February 28, 2013

Fate of Bonny Eagle principal rests with board vote

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BUXTON — The principal of Bonny Eagle High School would have to persuade the district's school board to reverse its vote against renewing her contract if she wants to keep her job after June.

The School Administrative District 6 board voted unanimously Tuesday to let Beth Schultz go when her current two-year contract expires June 30.

Superintendent Frank Sherburne told the board Tuesday that he lacked confidence in Schultz's ability to lead the school and had concerns about "accountability, employee matters, staff evaluations and trust," according to the minutes of the meeting.

Schultz, the high school principal since 2008, waived her right to a confidential hearing and asked to have her contract discussed in public. She told the board that several improvements had been made at the high school under her leadership, including changes to assessment, alternative and special education programs and the school schedule, the minutes said.

Schultz's attorney, Howard Reben of Portland, said she has 15 days to request that the school board provide reasons for not renewing her contract. From the time the board responds to her request, it has 30 days to hold a public hearing on the matter, Reben said.

Schultz said at the meeting that a hearing would give her the chance "to set the record straight," according to the minutes, but Reben said he does not know yet whether she will request to have the decision reviewed.

Schultz did not respond Thursday to requests for comment made by phone and email.

Several board members reached Thursday declined to comment on the vote, citing confidentiality or deferring to school board Chairman Larry Miller, who would not comment except to provide procedural information.

One board member, Paul Arsenault, recused himself from the vote. He did not respond to an emailed request Thursday to explain why. Another board member, Rebecca Bowley, was absent from the meeting.

Reben said there is little Schultz can do about the non-renewal other than try to persuade the board to reverse its vote.

He said a "non-renewal" is usually used to get rid of someone who "has done something terrible." That wasn't the case with Schultz, he said, and if the board can vote against renewing her contract, it can do the same to other employees.

"You're sending a message that there's no job security at Bonny Eagle," Reben said.

More than 50 people, including teachers, attended the meeting Tuesday at the district's central office in Buxton, said Miller.

Jim Moses, now an assistant principal at Deering High School in Portland, attended the meeting to support Schultz, whom he worked with closely several years ago when he was Bonny Eagle High School's alternative education director.

"In my time there, Beth was supportive of her staff, she was extremely committed to students," Moses said Thursday. "She was someone who went to work every day with the intention to do her very best."

Sherburne wouldn't comment Thursday on his recommendation to the board, saying it's a personnel matter and that Schultz' waiver of her right to confidentiality applied only to discussion at the meeting.

The Saco Valley Teachers Association "does not feel it is its place to comment" on contracts for administrators, said president Neal Flynn, when asked how teachers feel about Schultz as a principal and about the board's decision.

"The number of teachers present at Tuesday's meeting should be an indication of the way teachers feel," he said.

Bonny Eagle High is located in Standish, and also serves the towns of Buxton, Limington, Hollis and Frye Island.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4:28 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 to clarify that Schultz has been principal since 2008 – not for six years, as was previously stated.

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