Brown is being challenged by Peter Bingham and Jennifer Stewart, and Gigi Sanchez, who served two terms, is not running for re-election.

Bingham is stepping down from the Town Council after his term ends this year and is seeking to return to the school board, where he previously spent four years as vice chairman and two as chairman.

Bingham said the towns of Cumberland and North Yarmouth and the SAD 51 board have worked well together in recent months to produce “the best session I’ve seen in 30 years,” Bingham said. “I want to keep that up.”

He said he expects a more cooperative approach in the way the towns and schools care for their facilities. With SAD 51 building infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he said, the district should follow the lead of other school systems and hire a person with an engineering background “to perhaps coordinate the maintenance to include both SAD and town facilities.”

He also wants to see continued discussions about instructional time, after hearing from some parents that the district had too many early release days to provide professional development time for teachers.

Brown, who moved to town in 1998, said despite the contention that surrounded last year’s budget process, “I’ve been proud of the budget that has been put forth the last couple of years.”

He noted that in the past decade, declining enrollment caused SAD 51 to close the Drowne Road and North Yarmouth Memorial schools. But student numbers are once again on the rise.

“We’re looking at a Mabel I. Wilson school that is functioning at this point beyond capacity,” Brown said. “We’re looking at a middle school that is really just teetering on the edge; it’s working, but I don’t think it can sustain much more growth.”

Stewart has three children between the ages of 9 and 14, all in SAD 51 schools, which inspired her to run for the board. Having spent 15 years in Cumberland, she said, “I feel I need to get involved, to help plan for the future of the schools.”

She said she brings to the table a strong financial background from more than 20 years as a certified public accountant, which can aid in the budgeting process.

Stewart said she supports this year’s proposed budget, and would like to be part of ongoing discussions regarding infrastructure and space needs, particularly at the Mabel I. Wilson and Greely Middle schools.

She said she wants to ensure “the kids still have a high quality of education, and that the (student-teacher ratios) stay the same,” as enrollment increases and the pre-kindergarten program begins this fall at the Wilson school.

Alex Lear – 780-9085

[email protected]

Twitter: @learics.

Read this story in The Forecaster.


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