June 20, 2018
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School committee endorses sanctions, blames Madawaska Education Association for former superintendent’s resignation

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

MADAWASKA, Maine — In a largely symbolic move, the Madawaska School Committee Wednesday night publicly endorsed sanctions against the teachers’ association over actions committee members contend led to last week’s resignation of the superintendent.

According to committee co-chair Yves Dube, following an executive session during Wednesday’s meeting he asked fellow committee members to stand in support of “Affirming that [Superintendent Terry Wood] resigned because of harassment and unprincipled actions deliberately produced by the Madawaska Education Association [and] publically sanction the MEA for those actions.”

All five Madawaska committee members and two members representing the Grand Isle School Department, which tuitions 50 students to Madawaska, stood in support of Dube’s allegations.

Wood tendered her resignation last week and the school committee accepted the resignation by a vote of 3-2 Wednesday night.

On Thursday, Roger Thibodeau, school committee co-chair declined to comment on the committee’s actions, other than to say it stemmed from discussions held in executive session and was “symbolic.”

Responding via email on Thursday, Wood declined to comment on the specifics of Wednesday night’s meeting, saying, “I do not wish to comment on any aspect regarding the actions of the association during my tenure. I believe that as a school committee, along with the association, we have accomplished many positive and important tasks.”

For his part, Dube did not hesitate to lay much of the blame for Wood’s resignation at the feet of the teachers’ association.

“She had grown tired of all the persistent resistance that came from the Madawaska Teachers’ Association who bully-ragged her every step of the way and who, by well-crafted and oppressive committee tactics, created the never-ending conditions which threatened her career,” Dube said he told the board Wednesday.

In her letter of resignation, Wood cited “personal reasons” behind her resignation from the post she has held since July 2011.

On Thursday, Dube did not go into specifics on tactics he alleges the association used, but did accuse its membres of “deftly utilizing the various media channels to air the injustices they claim to have suffered as they simultaneously continue to tyrannize behind the scenes.”

Also on Thursday, Madawaska Teachers’ Association co-chair Bonnie Tingley referred requests for comment to a statement posted on the association’s web page in response to Dube’s allegations and the board’s subsequent action.

“Last night’s claims were out of line, but if it makes the committee feel better to blame the association for the superintendent’s resignation rather than place it where it belongs, we have broad shoulders,” the statement read. “Despite last night’s show of anger and frustration by the school committee, we — the faculty and staff of the Madawaska School Department — are all still here and the committee is as well, [and] the association, on behalf of its members, trusts tempers will cool and the new school year will begin on a high note as we all focus on what is most important: our students and their learning.”

That last sentiment is one shared by Dube and, he said, the entire school committee.

“Last night we stood as one body,” Dube said on Thursday. “We stood to show there is a need for change [and] seven people can’t be wrong.”

Dube said it is his hope the sanctions, which he agrees have no enforceable standing, will open the door for productive dialog among all parties concerned with educating Madawaska students.

“There needs to be discussions between the school committee and the [Madawaska Education Association],” he said, but added members of the association must first reevaluate their roles.

“I believe there is a misplaced feeling within the association that they are in charge,” Dube said. “That is not how it is, the superintendent and the school committee are in charge, [and] we have to be the stewards of education in this town and at the same time have to watch out how many taxpayer dollars we spend.”

Budgetary issues, Dube said, have been at the forefront for the school committee and the association for more than a year now.

Failure to incorporate voter-mandated cuts into the school budget last year left administrators, teachers and school committee members amending and re-amending the budget before it was finally approved by residents in January.

More than 20 percent of the 43-member faculty was eliminated as the community faced heavy tax revenue losses because of property tax abatements granted to Twin Rivers Paper Co.

Work immediately began in January but has yet to be completed on the current budget for the fiscal year which started July 1.

Wood, according to Dube, came on as superintendent in the midst of those budget cuts.

“I was hired to make decisions that at times were very difficult for all stakeholders,” Wood said via her email response on Thursday. “My focus has always been on the students and if I have based all of my decisions on what was actually best for students, then I made the right decisions whether or not they were acceptable to some of the stakeholders involved.”

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