A petition drive aimed at ousting four Cumberland-North Yarmouth school board members failed to collect the required number of signatures by the deadline.

The “Fresh Start 51” group said it fell short the 1,505 signatures required by May 6 to force a special recall election. Nick Begin, a leader of the group, referred all Forecaster inquiries to a statement on the group’s website.

The statement said group members “still believe our efforts have been worthwhile” and that progress was made. In speaking with residents, the group “educated and informed thousands of community members who we hope (and believe) will keep following the school board’s actions,” the statement said.

Fresh Start 51 began the recall petition drive last month after the SAD 51 board, acting upon the recommendation of a Getting to GREEN task force, voted to continue with a combination of remote and in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year. Begin has said that decision failed to put the interests of children first.

“I have three daughters and I see what’s happening to them,” Begin said at a Cumberland Town Council meeting on April 26. “It’s not good.”

The Fresh Start 51 website referred to student anxiety and frustration over this year’s hybrid schedule.

School Administrative District 51 board Chairperson Tyler McGinley and members Mike Williams, Jennifer Stewart and Peter Bingham were the subjects of the proposed recall because they are not up for reelection in the June 8 election.

Superintendent Jeff Porter said in an email to the Forecaster Friday that he continues to stand by the district’s decision to wait for the fall to resume full in-person instruction.

“We have focused on quality, not quantity, when students have attended school in-person this year,” Porter said. “We look forward to the beginning of a new school year in September when both quality and quantity of in-person learning days will resume in a more typical schedule.”

Kimberly Ward Vine, a parent who supported the school board’s decision, said “there is no victory in seeing the petition fail, just like there is no victory in maintaining a hybrid schedule through the end of the year.”

Vine has spearheaded an initiative for families to show support for the administration and school board and the decisions they have made throughout the pandemic, including gathering signatures for a full-page ad in the Northern Forecaster April 29.

“I got the idea to demonstrate some positivity even before I heard about the recall effort,” Vine said. “The whole idea was to publicly state what we are for, and not what we are against.”

Begin said there was a lot of support for the Fresh Start 51 petition drive. Parents told him, “We thought we were alone,” he said.

He also told the town council that many people wanted to sign the petition or help solicit signatures but couldn’t because they were fearful of retaliation.

Fresh Start 51 also said in its statement that its goal is to keep the debate positive.

“We as a group will continue to rise above the banter, bullying, and hateful social media posts of a select few people,” it reads. “The louder they get, the harder we will work.”

Fresh Start 51’s next steps are to  review the “Getting to GREEN” draft plan for the fall and ensure it meets Fresh Start 51’s goals of five-day-a-week, in-person instruction for all students; put a focus on the June 8 race for two SAD 51 school board seats, “working to educate the community on the candidates and their qualifications, and will work towards getting people to the polls; and work “to better inform the community of key things that are happening within our schools,” according to the statement on its website.

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