RSU 13: What did you know, and when did you know it?Analysis
Rockland — One of the favorite post-Watergate questions in the 1970s was "What did you know?" and "When did you know it?'
There seems to be as much secrecy around the search for a new superintendent in Regional School Unit 13 in the Rockland area as there was about the Watergate issue and the team of "plumbers" that broke into the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartments in 1973.
The hunt for a new superintendent comes down to an executive session meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday night to act on a finalist, followed by another meeting Thursday night to vote on the choice. More than a week ago, there were two candidates, and seven months ago there were 18. The board asked the Maine School Management Association to do the vetting, and a few were eliminated right away in a paper search, said one board member.
The secrecy seems to have tightened since Esther "Tess" Kilgour became the board chairman. She has sent out emails to the media asking that all inquiries be delivered through her. That's fine, except that she doesn't give out any information and retreats behind a veil of secrecy.
Board members say the rules are set by the Legislature. Executive sessions are necessary to protect the privacy of the individual. Journalists have heard that excuse all their professional lives.
There is an idea in Maine that people from away tend to be superior candidates for positions. It's almost as if the home-grown variety lacks the leadership skills. The exception to that thinking is in Aroostook County, where almost every candidate is from Caribou, Houlton or Presque Isle, or even Fort Kent or Madawaska.
But they were wise. Their thinking was that the cold weather of The County was frigid enough to drive a would-be leader back to a more southerly climate. So why not hire somebody who knew how cold it could be already?
When was the last time climate was the factor in a search committee's decision to hire local here?
RSU 13 a little more than a week ago blew an opportunity by not hiring Neal Guyer, the interim superintendent for the last seven months. As soon as he knew he was not the final choice, he took himself out of the race.
Now the pundits wonder who the finalist can be, and rumors abound that it could be a former superintendent from Schenectady, N.Y., Eric Ely, who two years ago left his job to become superintendent of the school district in Southbridge, Mass. Now, according to published reports, Ely is searching again in places like Montana or Ohio.
The story behind this candidate was published in the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union where Ely was accused of tipping off his facilities supervisor, Steven Raucci, to a state police probe into Raucci's placing explosive devices at homes. Raucci was convicted on arson and weapons charges that April.
Ely agreed to a settlement and left Schenectady in June 2010. Shortly after he landed in Southbridge, Mass., former home of American Optical Co. And now he is ready to leave again?
Ely did not immediately return a phone call to his office, July 2.
Is this the man RSU 13 parents want to have in charge of their children and putting them on school buses?
Maybe he will leave Southbridge with a new pair of glasses, and that will make everything all right.
I think the entire board needs to open up and take inquiries, not just Tess Kilgour.