SOUTH THOMASTON, Maine — The town’s representative to the regional school board admitted Wednesday that she removed from a local store a petition that seeks to have the state disband the board.
RSU 13 board member Christine Curtis issued a written statement by email on Wednesday concerning her removal of the petition the previous afternoon from the Keag Store in South Thomaston.
Store owner Pam Paquette said a store employee noticed that the petition had been removed and a review of the store’s surveillance video showed Curtis taking it.
Curtis’ husband, Ervin Curtis, returned the petition Wednesday morning, Paquette said, but someone had written over the top of the front page, “Sign this petition for taxes to be increased.”
It was unclear Wednesday whether Curtis could face legal ramifications for removing the petition.
Curtis said she did not write on the petition and does not know who did.
The Maine Secretary of State does not oversee school board elections or petitions, according to an official at that agency.
And Samantha Warren, communications director for the state Education Department, said Wednesday that the department does not have the authority to disband a board nor to deal with removal of a petition. She said those are local issues.
Regardless, Paquette said Wednesday that she did not think it was proper for the petition to be removed or for it to be altered.
The typed petition states that the people of Knox County have no confidence in the current administration of Regional School Unit 13 or the school board to lead the six member communities through the current turmoil. RSU 13 consists of Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.
“Due to the amount of discord in the operations of the district at the board and administration level we would respectfully request that the Secretary of Education for the state of Maine intervene on behalf of the children of RSU 13 and disband the current board and reorganize the district in a manner that serves to best educate the children of the district,” the petition states.
Eighty-eight people had signed the petition as of Wednesday afternoon.
Curtis said the petition was temporarily removed so she could take a closer look to find out the concerns of town residents. She said the petition was vague and there was no contact information on it, but she denied writing anything on the document.
She said anyone with concerns should contact her.
“I am committed to the best education for our children while being sensitive to RSU 13 residents’ financial situation,” she stated in her email.
Curtis’ term on the RSU 13 board expires next month and she is the only candidate running for the three-year seat.
Heather Willis, who organized the petition drive, said she is shocked that a board member would engage in such a childish act as removing the petition.
She also said that the claim that the petition effort would raise taxes ignores that tax dollars are “going out the window with the current foolishness.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said it was unclear whether Curtis could face legal ramifications for removing the petition or writing on it. Curtis denies writing on the petition.