Editor’s note: The first paragraph of the following letter was omitted from the Dec. 3 print edition of the Kennebunk Post.

Recall doesn’t benefit school district

To the editor,

Petitions to recall RSU 21 School Board chair Art LeBlanc and school board member Tim Stentiford were filed in the Kennebunk town clerk’s office Monday, Nov. 29. What were the reasons stated for the radical step of removing two hard-working, civic-minded volunteers – before their terms are up – during a pandemic, when K-12 education challenges are at their peak?  Statements full of factual inaccuracies, glaring omissions, and flawed reasoning. Both petitions try to connect LeBlanc and Stentiford’s role in negotiating a teachers’ union contract this past June to the departure of “43 teachers and ed techs” since the beginning of the 2021 academic year.” In fact, publicly-available school board records reveal that teacher turnover since August 2020 is better than the state average during non-pandemic years, and all teaching positions are filled. Instead, LeBlanc and Stentiford should be applauded for helping to negotiate a teacher contract this past June that 90 percent of teachers approved.

The petitions’ remaining four arguments are no more convincing.

First, RSU 21’s lack of a “Curriculum Committee since the fall of 2017” can’t be placed solely at LeBlanc’s feet, since he didn’t even join the board until July 2020. Once our new superintendent, Dr. Cooper, started work in August 2020, pandemic challenges justifiably monopolized board energies. As someone who has herself applied to join the Curriculum Committee as a community representative, I know the board is working hard to get this committee up and running.

Second, far from demonstrating a “lack of executive function,” LeBlanc has done a commendable job of moderating board meetings and allowing every public voice to be heard. Community discussions about complicated pandemic issues are bound to be “contentious” and “last for hours,” as everyone fumbles through this new territory. LeBlanc’s efforts, to ensure public comment complies with the board’s rules of order, hardly rises to “bullying;” rather it’s exercising his duty as board chair.

Third, the additional expense of hiring human resource personnel, spearheaded by Stentiford, has more than paid for itself. Those personnel have brought our school board into compliance with Maine Education Law, reduced legal and consultant expenses arising from past mismanagement, and provided board members the data they need to make teacher, ed tech, and staff salary scales and benefits competitive.

Fourth, blaming Stentiford for ensuring the district uses federal pandemic funds for their legally-required purpose of keeping our students safe and healthy is perhaps the flimsiest accusation of all.

So don’t be fooled into signing the recall petitions that their supporters will be urging you to do over the next 30 days. Their stated reasons for the necessity of a recall don’t add up, which leaves you wondering about their true intent. This much is clear. A recall doesn’t benefit RSU21 teachers, ed techs, or staff, and the chaos it creates certainly won’t benefit our students who are trying to make up for lost learning opportunities during the pandemic.

Claudia Sayre

Kennebunk

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