A parent in School Administrative District 6 has filed a complaint and the state teachers’ union has called for the Department of Education to investigate the district after the school board failed to discipline Superintendent Frank Sherburne despite finding he violated the district’s nepotism policy by hiring his son.

Sherburne’s son also didn’t have the required state approval to work with students, state officials have said. That could lead to several penalties, including the possible decertification of the superintendent and a loss of state funding.

“I am officially requesting the Department of Education to investigate and take action to enforce any relevant state statutes, including that the DOE revoke certification of a superintendent if he/she is found to employ someone in the district who does not have proper certification or authorization,” wrote Amanda Cooper of Buxton, who has two children attending Buxton Center Elementary School.

“Our children are counting on you to do the right thing.”

The hiring of Zachariah Sherburne, 23, came to light after he was charged with sexually assaulting a student in another district.

Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley said the state should act because state law spells out that employing someone without proper certification, authorization or approval from the DOE is grounds for disciplinary action, including the possibility of suspension or revocation of the superintendent’s certificate. It can also lead to loss of state funding to the district equal to the state’s share of salary and benefits paid to unauthorized employees.


“It becomes the responsibility of the Department of Education to take a much closer look at the issue of this hiring and the leadership in SAD 6, especially after the revelation last night that Superintendent Frank Sherburne violated district policy in hiring his son,” Kilby-Chesley said.

“Loss of state funding is a real possibility in this case. It is wrong for the students in SAD 6 to suffer the consequences of the superintendent’s actions.”

Once a complaint is received, the department contracts with an investigator to look into it. But the department cannot comment on any current or past complaints or on investigations, because of confidentiality. The DOE will release information after an investigation is closed or when it takes credentialing action, spokeswoman Anne Gabbianelli said.

Several parents at an emotional SAD 6 board meeting Tuesday night said they planned to complain to the DOE in an attempt to spark a state investigation.

Most of those parents were focused on the allegations that the younger Sherburne sexually assaulted a 16-year-old student in School Administrative District 55 at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, where he worked as an ed tech.

“I hope someday they’ll learn that it’s the parents that drive the bus,” said parent Lillian Goulet, who said the board’s refusal to discuss Zachariah Sherburne’s hiring – or allow public comment on it – was “disrespectful.”


Under law, most personnel issues are confidential and must be handled in closed-door sessions.

Gabbianelli previously had said the Department of Education has not issued approval of any kind, for any job category, for Zachariah Sherburne, who was first hired in SAD 55 last November.

Under state law, all school employees must have proper authorization for their specific job category.

As a first step, all candidates for a school job, from janitor to superintendent, must be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check.

Beyond the background check, Zachariah Sherburne, who was hired in SAD 55 as an Ed Tech III, would have been required to provide transcripts for at least 90 semester hours of approved study to receive authorization to work as an Ed Tech III. If approved, he would have received state authorization, the term used for ed techs, rather than the “certification” that teachers receive.

The board on Tuesday night met more than four hours in two executive sessions to discuss a report by an attorney for Drummond Woodsum and two board members about Frank Sherburne’s hiring of his son.


A summary of findings from the report said Zachariah Sherburne didn’t apply for state credentials until Feb. 2, several months after he started working with students at SAD 55. The DOE notified him his application wasn’t complete because he did not provide official transcripts. The summary does not say if he tried to complete the application process. It also said Sherburne was fingerprinted on Feb. 16, but it does not say by which agency and whether it was done through the state. DOE officials say they have no record that they ever issued Sherburne a temporary eight-week approval card, which is given to all first-time applicants for a criminal records check.

In her letter, Cooper asked the department to investigate both superintendents who hired Zachariah Sherburne.

“Proper action should be taken against the superintendents in both SAD 6 and SAD 55 for failing to follow the law in this matter,” she wrote. “It is clear to me these superintendents have violated multiple policies.”

The Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs committee said the DOE has a role to play in these situations, but communities also can act locally, noting that some towns have recalled school board members.

“Certainly if there is any infractions and violations between the school system and state regulations, the Department of Education would step in,” said Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, an educator himself. “You start at that local level, and then DOE can hold the superintendent responsible through their certification.”

In 1999, residents in Hermon successfully voted to recall three of the district’s five school board members after unpopular personnel and program decisions. The parents said they started the recall because they thought the school board was unresponsive to their wishes, condescending and was manipulated by the superintendent of schools, according to local news reports on the election.

More recently, in 2015, Brewer residents passed a charter law change that allows school committee members to be recalled. That issue arose because residents who were upset that the school committee had not renewed the superintendent’s contract discovered there was no recall process.


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