Cumberland residents will vote June 8 for two of five candidates for the SAD 51 Board of Directors.

Ann Maksymowicz is running for reelection. Hannah Barry, Viji Suresh, Adam Dougherty and Jason Record are hoping to unseat her or fill the seat that will be vacated by Margo Harrington, who is not seeking another term.

SAD 51 includes the towns of  Cumberland and North Yarmouth. Of nine seats on the board, six belong to Cumberland and three are held by North Yarmouth.

Two board members with terms expiring in 2022 or 2023 were the recent target of a failed recall effort after the board decided to continue hybrid learning for the remainder of the academic year.

Three of the candidates said they did not sign the petition for a recall election, one declined to say and one said she had been unaware of it. However, that information cannot be independently verified.

The organization behind the petition, FreshStart51, said they failed to gather the 1,505 signatures required to move the process forward and the petition wasn’t submitted. In a statement on its website, FreshStart51, wrote that it won’t disclose the names of signatories in order to protect their privacy.

“In my personal opinion, the attempted recall was an abuse of the recall process  – the petitioners ultimately wanted to recall the four Cumberland seats and have our superintendent removed from office,” said Maksymowicz, who said she did not sign the petition.  “None of this would have resulted in our students returning to the classroom five days a week. Board of Directors members Bingham, McGinley, Stewart and Williams are all committed to doing what is best for students and the community.”

Barry declined to say if she signed the petition but said she understands the dissatisfaction of parents who did not believe the board was listening to their concerns.

“There is increased momentum to open schools in the fall and it is imperative that we move forward and work together as a community on that plan,” Barry said.

Dougherty said he did not sign the petition because he was not in favor of the recall, but he, too, understands why the petitioners felt ignored.

“Community members were left with only two choices: accept status quo or take the only civil action available to them and petition for a recall,” he said.

Suresh said she only knew about the recall after the fact. She did, however, express support for the board’s decision to continue with hybrid learning.

“Considering the given unexpected scenario due to the global pandemic, the school board had to make the decision that was best for students’ and educators’ well-being,” she said.

Record said he did not sign the petition but he was supportive of the group’s efforts to return to five day a week in-person learning.

“I would think board members who had worked hard should not be concerned about the same voters choosing again if they are confident in their performance,” he added.

Going forward, all candidates said they support reopening schools full time in the fall and discussed other challenges facing the district.

Maksymowicz said she would prioritize unity in Cumberland.

“We are struggling and we need to remember that we’re all working for the same goal,” she said.

If reelected, she said she would continue to support the Southern Maine Partnership, a collaboration between public schools and the University of Southern Maine to ensure equity for all students in the public school system.

Suresh said she strongly believes all members of the community should be involved in district decisions and said will listen to all stakeholders if elected.

“United we stand, divided we fall,” she said.

She would also prioritize children’s mental and emotional health, she said.

Record said he is running as “an advocate that keeps a watchful eye on spending and demands the best value for the taxpayer.” He also said he would promote strong leadership and diversity of thought on the board if elected.

Dougherty said one of his priorities is better communication with residents about what goes on at school board and subcommittee meetings. Another of his goals for is to take a “student-minded approach” in board decisions.

“The COVID plan was sort of a one-size-fits-all approach and what works for a 16-year-old isn’t likely to work for a 7-year-old,” he said.

Barry said she is focused as well on meeting the individual needs of all students, and that she would like to work to solve problems resulting from the town’s growth.

“The town has experienced some growing pains due to a surge of families moving to our community,” Barry said. “We have an opportunity to work with the town council and planning board to deal with overcrowding.”

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