A board member for School Administrative District 6 in Buxton has resigned, claiming the hiring process for a new superintendent was not sufficiently transparent or thorough.

At its meeting Monday night, the SAD 6 Board of Directors approved interim Superintendent Paul Penna for the vacant post. His predecessor, Frank Sherburne, resigned last year under pressure for violating the district’s nepotism policy by hiring his son.

Also on Monday, the board accepted a resignation letter from Phil Pomerleau of Standish. Pomerleau won his seat on the school board last summer, but he stopped attending meetings in the fall. In his resignation letter dated Feb. 27, Pomerleau suggested the board members who worked with Sherburne had long ago decided who would be hired as superintendent.

“I wish the best for Superintendent Paul Penna,” Pomerleau wrote. “My main reason for resigning is due to the fact that the Sherburne veterans continue to deceive the public and the new school board members, because we all know that ‘the train left the station’ in November for the new superintendent search.”

ONLY INTERNAL CANDIDATES

Sherburne resigned in May. Lester Harmon, the board’s chairman, said the search committee for his replacement included a parent, two students, six board members, a representative from each of the three collective bargaining units, a business owner and a municipal officer. Assistant Superintendent Michael Roy then served as the interim superintendent until Penna took over the job in August.

In November, the board hired the Maine School Management Association to begin a formal search. Harmon estimated the district would pay the organization between $3,000 and $3,500 by the time the final invoices are received. During workshops, Harmon said the board decided to seek only internal candidates to “maintain continuity.”

“The board determined that we had multiple outstanding educators that were currently qualified and certified within our district,” he wrote in an email.

One person – Penna – applied for the job. He was unanimously approved by both the search committee and the board of directors.

“We are pleased to have Paul Penna continuing in the position of superintendent of MSAD 6 schools. He has brought positive energy to the role of interim superintendent and we look forward to working with him in his permanent role,” Harmon said in a press release after the vote.

Penna previously worked as the principal of Bonny Eagle High School. He has also worked as a police officer in South Portland, as a guidance counselor at Oxford Hills Junior High School and Portland High School, and as an assistant principal at Portland High School.

SEARCH A WASTE OF MONEY?

“At the end of the day, I’ve lived my professional career working to change the climate and culture of schools to make it better for students,” Penna said Tuesday. “Now I find myself part of a team to influence that.”

In his new role, Penna said he hopes to keep communication open and to continue implementing proficiency-based learning standards. He praised the staff for its response to last year’s controversy.

“We felt that it was a difficult situation, but you can’t just give up on what’s happening,” Penna said. “If you want something to be better, you have to jump in and contribute. As a group, the administrators got together and said we’ve got to pull together. We had to move forward for the future.”

Pomerleau, who previously served as a town councilor, said he respects Penna and doesn’t begrudge him the job. Rather, he said the board made the public believe the search was broader than it was.

“Paul Penna is a nice guy,” Pomerleau said in an interview. “In a field of candidates, he might have got it anyway. But there was never a field of candidates. The search committee and the survey and all this dancing they’ve been doing, they had a candidate the whole time. They wasted a ton of money and a ton of time.”

PENNA PRAISED IN POLL

As part of its search, the board circulated a survey to determine what the community wanted from its next superintendent. A majority of the 458 anonymous responses came from parents and employees.

Several people asked for a candidate with history in the district, and even mentioned Penna by name.

“I feel like the ability to rebuild trust among staff, administration and community is the primary role,” one commenter wrote. “I have been very happy with Mr. Penna’s work in this line. He values staff, understands how schools work, prioritizes what is best for students and is positive in his communications.” A smaller number suggested the district hire someone with outside experience.

“The board did the students of SAD 6 an injustice by not going outside the district to look for a superintendent,” one said.

SAD 6 includes the towns of Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island. With about 4,000 students and more than 600 employees, the district is the fourth largest in Maine.

Penna earned $106,196 as the head of Bonny Eagle High School. As interim superintendent, his salary was $128,000. At the time of Sherburne’s resignation, the superintendent’s salary was $122,000.

Penna’s pay as the permanent superintendent will be negotiated and approved by the board March 20, and his official tenure as superintendent will start the next day.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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Twitter: megan_e_doyle