December 07, 2019
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LePage should appoint permanent education chief, say superintendents

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage

The organization representing Maine’s school superintendents says Gov. Paul LePage should pick a permanent education commissioner.

According to a letter from the Maine School Superintendents Association, the department suffers from a lack of leadership, creating confusion among the agency’s staff.

The Maine Department of Education has not had a permanent education commissioner since Jim Rier left the agency late in 2014 for health reasons. And the governor’s pick for the job, Bill Beardsley, has been ensnared in the governor’s dispute with the Legislature, which confirms agency chiefs.

LePage has attempted to circumvent the Legislature to keep Beardsley at the helm. But doing so has required a number of title swaps that have given Beardsley limited power to carry out his duties.

In May, the juggling resulted in a missed deadline to implement two new rules, one detailing how students are identified for special education services and another for immunization requirements for schoolchildren. Both rules lapsed because Beardsley was not authorized to sign them.

The Maine School Superintendents Association says uncertainty of Beardsley’s position has created “instability” among Department of Education staffers and diminished the stature of the commissioner’s position.

In a June 30 letter to the governor, the new president for the organization, Steven Bailey, said that superintendents depend on the education department for guidance and information. With the leadership void, Bailey said school leaders are struggling to obtain guidance from the agency on a range of important issues, including compliance with state and federal rules, distribution of education funding and student transfers.

The LePage administration did not respond to a request for comment.

The governor has said that he plans to keep Beardsley in place through the duration of his term. He withdrew the former Husson University president from the confirmation process earlier this year when some Democrats signaled that they wouldn’t support him.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

 



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