Nearly 40 parents asked the Gorham School Committee last week to form a committee to review administrative operations at the middle school.

Parents presented a letter with 85 signatures in support of forming the ad hoc committee.

The call to form the committee came after middle school Principal Dennis Duquette withdrew his application for a position as a principal in Cape Elizabeth.

Mark St. Germain, a parent of a middle school student, read the letter to school committee members and Superintendent Ted Sharp. “As happy as we are to hear that Dennis will remain as principal of Gorham Middle School, we remain concerned about the factors that cause Dennis, or any principal, to seek alternative employment after only 21 months on the job,” St. Germain read.

Gorham parents and school officials rallied to persuade Duquette to stay in Gorham after a Cape Elizabeth search committee announced on April 12 that Duquette was one of two finalists at the Cape Elizabeth Middle School.

The parent group requested that the committee be comprised of one school committee member, an administrator from the district, an administrator from the middle school, a teacher, a student and two parents. The letter asked that the school committee consider its request at their meeting on Wednesday, May 11.

Jon Smith, a former school committee member, wanted more parents on the “focus” group. “Having one or two is great. Four, five or six would broaden the process,” Smith said.

“It’s evident that the school committee needs to become more aware of the lingering problems (that go beyond current test scores and budgets) inside the schools,” said Janet Davis.

“As a parent of three children attending schools in this district,” she said, “I do not think it is unrealistic for our community to expect a productive plan of action to immediately begin cleaning up the persistent problems, which have dogged our middle school climate for a number of years,” Davis said.

David Daigler, who served on the search committee that brought Duquette to Gorham, said that it’s “crystal clear” that Duquette is the right man for the job. “The news that Dennis would consider leaving reigned fear in our hearts. And, like a mild heart attack, served as a wake-up call that there are still changes that need to be made, that there is a lot of work to be done. And clearly Dennis needs our support,” Daigler said.

Duquette became principal at the new Gorham Middle School when it opened in the fall of 2003. It replaced the Shaw Junior High School.

Parents have said Duquette recognizes students, recalls names of parents when they go to the school and attends most student activities after school. His personal interest in current and former students and their parents has led to his popularity.

Donna Foster said that until Duquette became principal her daughter didn’t want to return to school and asked to be taught at home. “Since Dennis took over, the whole attitude of the school has changed. My daughter finished at the middle school loving school again,” Foster said.

John Strout, who has two children in the middle school, appreciated the combined effort to keep Duquette in Gorham. “Thank you for the work that’s been done to keep Dennis,” Strout told Sharp and the school committee.

Some parents, who were planning a middle school student trip to Washington D.C., were unable to attend Wednesday’s school committee meeting. Signatures for the letter presented on Wednesday were gathered quickly. The letter was drafted the day before the special meeting.

Dennis Duquette

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