Deadline looms for decision on Rockland-area superintendent’s contract

Posted Dec. 30, 2013, at 3:02 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Superintendent Lew Collins’ future with Regional School Unit 13 remains uncertain as the deadline to renew his contract is set to expire Tuesday night.

But both he and the chairwoman of the Rockland-area school board said an announcement is expected in the next day or two.

The board has yet to vote on a contract extension. Collins’ contract expires June 30, 2014, and state law calls for a decision by the end of the day Tuesday.

“The school board shall elect, by majority vote of the full membership, the superintendent. The school board, upon notification by the commissioner, shall meet no later than December 31st of the year preceding the expiration of the superintendent’s contract, at a day and place determined by the chair of the school board,” according to state law.

Board Chairwoman Esther “Tess” Kilgour said Sunday that she would have something to say on New Year’s Day, which is Wednesday. She would not elaborate.

Other board members referred questions to Kilgour.

Collins declined to comment earlier this month when asked if he had informed the board that he does not want his contract extended past its June 30 expiration date. On Monday, he said “I’ll be able to provide information on my status by tomorrow.”

Collins was hired unanimously by the board in July 2012. He had been superintendent for the Vinalhaven school system at the time of that hiring.

The superintendent has been under fire from teachers and administrators since October. In November, the teachers association said it had no confidence in the superintendent and a change was needed. The superintendent has countered that the criticism results from his efforts to hold teachers and administrators accountable.

In addition, the superintendent placed Business Manager Scott Vaitones on paid leave on Nov. 14. Vaitones has said that the action was in retaliation for him pointing out to the board that the superintendent had hired special education staff that was not budgeted. The district’s auditor told the board in November that there were no overruns in special education but that the school lunch program was running a significant deficit.

Vaitones said Monday that a disciplinary hearing before the school board — to act on the superintendent’s recommendation that Vaitones be fired — is scheduled for Jan. 21 and 22. Vaitones said he will fight the attempt to fire him.

His contract runs through June 2015.

The board met briefly with Collins in a closed-door session on Dec. 5 but removed his contract renewal from the agenda without explanation. The board then met Dec. 12 with its attorney, again saying nothing after the meeting.

When Collins was hired, he said he considers his main strength to be his ability to work with people in a system including the staff, administrative team, board and community.

“I want everyone to keep their eye on the prize,” which is the education of the students,” Collins stressed in a July 2012 interview.

Since then the district has had to deal with reduced state aid that led to budget cuts, attempts to consolidate schools, and the possible withdrawal of St. George from the district.

RSU 13 consists of Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston, and Cushing.

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