MADAWASKA, Maine — The political and budgetary landscape continues to shift in Madawaska with the resignation of two members of the school committee and the hiring of a former school department employee to temporarily fill the recently vacated superintendent’s position.
Former school committee chairman and current vice chairman Yves Dube tendered his resignation on Aug. 15, followed by committee member Walter Desrosier on Aug. 16, according to Roger Thibodeau, committee chairman.
“Both said it was for ‘personal reasons,’” Thibodeau said on Tuesday. “Both submitted their resignations by email [and] I have not spoken to either one since then.”
Late in the day Tuesday, Dube said his resignation was prompted by what he described as “division” among committee members.
“I felt it was best for me to leave because I did not want to create any more issues with the differences we had with each other,” he said. “I needed to step out.”
Dube credited former Superintendent Terry Wood with keeping the school committee moving forward and working together, despite any differences among its members.
“While Terry was there, she held things in a delicate balance,” Dube said.
Attempts to contact Desrosier were not immediately successful Tuesday.
The remaining three members, Thibodeau said, are in search of replacements to fill the vacant seats until regular elections next June.
Meanwhile, the reduced board — which still constitutes a quorum if all three members show up — on Monday hired former teacher and administrator Ginette Albert as interim superintendent.
“She started in that position effective yesterday,” Thibodeau said Tuesday, adding Albert indicated she can give the School Department three months.
“She will stay until December,” Thibodeau said. “Within three months, I hope we can have someone lined up to hire full time.”
Albert replaces former Superintendent Wood, who tendered her resignation last month and worked her last day on Friday, Aug. 16.
At its Aug. 7 meeting, the school committee endorsed a sanction against the Madawaska Education Association, blaming members of that teachers union for creating the environment that led to Wood’s resignation.
Albert’s appointment was welcomed by the co-president of the teachers’ association.
“She is a lifetime educator and I welcome her knowledge and experience,” Bonnie Tingley said late Tuesday afternoon. “She is a fine leader.”
The priority for the interim superintendent, Thibodeau said Tuesday, is preparing a budget proposal for this fiscal year.
Albert was doing just that Tuesday morning.
“Mrs. Wood left and the budget has yet to be passed,” Albert said. “The school committee decided to ask me to step in since I have been here for decades, [and] we need to right this ship and get this budget passed.”
The community has faced heavy tax revenue losses in recent years because of property tax abatements granted to Twin Rivers Paper Co., causing residents to seek major cuts from both school and municipal administrators.
Efforts to make the voter-mandated cuts in the school budget dragged on into January last year before it was finally approved more than six months after the fiscal year started.
The equivalent of 12 full-time teaching and staff positions — more than 20 percent of the faculty — were eliminated in the process, though the positions were funded through the end of the school year.
Over the summer, the retirement of three teachers decreased the number of faculty members who were fired.
Work also immediately began in January but has yet to be completed on the budget for this fiscal year, which started July 1.
“I am working on a budget right now,” Albert said. “I’ve been looking at the numbers for a couple of days to see what we can do and what I can find.”
The school committee will meet and get its first look at what Albert has found at 4 p.m. Thursday.
“I know we are down two committee members and they resigned, [and] that was their prerogative,” Albert said. “I am hopeful we will move forward.”
Albert retired as principal of the Madawaska Elementary School at the end of the last school year. She has been with the Madawaska School Department for 25 years, working at different times as a classroom teacher, literacy specialist, curriculum coordinator and principal.