RSU 13 superintendent resigns
Rockland — Regional School Unit 13 Superintendent Lew Collins has announced his resignation, citing a lack support from the board of directors.
The resignation is effective Saturday, Feb. 15.
"It has been an honor to work with the RSU 13 School Board and staff this past year as we worked to move the district in a new direction. As the sixth superintendent in the past 11 years, it is clear that it is exceedingly difficult to maintain stability in the district’s top leadership post," Collins said in an announcement.
"I have many ardent supporters on the board and among the staff and have sincerely appreciated their support during my brief tenure here. Sadly, our board has again become fractured and split down the middle on so many issues. In order for a superintendent to be successful and enact meaningful reforms, there must be full support of the board. Because I do not have that full support, I will be resigning my position effective Feb. 15, 2014."
RSU 13 will become a destination district only with a relentless focus on student success and a true willingness to support meaningful changes. There is just no easy way to make these tough decisions, he said in the announcement.
The board was expected to perform an evaluation by Dec. 16, but following a Dec. 5 closed door session, an action item to extend Collins' contract was removed from the public portion of the meeting.
Both teachers and administrators have sent letters of concern to the board since the start of the school year regarding Collins' leadership. Collins has continuously stated he is only performing the duties asked of him by the board.
"My exit does not cure or change the formidable challenges confronting RSU 13. The budget for this next school year will involve very painful decisions that cannot be put off any longer. Next Thursday, [Jan. 9 public meeting] I will address the magnitude of our budget problems and propose several solutions for consideration," Collins said in a Dec. 31 email.
"We still have serious and troubling problems with staff attendance and misuse of sick leave by almost half of the entire staff. We still have a math and writing curriculum that has left our students way behind and that needs significant repair. Most importantly, we have spent the last three months more concerned more about the feelings of the adults than on the needs and success of our students. With my departure, the conversation needs to be focused exclusively on how we can help our students succeed," he added.
"It is yet another blow to a district that is still coming to grips with consolidation that we again must look for yet another leader. Lew has worked tirelessly for RSU 13 and has brought many improvements to our district. His versatility has been of great value to this district as he has worn many hats including that as Special Ed director and business manager. Even with his decision to resign, he is continuing to offer potential solutions for the budget challenges our district faces. He will continue to put student needs first," said Board Chairman Esther "Tess" Kilgour by email.
"The board must now embark on a search for an interim superintendent with a tremendous skill set. RSU 13 has many complex projects and personnel issues in the works. We must find a way to improve our student outcomes while balancing the community’s ability to absorb the additional costs. The board will need to work to come together to mend the divide and make students our number one priority. We must find a way to grow our educational opportunities in order to prepare our students for a successful life locally and globally. Only with the board acting as a unit can we work on fulfilling those needs," she added.
Business manager Scott Vaitones was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 14. Vaitones has said he informed the board about $500,000 the superintendent had authorized for special education positions in the district that had not been planned for in the original school budget. Collins served as special education director until this summer when a replacement was hired.
The board authorized the district to hire a temporary business manager not to exceed payment of $300 per day. No one yet has been tapped to fill the position.
Board chairman Esther "Tess" Kilgour has also stepped down as chairman, effective in March.
"I wish everyone in the RSU 13 community well and believe that you already have the most important ingredient for future success — wonderful children who all want to be successful students," Collins said.
Kilgour said she has spoken with officials at Maine School Management Association concerning hiring an interim superintendent. The board is expected to discuss the topic at a public meeting Thursday, Jan. 9, beginning at 6:30 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 email@example.com.
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Kim Lincoln has worked for Courier Publications since 2003, serving as a reporter, assistant editor and copy editor.
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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