The school board held a special meeting on August 13 to discuss a grievance filed by the Maine Education Association stemming from board actions preceding its vote to discontinue a teacher contract. They unanimously voted to deny the grievance. The meeting was closed to the public, per state statute, and Bruce Smith, attorney with Drummond & Woodsum of Portland was present as the board’s legal representation.
The next step for the Maine Education Association, a teachers’ union, is to file for arbitration, if they decide to do so, said Smith after the meeting.
At issue was how the board handled complaints lodged against teacher Laura Johns prior to its May 14 vote not to renew her contract.
Johns, hired in 2011 after seven years teaching in Penobscot, was up for a continuing teaching contract after finishing a two-year probationary contract. Principal Corinne Pert and Superintendent Mark Hurvitt had recommended her appointment.
While the specific grievance is not public information, at a June 3 board meeting, 14 Brooksville teachers charged that board members violated school policy #8378 by not informing Pert and Johns of complaints made by individuals to board members prior to John’s contract vote on May 14.
Further, the teachers’ statement held that board members did not inform the individuals making the complaints of the procedure outlined in that policy.
Policy #8378 directs the board to “advise the public that the proper channeling of complaints involving instruction and/or discipline should proceed from the teacher to the principal to the superintendent and finally to the board.”
Board member Larry Cassis stated at the June 3 meeting that he did not inform Pert or Johns of complaints made by individuals against Johns, claiming he had received assurances that those complaints had already been brought to their attention.
Fallout from the board’s actions includes the resignation of Pert after 14 years as a teaching principal.
In a letter read to the board on July 1, Pert stated her resignation stemmed directly from board actions that had “put into question my credibility.”
Pert said she “will joyfully teach the pre-K/kindergarten class” at the school this fall in a break during the executive session.
At an executive session held per Maine statute for personnel issues on May 14, board members, Hurvitt, Pert and Johns and a Maine Education Association representative listened to 20 individual comments from the public before the board voted against continuing Johns’ contract. Over 50 people attended that meeting and appeared divided over the issue.
Former Union 93 superintendent hired
In a second meeting on August 13, the board appointed Denis Howard as interim principal for the 2013-14 school year. Howard held the position of interim superintendent for Union 93 in 2006-07 and 2009-10.
“He’ll be good to hold things together,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt. “He’s experienced, knowledgeable and friendly.”
The interim position will likely be for three days a week, Hurvitt said, though the specific details remain to be finalized.
The board voted to fill the open principal position on an interim basis after an August 5 meeting that drew on input from members of the community on the traits desired in a new principal. Only two candidates had applied for the teaching-principal position, and Hurvitt recommended reopening the search to draw a wider and deeper candidate pool.
The school will advertise again in January, he said. “We’re starting to move forward here.”