While the Regional School Unit 23 Board of Directors has determined that school employees in the district cannot serve on the board, state law takes a more ambiguous stance.

The question of whether Saco Mayor Ron Michaud, a help desk employee at Thornton Academy, can represent Saco on the school board came up in August when Michaud submitted his nomination paper to run for a seat in the Nov. 8 election.

The school board consists of four residents from Saco, two from Old Orchard Beach and one from Dayton. Those members represent all three communities in the district.

Michaud says he cleared his decision earlier this year with then-Superintendent Mike Lafortune, but some members of the board are calling it a conflict of interest.

“The school board policy made it very clear that it is not in the best interest of the citizens or the institutes to intermingle TA staff with our school board,” said Superintendent Patrick Phillips.

Despite the school board’s policy, Phillips said, it cannot override state law.

State law clearly prohibits public school employees and their spouses from serving on a school board, said Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin. But the law refers only to “school unions” in prohibiting private school employees.

Thornton Academy is a private school that serves students from RSU 23.

Phillips anticipates that the ambiguity will prompt school officials to advocate changing the law to include all school districts.

“It’s just not a clear-cut situation,” Phillips said, because the law could be read as specific to school unions or “one person might look at the law and say this is clearly the attempt to avoid this type of situation.”

Meanwhile, Michaud said he is still waiting for a legal opinion from the district’s attorney to bring to his personal attorney for review.

“I know they passed a policy, but I’m not willing to accept a policy as an adequate determination to run or not,” Michaud said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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