BUXTON – The School Administrative District 6 school board voted unanimously Tuesday night not to renew the contract of Beth Schultz, principal of Bonny Eagle High School since 2008.

Shultz will be allowed to continue in her role as principal until her contract expires June 30. The board must now send Schultz a formal letter detailing why they chose not to renew her contract. Schultz will have 15 days from receipt of the letter to file for an appeal.

“I will be filing an appeal,” said Schultz, who was an assistant principal at the school for two years before moving into the top job. “I just love this school and community.”

Though the school board declined to comment on why Schultz was terminated, her dismissal was precipitated by Superintendent Frank Sherburne, who said several times during a hearing Tuesday that Schultz is an ineffective leader who leans too heavily on his advice when making decisions.

Schultz was represented by her lawyer at the meeting, which was held in the conference room at the SAD 6 central office. The room was filled with about 50 teachers, secretaries and parents who supported the principal in what ended up to be a fruitless effort to save her job.

“I am here to support Beth,” said Brooks Clark, a teacher who has been at the high school for 22 years. “I have enjoyed all four principals in my time here, Beth especially. She has been supportive of staff and fair with kids. She is particularly passionate about supporting and encouraging students at high risk.”

Jim Moses, a former Bonny Eagle educator who now teaches in Portland, was also there to show support.

“I spent 31 years at Bonny Eagle and three with Beth,” said Moses. “I thought Beth did a great job and I think she is still doing a great job. She was always very helpful. She has a core philosophy that you don’t run an organization by intimidation and fear, but by working together as a whole.”

On Feb. 5, Schultz was notified via email that Sherburne would be asking the school board at a special meeting for a non-renewal of Shultz’s contract.

“I love Bonny Eagle. I love working here,” said Schultz during Tuesday night’s meeting. “I have put my heart and soul into this school and done a lot and I want to keep doing what I have been doing. I think my record shows that I am a hard worker and a conscientious leader.”

At the start of the meeting, the school board immediately went into executive session to discuss the matter, a move that is customary regarding personnel matters. While the board was in executive session, Schultz addressed the crowd.

“It really means the world to me that you would come out tonight to support me,” said Schultz. “Thank you.”

Schultz’s lawyer, Howard Reben, of Reben, Benjamin and March in Portland, also addressed the standing-room-only audience.

“Your presence here is extremely important,” said Reben. “I know some of you are afraid of retaliation, but we won’t let that happen.”

Reben was referring to an attendance sheet, given out by the school board and circulating through the crowd. Not everyone felt comfortable signing it, and Reben later asked the school board for a copy of the list and a signed letter stating the board would not seek retaliation against the teachers attending the hearing.

Sherburne had requested the presence of Buxton Police Chief Michael Grovo at the hearing. Grovo stood just outside the door for the meeting’s entirety and was asked by Sherburne to stay until the crowd had dispersed.

After one hour of executive session, the board returned and Chairman Lawrence Miller of Buxton immediately announced that board member Paul Arsenault Jr. of Standish had recused himself from the vote. No explanation was given.

The board then moved to hold a second executive session to meet in private with Schultz, who refused her right to a closed-door hearing and asked that it be made public.

“My client has nothing to hide,” said Reben.

The board made the hearing public, although Miller reminded the crowd that it was not a hearing for public comment.

“The fact that you are here means nothing to us in terms of why you are here,” said Miller. “This is not for public discussion, but there certainly will be no retaliation for your presence.”

Sherburne spoke first and was given unlimited time to present his case for non-renewal to the board.

“I am confident Ms. Schultz has supporters – staff, students, administrators and colleagues,” he said. “This support might be provided for many reasons and should not be perceived as full confidence in her leadership. It should be noted that most of these supporters are not qualified to evaluate her full performance.”

Sherburne said that Schultz displayed a lack of leadership, poor written evaluations of employees and too much dependence on him.

“After working with Ms. Schultz for over a year and seeing her leadership, I do not have confidence in her ability to move the high school forward or to the next level,” said Sherburne. “It is time for new leadership.”

He said he was unsure whether she could make decisions on her own or if she was interested in blaming others.

“She often calls and asks me, ‘What should I do?’,” said Sherburne. “She must be told what needs to be done. I cannot determine if she simply can’t think of what needs to be done or she doesn’t want to make the decision so she can say, ‘Frank told me what to do.’”

In closing, Sherburne restated to the board why he was requesting a non-renewal.

“I have lost confidence in Ms. Schultz’s ability to lead the high school,” said Sherburne.

Schultz was given 10 minutes to make her presentation to the board. She took seven minutes and her lawyer used three.

“I want to tell you that I absolutely love my job, I look forward to going to school every day,” said Schultz. “I look forward to working with students and teachers. For the last six years, I have given my heart and soul to Bonny Eagle High School and the SAD 6 community. I believe you know what I have done.”

Schultz reminded the school board, which has the final decision in any potential removal, that she had addressed issues with graduation exercises and made them successful, raised SAT scores for the school, led collaboration with the Great Schools Partnership, and was instrumental in receiving a grant for the school to cover programs at the school, as well as dedicating herself to student achievement.

“I support and attend plays, sporting events, art shows and competitions,” said Schultz. “Again, I believe you know what I have done here. If you vote to non-renew me, I will be very, very disappointed. I’ll tell you the silver lining will be that I will have the opportunity to tell you more about what I have done at Bonny Eagle and what I plan to do at Bonny Eagle. Most importantly, I will be able to set the record straight so you have all the facts before you vote.”

Reben briefly addressed the board and asked every member if they had any bias or were privy to information they should not have been that affected their decision that they recuse themselves as Arsenault had done.

The board did not discuss the matter publicly before taking the vote. The members then excused themselves to executive session.

David Crabtree, a 40-year veteran teacher at Bonny Eagle, was there to support Schultz and vowed to continue to support her.

“I will support my principal,” said Crabtree. “I like her so much because she isn’t afraid to fight for her students as well as for her teaching staff, and we will fight for her.”

Reben encouraged the group to come to the public appeal hearing not just to support Schultz, but to stand up for their rights, as well.

“This is a superintendent who is Machiavellian in principle and wants to get rid of someone he doesn’t agree with,” said Reben. “This is a board that will do what the superintendent wants, not what is best. If your contract is up soon, you should be careful.”

Regarding his client’s chances at the appeal, Reben didn’t mince words.

“Our confidence in presenting to the same board that is obviously biased is low,” said Reben, “But we will proceed.”

(Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Schultz’s name and gave the incorrect date for when she started as principal.)

Bonny Eagle High School Principal Beth Schultz hands out diplomas at the school’s graduation in 2011. File photo

Superintendent Frank Sherburne

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