Milford school committee calls special meeting on principal, trip

Posted Jan. 21, 2013, at 9:02 p.m.

MILFORD, Maine — The Milford School Committee has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday to address business that cannot wait until its next regular meeting.

The time-sensitive matters that prompted Tuesday’s meeting, which will take place at Dr. Lewis S. Libby School, are the acceptance of Principal James Friel’s resignation, the appointment of an interim principal, and approval of an overnight trip to Sugarloaf for the Special Olympics, Superintendent Nancy Weed said Monday.

Friel resigned effective Jan. 18, according to Weed and committee Chairman Gary Drinkwater. While Drinkwater had not yet seen Friel’s resignation letter, Weed said Friel left the school for health reasons. The school committee is expected to name an interim principal during Tuesday’s meeting.

Weed said that the Special Olympics trip also needs to be addressed because the State Winter Games are set for Jan. 27-29 and the committee’s next regular meeting is not scheduled to take place until Feb. 14.

Two other items, one of them a personnel matter and the other a legal matter, will be discussed in executive session, according to the meeting agenda.

An item that is not on Tuesday’s agenda is public comment. Drinkwater said last week that the period set aside for public comment during committee meetings has been suspended for the foreseeable future. In another change, arrangements have been made to have a Penobscot County sheriff’s deputy on hand to handle any instances of disorderly conduct that might arise.

That’s because relations between the school committee majority and a group of parents and educators dissatisfied with the way the local School Department is being run recently began heating up for the second time in three years.

The most recent flareup occurred earlier this month when Weed, Drinkwater and Vice Chairman Michael Bond walked out of the Jan. 10 school committee meeting after a committee member made a disparaging remark about the superintendent.

Though Weed and Drinkwater have declined to get into the specifics of what was said, several people who were at the meeting said the remark involved the status of a Rosetta Stone foreign language education computer program that board members agreed to order last month.

The next day, seven residents who are part of the disgruntled parent-teacher group began the process of initiating a recall petition aimed at Drinkwater and Bond.

Drinkwater said Monday that while the local school has a great deal going for it, there is a lot of work to be done.

Weed agreed, adding that the school committee recently adopted a mission and vision statement and soon will begin work on a five-year strategic plan.

Drinkwater said Monday that the feuding is not helping the community attain its education goals.

“You can’t have people [publicly] denigrating administrators and other employees. What do we accomplish when we do stuff like that. We’re destroying ourselves from within,” Drinkwater said Monday.

“If people are going to be disruptive, we’ll adjourn the meeting and nothing will get done,” he said.

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