Rockland area school board spars over closed-door meeting after teachers report low confidence in superintendent

Posted Oct. 18, 2013, at 4 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 18, 2013, at 4:19 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The school board chairwoman and vice chairman of the Regional School Unit 13 sparred Thursday night over who was in charge and why the group needed to go into executive session.

Prior to the meeting, sources said the closed-door session had been requested by board Vice Chairman Loren Andrews to discuss concerns about low staff morale, possibly linked to the superintendent’s management style.

Thursday’s meeting began with Andrews taking the gavel and making a motion to go into executive session to discuss a personnel issue.

Chairwoman Esther “Tess” Kilgour, however, said she was chairwoman and that she would run the meeting. She then made a motion to go into a closed session to receive advice from the school district’s lawyer.

Andrews objected saying he had called the meeting and that it was publicized to discuss a personnel matter.

Kilgour said she noted his objection but insisted that the meeting would be to get legal advice. Andrews persisted and said that Kilgour was violating board policy since a different matter was being voted on than what was on the agenda.

“Can we stop this conversation,” Kilgour said before taking the vote on her motion.

The vote was 10-2 to go into the closed meeting with attorney Dan Rose. Andrews, a Cushing school board representative and Carol Bachofner, a Rockland board representative, voted against the chairwoman’s motion.

On Friday, Andrews referred all questions about the meeting to Kilgour. A telephone message left for Kilgour was not immediately returned.

After a telephone message was left Friday with Superintendent Lew Collins, he responded in an email that a news release about the meeting would be sent out next week.

Sources on Thursday had told the Bangor Daily News that low staff morale was linked to the superintendent. A survey done by the RSU 13 teachers association last week found that 118 teachers of 135 responding did not have confidence in the superintendent’s ability to move RSU 13 forward. Results also showed that 112 teachers said they did not believe they could voice their concerns to the central office administration without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

The board chairwoman and vice chairman also had received a letter dated Oct. 7 from 10 administrators who said they had concerns about communication, shared leadership and decision making, differentiation between schools, communities and building leaders, school board micro-management, a lack of cohesion in the administrative team, transparency and accountability (the budget process being a prime example), staff morale and support — maintaining a positive school district culture and climate, and good-faith interpretations of existing negotiated agreements.

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