Julene Gervais, president of the Greely Drama Boosters, speaks in defense Monday of Liz Rollins, director of the drama program at Greely High and Middle schools. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

CUMBERLAND — Liz Rollins’ loss of employment this month as director of the drama program at Greely High and Middle schools has many community members concerned about the fate of the program – and questioning the circumstances behind her departure.

The Gyger Room at Greely High was standing-room-only Monday during the public comment portion of the School Administrative District Board of Directors meeting, where nearly 15 Cumberland and North Yarmouth residents took to the podium to defend Rollins. However, one student said the district’s decision to part ways with her was justified.

Rollins has declined to comment on the situation, except to say she was grateful for the support she’s received. She deferred responses to Greely Drama Boosters President Julene Gervais.

Rollins

With Greely High’s fall show recently completed, Rollins was “terminated from her position” Dec. 2, Gervais said in a letter to the drama community.

After the drama production team met with SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter to back Rollins and express “concerns about the termination process and its far-reaching implications,” the group resigned in protest, she said.

According to Gervais, that group included Music Director Sarah Bailey; Technical Director Kevin Rollins, who is also Rollins’ husband; Choreographer Vanessa Beyland; Costume Director Brenda Clark; and accompanists Kellie Moody and Bethany Perkins Hall.

“In light of last week’s events, I cannot in good conscience continue to be a part of this program,” Bailey wrote to the drama community Dec. 9. “I have been directing musicals at Greely since 2012 under two different artistic directors. It has been some of the most rewarding work of my career. I am heartbroken that the program we have worked so hard to build has been torn apart.”

“The program has been dismantled, and it’s very unnerving for so many people involved,” Gervais said Monday. She praised Rollins’ talent and qualifications for the position, adding, “most importantly we have witnessed that Liz has a gift. Through her warm and caring nature, Liz has the ability to reach students, meet their needs and help build their self-esteem and successful development.”

Gervais, who has filed a complaint with the district regarding the matter, asked for an investigation among students, parents and other community members, which would “prove that Liz Rollins was treated unfairly and is a victim,” and that Rollins is reinstated on a probationary basis while that process occurs.

School Board Chairwoman Kate Perrin said after the meeting that she appreciates “the time and the passion of all the speakers this evening,” but that “(a)t this time it is important to note that personnel issues are not under the board’s purview.”

Colleen Foley-Ingersoll, whose daughter is in the drama program, said she heard Rollins’ “termination was due to the environment being unsafe, and I just can’t imagine that … the administration would leave our children in an unsafe situation.”

Annalise Panici, a Greely junior long involved in theater, said “it will be very difficult, next to impossible, to replace someone as talented, as caring and as devoted to the program as Liz Rollins,” adding that her exit “has not hurt just me; it has hurt the entire community; I’ve noticed students being completely disrespectful to each other because of this event.”

On the other hand, Jesse Franklin, another student who spoke at the meeting, said Rollins made many of his friends feel uncomfortable, and while what happened has hurt people, it is a decision that many others consider beneficial – and those viewpoints should not be stifled.

SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter and Finance Director Scott Poulin could not speak to the reasons behind Rollins’ exit in an interview Dec. 12, citing it as a personnel matter. While there has been much support for Rollins, “there are always two sides to every story,” with many who support her departure, Porter said.

The Forecaster reached out to a few parents for comment. The one who responded said out of concern for student privacy, she chose not to comment at this time.

Rollins’ job consisted of three separate stipend positions, with a $4,000 stipend each for Greely High’s fall and spring shows, and a $2,000 stipend for work at the middle school, according to Poulin.

“The stipends are clearly specifically just for that activity for that fall or that spring season,” he said, and they each have a beginning and an end. “There’s no guarantee of somebody being the drama director for the next season.”

“The person in this position is not a regular employee,” Porter said. “The stipends are all at the discretion of the superintendent … they’re all temporary positions.”

The positions of those who resigned in protest are almost all funded by the Boosters and not part of SAD 51’s co-curricular stipends, except for that of Kevin Rollins, which is stipended, Poulin said.

The district has posted all three stipend positions, which could be filled by one, two or three people, said Porter, who is confident “we will find a new director, and we will move on.”

“We’re here for kids,” he said. “And anyone that would say to me that a program is going to go down because of a particular person, a particular adult or a group of adults, is not seeing the whole picture. And is not in it for the kids.”

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