Commissioner to review superintendent firing

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 30, 2009, at 7:59 p.m.

HOLDEN, Maine — Education Commissioner Susan Gendron has decided to hold a December termination hearing for former SAD 63 superintendent Louise Regan, who was fired by the district in July 2008 after a report of an investigation into her conduct was released.

Gendron first was asked by SAD 63 officials to hold the termination hearing in March 2008, but declined to do so at that time stating she wanted to wait and see results of the multiple-count lawsuit Regan filed against the district and several board members in late 2007.

Board members of SAD 63 asked the commissioner again to review the termination in May of this year, and in early November appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in Portland to have her do so.

“[Gendron] has decided to hear the hearing and she scheduled it for Augusta on Dec. 21 and 22,” Ray Hart, SAD 63 interim superintendent, said Monday.

The commissioner will determine whether there was cause for Regan’s termination, whether she was given the proper notice and was investigated, and whether a majority of the school board voted to fire her.

“No other issues will be considered,” Hart said.

State laws allow school boards to terminate a superintendent based on those criteria only. The discharge of superintendents law also states, “The superintendent may appeal the school board’s decision to the commissioner. The commissioner shall hold a hearing as part of the appeal.”

In a Nov. 17 letter to the legal council for the district and Regan, Gendron said she learned during the Nov. 9 Law Court arguments that “Regan did not believe that the administrative hearing … would be duplicative” of the court proceedings, and therefore decided to move forward with the hearing.

As part of the process, Gendron will hold a telephone conference call prehearing Dec. 15.

“If there are issues to be resolved after the prehearing conference, an evidentiary hearing will be held at the Department of Education on Dec. 21st and 22nd,” Gendron’s letter states.

The termination hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on both days.

Regan is suing the district and five of the eight board members on the panel who allowed one board member to read a “letter of concern” regarding her actions surrounding previously recorded meeting tapes.

Regan claims defamation and violation of her rights related to actions taken at the Oct. 22, 2007 school board meeting, and the subsequent investigation into her conduct and her firing.

The original lawsuit was filed in Penobscot County Superior Court but was moved in June 2008 to U.S. District Court. U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk in May 2009 recommended a summary judgment in favor of the SAD 63 board on one federal claim in the lawsuit filed by Regan and referred the other counts back to Superior Court. Since then, Regan’s attorney has added two additional counts.

In her May 12 recommendation Kravchuk says Regan’s claim that she did not receive adequate notice about the board’s intention to investigate and possibly fire her “lacks merit.” She also states that investigative findings show “that Regan’s own misconduct or lack of care was the source of the controversy over the handling of tape recordings and … that she had contacted the police to report a ‘theft’ after consulting with her ‘personal’ attorney.”

In her recommendation, Kravchuk said that “the ultimate decision maker is the Commissioner of Education, who did not preside over the underlying investigation and discharge proceeding” and can “consider factual and disciplinary matters afresh.”

Regan was placed on administrative leave in April 2008 and was fired in July 2008 after an investigation into her conduct was released.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/11/30/news/bangor/commissioner-to-review-superintendent-firing/ printed on July 24, 2014