Seats constituting a third of the Cumberland-North Yarmouth School Board are in play this year. Voters will choose from six newcomers on June 11.

There are no incumbents in the race. SAD 51 board members Denny Gallaudet and Ann Maksymowicz, both representing Cumberland, and Tom McGuinness, who represents North Yarmouth, are not running.

Jeffrey DiBartolomeo, Jesse Lamarre-Vincent, Abraham Suresh and Sean Thurston are vying for the two three-year seats for Cumberland. Suzannah Dowling and Sara Rose are squaring off for the open three-year seat representing North Yarmouth.

The candidates discussed the One Campus School Project on the June ballot, challenges for the school district and the role they want to play in the district’s future at a May 15 Cumberland candidate’s forum and in email interviews with The Forecaster.



Jeffrey DiBartolomeo is an associate professor of finance at the University of Southern Maine and the parent of a Greely High School student. At the recent candidate forum, he leaned heavily on his finance, teaching and research experience in his pitch to voters.

He said he’s committed to being “empathetic” to the taxpayer i.e., not saddling them with unnecessary costswhich informs his opinion of the school bond for the One Campus School Project. He said he has “several issues” with the proposal, such as the inclusion of a $3 million artificial turf field in the total $53.5 million school bond.


DiBartolomeo indicated that including the turf field is an example of not being empathetic to taxpayers, and that school leadership should have put forward a proposal without it.

He does not want portable classrooms to be a permanent fixture of SAD 51, but questions whether the school’s growth projections are accurate. Accommodating future student enrollment is part of the justification for the school construction project.

DiBartolomeo also said he is concerned about school safety, including when it comes to protocols around parents picking students up from school.

To keep SAD 51 a top rated district, DiBartolomeo emphasized the importance of investing in teachers.



Jesse Lamarre-Vincent is a public policy professional by training and an analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He has two children, one of whom attends Mabel I. Wilson School.

Lamarre-Vincent is solidly in favor of the $53.5 million dollar school project. “It’s my hope that the residents of Cumberland come out, and we dig deep, and realize that we need permanent infrastructure for our students,” he said during candidates forum. If elected, he hopes he will spend the next three years digging into the details of the plan.

When it comes to maintaining SAD 51’s reputation as a good school district, he said his goal is that the district “meet each student where they are.


“I don’t want to be chasing goals like more AP classes, or more kids going to Princeton. I want to make sure that we’re empowering teachers to teach every student … no matter their ability,” he said.

When asked about his skills as a communicator, Lamarre-Vincent highlighted his experience with the Peace Corps in Namibia – where he had to make himself understood using the language of his host community – as an example of his ability to overcome communication barriers.

He also said that growing up his family was economically challenged, so he understands where residents are coming from when they say they struggle to pay property tax bills or cover other expenses.



Abraham Suresh has lived in Cumberland for 14 years and currently works for the United States Postal Service, according to his bio on the town of Cumberland’s website. His children attended school elsewhere in Maine.

Suresh emphasized that district leadership needs to bring a fresh perspective to the challenges it’s facing. He said he is passionate about moving the district forward and lending his international and life experience to the district in order to make that happen.

When asked about the school bard’s role in managing the tax property burden, he said that the district should think “outside of the box” and pursue fundraising opportunities.


On the new school proposal, he said that he has some concerns, including whether the school proposal went far enough in terms of allowing for potential school district growth.

He emphasized the need to approach school leadership with a “long-term perspective.”



Sean Thurston, who was born and raised in Cumberland, is the parent of a daughter who attends Mabel I. Wilson. During the candidates’ forum, he emphasized his deep roots in the community. He was previously with the U.S. Coast Guard and now has a small business.

“There are a lot of big decisions coming up that are going to change this town, and this town has changed a lot since I was little. It’s going to change even more over the next 20 to 40 years, and I want to be a part of that change,” he said.

On the One Campus School Project, he said he thinks the proposal is the best option that voters have for the community. He did say he has “mixed feelings” about the inclusion of the turf field in the same referendum question.

“But with that being said, I also look forward to – if I get elected – to digging through all the details for the school and … keeping (it) within budget. Because as we all know, when a new project comes out, it rarely stays in budget,” he said.


He said striking a good balance between investing in the school district and easing the property tax burden on residents is the main reason he wanted to run for school board.

“I think if we plan for the future properly, we can reduce our property taxes over time and reduce the school budget over time,” he said.

One of the ways he wants to do that is by ensuring teacher and staff retention. Hiring and re-training new employees can be a drain on resources, he said.



Suzannah Dowling, an employment law attorney with two children in SAD 51 schools, says that the biggest challenge facing the district is overcrowding.

She sees the One Campus School Project as the solution. She said she wholeheartedly supports the proposal, which “represents an efficient solution to expanding the school’s infrastructure, at a substantially lower cost than the last proposal.

Dowling believes it’s appropriate for school spending to make up a large portion of the tax rate, but she’s committed to making sure those dollars are spent wisely, she said in an email.


She also emphasized her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. “I value diversity across all spectrums – race, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability and socio-economic status – and believe strongly that our schools should be places where all students, no matter their identities and life circumstances, are supported and safe.”

She identified listening to and prioritizing retention of teachers and staff as key to remaining a high achieving district.



Sara Rose’s business, Rose Garden Preschool & More, specializes in the care and education of children ages 2½ through sixth grade. She has four children, one of whom attends Greely High School. The rest have already graduated.

She described the biggest challenge facing the district as “a massive wall between the residents, the school administration and each town’s administration. Each party is working on their own. I would like to try to bridge the great divide between the entities.”

She does not support the upcoming referendum on the school bond, though it is “getting close” for her.

“I firmly believe the turf needs to be separated from the proposed school and infrastructure project. Allow the community to determine turf vs. natural grass,” she wrote.

If elected, Rose would advocate for more fiscal transparency. “I would like to see a full audited financial review of the last three years – side by side, apples to apples, budgeted to real cost. And make it public. I would like an open question-and-answer session where real answers are provided,” she said.

In terms of how she would approach budgeting, her “priorities would be staff and buildings.”

“I would start with a zero budget. What can we live without? Reuse? Fundraise? Where can we save money? Where is the direct benefit to the student or the staff – that is a necessary investment.”

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