Officials and employees’ unions in School Administrative District 6 issued a letter to the community Monday stating their intention to work together and move past allegations about the superintendent that were made public last week.
“We all admit this has been a very difficult situation and want to move beyond it,” said the letter signed by the superintendent, the school board chairwoman, the president of the teachers’ union and the president of the support staff’s union.
The school board and the teacher’s union for the Buxton-based Bonny Eagle school district clashed last week after the Portland Press Herald reported allegations made by the union in May. The Saco Valley Teachers’ Association sent a letter to the school board accusing Superintendent Frank Sherburne of getting overly involved with the case management of a student, communicating with him improperly and causing a delay in providing the boy mental health care.
The allegations were quietly investigated and dismissed by the school board at the time, but they fueled rumors about the superintendent’s conduct that circulated in the community for months. Sherburne even began posting his appointments schedule online last month to allay speculation that he was on administrative leave.
Publication of the allegations last week led to a public clash between the school district and the teachers’ union. In an open letter to the community, school board Chairwoman Charlotte Dufresne accused the union of being resistant to change. The union said that statement had no basis and showed “a complete lack of support and respect” for teachers.
The administration and the union met Monday morning before sending out the joint letter, said the district’s attorney, Peter Felmly of Drummond Woodsum.
The letter said the school board “acknowledges the hard work of its teachers, the efforts they have made to create change and to build better learning experiences for our students.”
It said that the leaders of the district and the unions have “agreed to remain professional and to respect each other in our work together,” and that the letter was sent “as a collaborative effort to put an end to the issues that have embroiled the District over the past week.”
Contract negotiations between the unions and the administration are due to begin soon.
The letter also said the parties will now comment about the allegations and their aftermath only in joint interviews.
After the letter was issued, Sherburne referred a question about the issue to the district’s attorney, while a union official did not return a telephone call.
The conflict stems from a complaint made by staff members through their union last spring. The union said in a letter to the school board that Sherburne made himself “available via phone, text and email” to a student, that he said the student “was engaging in suicidal behavior ‘for attention,’ ” and that he told the student that if he “went to Spring Harbor (Hospital) they ‘will strip you down and put a catheter in your penis.’ ”
The allegations prompted an investigation by the Portland law firm Pierce Atwood, which cleared Sherburne of misconduct, according to Dufresne.
The Press Herald obtained the complaint letter from a former district employee last week, after Sherburne and Dufresne acknowledged that there had been an investigation.
The district has said it will not release the investigative report because it is confidential employee information under state law.
The joint letter Monday said the teachers’ union did not release the complaint letter to the newspaper and that “it was not appropriate to give to the paper or for the paper to publish.”
Communications to and from public officials, with some exceptions, are public records.
Sherburne first made it public that rumors about him were circulating when he sent a letter to parents on Sept. 26. It said he would post his daily appointments schedule on the district’s website to end speculation that he was on administrative leave, a rumor that had come up three times since August on days he was out of the district.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: