– By DAVID HENCH

Staff Writer

Brunswick school Superintendent Paul Perzanoski has apologized, not for his rebuke of Gov. Paul LePage’s education policies and comments, but for putting it in a back-to-school letter.

Perzanoski issued a statement, dated Tuesday, in which he apologized to the community and the governor for using the letter to voice his criticism.

“The right to express myself appears to be a different issue than the forum used to do it,” he wrote. “Support of public education and the staff that work within it will be voiced through personal letters, appearances and my professional organizations.”

Perzanoski, who could not be reached Wednesday night, said in his statement that he stands by the message he sent to the staff Aug. 17 and statements he gave in interviews afterward: that public education has been unfairly maligned by critics, including the governor, whose goal is to divert public dollars to private and religious schools.

The apology was welcomed by Brunswick’s school board chairman Wednesday as a step toward easing the political tension the letter created.

“I think the superintendent took a great step forward for issuing his apology for the forum that was used,” said board Chairman James Grant. “We want to make sure the Brunswick School Department and all its employees have the utmost in professionalism, and I think he demonstrated that with his apology.”

Grant said he spoke with Perzanoski several times in the past week about his back-to-school letter, which the superintendent wrote without consulting with the board. Grant would not say whether he discussed the substance of the apology with Perzanoski.

The board has not discussed Perzanoski’s letter or apology, Grant said, and is not scheduled to meet until Sept. 12.

Grant said he does not know if the issue will be discussed at that meeting. He said that if there were any potential for discipline, he could not discuss it because it would be a personnel matter.

The issue arose after Perzanoski wrote in his back-to-school letter, “Remediation is on the governor’s mind and I agree, he needs remediation in civility, public speaking, telling the truth, diplomacy and following the law. … I think we should challenge him to take the SAT and then make the results public.”

Asked last week about the tenor of that message, Perzanoski said: “There comes a time when you have to stand up and say enough is enough. Our educators work harder now than they ever had before, and their reward for it is additional unfunded mandates and then political bashing.”

Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for the governor, said at the time that Perzanoski’s comments were inappropriate and “defamatory.” She said a back-to-school letter to employees, funded with tax dollars, should focus on improving education rather than attacking the governor.

She could not be reached Wednesday evening for comment.

Some members of Brunswick’s school board, which hires the superintendent and sets school policy, have expressed support for Perzanoski, as have members of his staff and superintendents in other districts.

But some people in the community objected to the tone and manner of the criticism.

“I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback, on both sides of the issue,” Grant said. “More people than not, regardless of their political persuasion, were more concerned about the venue in which he delivered his message.”

Grant said Perzanoski has not backed down from his position, only apologized for injecting it into the academic setting.

Asked whether the superintendent’s criticisms could have implications for the district’s relationship with Augusta, Grant said he hopes not.

“We always try to work with Augusta, both the executive and legislative branch,” Grant said. “They control the purse strings and we want to foster good relations with the state.”

In the statement he issued Tuesday, Perzanoski noted that many superintendents will be welcoming educators back to work this week and expressed concern about the various challenges facing public education.

“Some of the topics will probably be improving student achievement, bullying, public education bashing, staff morale, charter schools and the restraint/seclusion mandate,” he wrote. “One school department will be dealing with a $350,000-$500,000 deficit to pay for students to attend charter schools.”

But those statements aren’t likely to get much attention because the media won’t be in the schools, he said. By putting his concerns in writing, he distributed them beyond the school community.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]