School Administrative District 51 is forming a plan to address race and equity issues amid the Cumberland-North Yarmouth school district.

“We continue to hear that there are things in our district, our community, that need to be addressed,” said Tyler McGinley, a member of the Equity Leadership Steering Committee. “Teachers need more background to be able to talk to kids when things happen in the classroom and students need to feel comfortable to have those conversations.”

The committee is working on creating a draft equity plan before the end of the school year that will then be presented to the school board to help inform best practices moving forward.

“An equity plan helps ensure every kid who comes through the doors has the opportunity to thrive in school,” steering committee member and SAD 51 parent Nick Whiston said. “We have kids with a range of identities and we want them all to feel like they can be themselves at school and be supported. One of the things in the district’s strategic plan is preparing students for a multicultural, multilingual and multinational 21st-century world, and preparing our students for success is a big piece of why we need an equity plan.”

The committee was formed in 2019 after “three race-related incidents at that time within a short period of time involving students,” according to Superintendent Jeff Porter, who said equity work in the district “goes back decades.”

In separate instances between January and March 2019, a Greely Middle School student used a racial slur against another student, a middle school student placed a “racially-oppressive image” on a computer screen and two racist social media posts were made by students off school grounds and outside of school hours.


Of the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district’s 2,102 students, 92% are white, according to the district’s 2021 annual report, and about 99.5% of the 422 staff members are white.

Attendees at a Jan. 11 forum indicated they want to see professional development for staff, diversity in texts for all ages, a focus on belonging for all students and comments about the need for more opportunities to have these community conversations in safe spaces.

“Everything I heard was thoughtful, civil, engaged, so it felt really good,” Whiston said regarding the Jan. 11 forum that drew about 100 people. “People are eager to move the work forward and I’m happy for that pressure. It’s good to see people engaged and wanting to have the plan come to fruition.”

McGinley said the committee will meet again in February and likely hold another open forum in March. More information on equity work at SAD 51 and future meetings can be found at

“This has been a really positive experience for our district,” McGinley said. “This is a step in the right direction, with open dialogue and keeping students at the center.”

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