Petition asks state to disband school board

By Kim Lincoln | Feb 06, 2014
Photo by: Kim Lincoln Deborah Damon of Owls Head signs a petition at the 'Keag Store Thursday, Feb. 6. The petition asks for the Maine Department of Education to step in and disband the RSU 13 school board.

South Thomaston — A fourth petition is being circulated in Regional School Unit 13 — this time in South Thomaston — and it asks for the Maine Department of Education to intervene and disband the school board.

As of Feb. 6, 40 people had signed the petition, which was dropped off at the 'Keag Store Feb. 4.

"We the undersigned of this petition would like to have it known that the people of Knox County who live in RSU 13 school district have no confidence in the current administration or the school board to lead our district through its current turmoil," the petition states.

"Due to the amount of discord in the operations of the district at the board and administration level, we would respectfully request that the Secretary of Education for the state of Maine intervene on behalf of the children of RSU 13 and disband the current board and reorganize the district in a manner that serves to best educate the children of the district," it reads.

Deborah Damon of Owls Head, who signed the petition, said she thinks it's time for an entirely new board.

"I think they ought to start all new. Have a fresh approach to the whole thing," she said.

Petitions also are circulating in both Thomaston and Rockland seeking to withdraw from the district and operate independently, and there is an online petition at change.org asking the board not to rehire resigning Superintendent Lew Collins as interim superintendent.

The district has been in upheaval since October when Business Manager Scott Vaitones told the board that the superintendent had overspent the special education budget by more than $500,000. Collins has said the budget is not overspent in that area and said the problem is a deficit in the food service budget. He placed Vaitones on paid leave in November.

Collins resigned from the job Dec. 31, with his last day being Feb. 15. He cited the lack of unity on the school board as the reason for his departure. The district agreed to a nearly $100,000 settlement. The board is in the midst of a termination hearing for Vaitones that resumes Feb. 12 and 13.

The board is expected to discuss the interim superintendent job, vote for a new board chairman, discuss and possibly vote on merging Rockland District Middle School and Thomaston Grammar School, discuss withdrawing from the RSU and board behavior at its next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 5:30 p.m. at McLain School in Rockland.

RSU 13 includes schools in the towns of Rockland, Thomaston, South Thomaston, Owls Head, Cushing and St. George.

Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at klincoln@villagesoup.com.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Richard Randall | Feb 11, 2014 16:10

I guess the petition is not at the Keag Store anymore. It seems to have vanished after a school board member was in  there today............



Posted by: John Snow | Feb 07, 2014 08:12

Sure, the petition by itself is pretty powerless to get the state to step in, but I'll be stopping by the Keag with a pen today!  Gotta start somewhere, and maybe a  document showing the level of disgust in the current situation might move some on the board to look in the mirror and stop pointing fingers at everyone else.    We should start over with Congress, too...



Posted by: Cynthia McGuirl | Feb 06, 2014 17:29

I'm pretty sure the state will not step in. I called Jim Rier, current head of the department of education to ask what could be done. Basically, there are very few state rules around school boards. They make their own rules and enforce them themselves. His suggestion as to the best thing we could do is to get a good interim superintendent in place. This is why I wrote the current letter to the editor which is a petition at https://www.change.org/petitions/tess-kilgour-chair-please-do-not-rehire-lew-collins. We could have petitions to remove specific board members but then it would have to go to a vote and would be costly. We need to just vote board members out when they come up for reelection. I would suggest the people of South Thomaston find someone to run against Christine Curtis who is currently running unopposed. For now, I encourage people to come to the next board meeting, write letters, educate yourself about the specifics of what is happening. We need to get involved. Instead of just complaining and blaming, please think about a positive suggestion for change. I would like to see the bylaws of the school board changed dramatically so that they encourage community involvement. There is no easy way out, it's going to be hard work whether we break up as a district or stay together as RSU 13.



Posted by: Debra L Whittier | Feb 06, 2014 15:41

I am not a resident of RSU 13 but if I were, I would sign that petition.



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Kim Lincoln
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The Camden Herald editor Kim Lincoln has worked for Courier Publications since 2003.

During her time with the company she has worked for each of the three newspapers, The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal.

When she is not in the newsroom, Kim likes to be outside, whether it be gardening, swimming, hiking or just enjoying the sunshine.

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