Shawn Chabot, current assistant superintendent for Lewiston Public Schools, was appointed superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 75 schools by its board of directors Thursday. (Darcie Moore / The Time Record)

TOPSHAM — Maine School Administrative District 75’s newly appointed superintendent will be overseeing a district that has been marred by interpersonal conflict between school board members when he takes the helm July 1. 

The board unanimously appointed Shawn Chabot to the top administrative role Thursday. Chabot is currently serving as the assistant superintendent for Lewiston Public Schools where he’s also been an assistant elementary school principal, a middle school principal and high school principal over his 14-year tenure there. The 48-year-old has worked in education for 25 years.

Chabot was one of 16 people who applied for the position. The search committee interviewed five of the applicants and two were interviewed by the full school board. The search process continues for an assistant superintendent. 

LEADERSHIP SHAKEUP

Chabot replaces former superintendent Brad Smith, who retired June 2018. The district’s assistant superintendent at the time, Dan Chuhta, was tapped to serves as interim superintendent and was set to replace Smith before leaving Feb. 15 to become Maine’s deputy education commissioner.

The board hired Robert Lucy to serve as the interim superintendent after Chuhta left.

Chabot enters a district in which officials have clashed, leading longtime school board members Joanne Rogers and David Johnson to resign and the board to oust its chairwoman, Kim Totten, from her leadership role in February after a petition was circulated by parents calling for her removal.

Chabot said Friday he’s heard the MSAD 75 school board has had some problems recently but isn’t privy to specifics. He acknowledged Friday that the loss of a leader leaves a void, “and when someone tries to fill that void, others can get hurt, and things done or said unintentionally.”

When he starts, he will just listen.

“I think there is always room for compromise,” he said. “My philosophy is … if we create an atmosphere where people feel listened to and valued, there’s usually common ground we can come to.”

Chabot hopes the school board can move forward positively.

Johnson, who told the board Feb. 28 it had cut him “to the core,” told The Times Record that Totten was a “public scapegoat” for the board’s own failings. He said he’d resigned because he’d lost the trust of fellow board members and implied it was regarding the superintendent search process but wouldn’t comment further.

The Times Record has requested public records concerning the search and hiring of a superintendent or interim superintendent but hasn’t yet received a response.

Brandy Robertson of Bowdoin was one of two parents who started the online confidence petition, which drew 108 signers. She said after Totten’s removal as chair that the petition wasn’t an attempt to recall Totten, “but just to let them know that the public is losing confidence in the board and I think it’s unfortunate in the way it had to go down, but I think that it sent a strong message to our board that they need to get it together.”

Robertson added that she believes there are many factors that led to the petition, as many parents are frustrated. The final straw was the choice of interim superintendent, who Robertson feels wasn’t properly vetted, a responsibility that fell to Totten.

During the Feb. 28 board meeting, newly appointed school board chairman Tyler Washburn said, “This last month is one that I don’t think any of us are going to look back fondly on, but we as a board can’t continue to look backward at the past differences and we need to go forward together to accomplish the important work that lies ahead of us.”

PLANS FOR POSITIVE DIRECTION

According to Washburn, the board is already working together “in a positive, collaborative and transparent fashion.”

In an email to The Times Record, he said board members shared a commitment to providing the best education possible to students keeps them united.

Washburn said the school board found Chabot shares its goals for students.

“His experiences as a classroom teacher have helped shape his vision on the needs of and demands on our teachers,” Washburn said. “As principal, he was intimately involved in a renovation project that lasted over a year while classes were ongoing. He currently serves as assistant superintendent in what is both a large and diverse district where he has been involved in discussions around budgets, construction, grading, community outreach and so much more.”

Washburn said Chabot understands many of the challenges facing school districts today and remains committed to student success.

“For these reasons, and others, the Board is excited by the skills, talents, and fresh perspective that he will bring to the table,” he said.

Bill Webster, superintendent of Lewiston Public Schools, said Chabot will be greatly missed in Lewiston.

“Shawn Chabot is an exceptional educator and is one of the few with experience at every grade level,” Webster wrote in an email to The Times Record. “He has great people skills and is an excellent listener. I do not think that SAD 75 could have found a more promising superintendent.”

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