Outgoing RSU 13 Board rep cites frustration

Thomaston fills one school board seat, other in limbo

By Stephen Betts | Jun 13, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Thomaston — A Thomaston woman will fill one of two vacant seats to represent the town on the regional school board.

Amy Williams Beers said Wednesday, June 13, she would serve on the Regional School Unit 13 Board after she received 16 write-in votes in Tuesday's balloting.

She lives in Thomaston with her professional artist husband, Kevin Beers, and said she is delighted to serve Midcoast Maine in this new capacity along with the other RSU 13 board members.

She is employed as vice president of Cyber Services for PSB, the parent company to Unlimited Technology Inc., with future offices in Rockland and Augusta. Prior to that she served as director of cyber for the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, and before that she spent more than 20 years in higher education, first at the University of Tennessee and then at Bentley University.

She is a certified information systems security professional.

No one took out nomination papers for the pair of three-year seats. One seat was vacated Tuesday by Ron Gamage, who did not seek reelection. The other seat has been vacant since July 2017, when Kella Rivers resigned.

Town Clerk Kara George said Wednesday the town would contact the people with the most write-in votes for the two seats to see if they are willing to serve. Beers was the top vote-getter, with 16 votes.

Former RSU 13 board member Greg Hamlin, a selectman, received four write-in votes. Beverly St. Clair and Dwight Henry each received three, and Gamage received two. Hamlin declined the offer.

Gamage spoke before the Thomaston Board of Selectmen at its Monday, June 11, meeting.

"I saw residents come forward willing to serve on the board, only to get extremely frustrated due to the inability to be heard or feeling of ever making a difference. I, too, felt that way during my term," Gamage said.

He said his intent was not to interfere with the education of Thomaston students. "I just believe we need to have a better voice in how our monies are spent," Gamage said.

He said townspeople, especially people on fixed incomes, are very frustrated with the increase in their taxes because of the amount going toward education.

He also cited concerns that people were moving out of the district for education reasons. He said none of the eighth-graders at the St. George School will be coming to Oceanside High School in the fall. Instead, they are choosing Camden Hills Regional High School or other districts.

St. George Superintendent Mike Felton said June 13 that one incoming freshman out of 21 will be going to Oceanside. He pointed out, however, that St. George has 28 students who will be sophomores, juniors and seniors at Oceanside. St. George has 82 high school students.

"We are impressed with how Oceanside has advocated for our students," Felton said, and praised the academic work being done in the high school.

Gamage suggested the Select Board appoint an ad-hoc committee to study educational opportunities for Thomaston students.

"My statements are not to be pointed at any one individual, as I do believe that our district is on solid ground and our leaders are heading us in the right direction," he said.

When Rivers resigned last year, after only a year on the board, she wrote the following statement to the board: "In parting, I would like to suggest that the Board consider an alternate format for considering ideas and agenda items that are not pre-decided and ready for a vote from the Board. The Board consists of many sharp eyes and minds that are capable of collaborative thinking and decision making. Inviting regularly the bringing of observations to the table, outside of the formal 'Robert Rules,' would help the strength of the Board in moving forward with an even greater spirit of innovation and creativity that is not yet manifested in the current way of doing business. It has been my experience that important topics go unaddressed because there is currently no effective way to introduce or discuss them."

RSU 13 Board Chair Loren Andrews responded Wednesday to Gamage's statement.

"I respect Ron‘s thoughts and feelings, and I fully respect his service to the school district and to the education of our kids. I think we are on a remarkably strong trajectory in our district, and I welcome everybody in their willingness to contribute to that goal. There is no more important job anywhere than growing minds, changing lives. And I feel extremely good about our efforts in doing so in RSU 13," Andrews said.

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