May 2, 2013

Legislature OKs allowing local boards to set superintendent residency rules

By Gillian Graham
Staff Writer

A bill that would allow local school boards to decide if superintendents are required live in the same town where they work was passed by the Legislature this week, but it is unclear if the governor will support the measure.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Alan Casavant of Biddeford, allows school boards, rather than municipal charters, to set residency requirements. Officials in Augusta and Biddeford say the flexibility is needed to ensure school districts can attract qualified superintendents who might not want to relocate to a city.

Gov. Paul LePage has 10 days to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to take effect without his signature. Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s press secretary, said Thursday she is not sure what LePage will do with the bill.

“He’ll be taking a look at it very soon,” she said.

Casavant, who also is mayor of Biddeford and chairman of the city’s school board, proposed the bill after residents rejected a charter change that would have ended a requirement that the superintendent move to the city within six months of being hired. Current superintendent Jeremy Ray, who was hired last year, lives in Saco, but the school board gave him until December to move to Biddeford.

Casavant said Ray would likely resign if the requirement is not lifted.

The bill originally would have eliminated residency requirements for superintendents altogether, but was changed to preserve home rule, Casavant said.

“It’s the perfect marriage of opposing needs,” Casavant said. “Now I hope the governor also sees the wisdom in the bill.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Augusta Republicans Sen. Roger Katz, Rep. Matt Pouliot and Rep. Corey Wilson. City officials would like to hire the interim superintendent, but he lives in nearby Gardiner.

Casavant said requirements that superintendents live in the municipalities where they work puts cities like Biddeford and Augusta at a “huge disadvantage” as they try to attract qualified superintendents. Many candidates don’t want to uproot their families or scramble to sell their houses, he said.

“If you want to attract young, dynamic superintendents, that (residency requirement) is an obstacle,” Casavant said.

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