Alison Hawkes speaks at a school board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 27. Payal Gangishetti / The Times Record

Former Maine School Administrative District 75 board member Alison Hawkes said the board’s “toxic” atmosphere prompted her resignation earlier this month, the latest in a revolving door of changes to the district’s leadership.

“This board has been toxic for a while,” Hawkes, who has children attending school in the district, told the board on Thursday, Jan. 27. “I am still standing by my resignation so I can ensure my kids’ education doesn’t fall further behind. Can you imagine that I would have to look to another state to educate my kids? We have to recognize that some kids and adults cannot work under the current conditions for extended periods of time.”

Hawkes, who represented Harpswell, tendered her resignation, which the board accepted Thursday, on Jan. 19.

On Thursday, Hawkes also decried how the board has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

“How will this district make up for two years of survival learning?” said Hawkes. “If you cannot explain what you are doing with facts and data, then who are we saving. I don’t want to be a part of a team that will sit aside and watch kids be mentally abused and oppressed over fear.”

Hawkes served 1 1/2 years of her most recent term. She has been involved with the board since 2011.

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In the past three years, the board has seen at least six board members resign.

Sarah Ward and Tyler Washburn resigned in July 2021 and January 2021, respectively, because they moved out of the communities they represented.

In early 2019, Harpswell representatives and longtime board members Joanne Rogers and David Johnson resigned, stating they no longer had the board’s trust.

Due to personal and professional reasons, Topsham representative Matthew Drewette-Card resigned in July 2019. Jane Scease resigned in September 2019 because she moved to Brunswick.

Ann Sarvinas, a Topsham resident, said she is sad to see Hawkes go.

“Alison is an excellent role model for young women in particular, on how to state something that you believe in such a way that doesn’t degrade or disregard people who don’t agree,” said Sarvinas. “I am sad to see that go because we have a couple of young women that are part of the student senate who attend board meetings. I felt that it was really good for them to see an assertive woman who could voice things in a way that was strong but respectful. The only thing the board talks about is COVID-19, equity and inclusion. Nobody is talking about the fact that half of our kids cannot read and cannot do basic math. The board should focus on bringing the proficiency rates up.”

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Former board member Tyler Washburn said the community will feel the impact of Hawke’s departure.

“I hope that the [Harpswell] selectmen will appoint someone with experience to fill Alison’s seat because I believe it is important to have experienced voices at the table,” said Washburn. “I told the selectmen last Thursday I would be willing to serve in that capacity.”

Harpswell elects its school board representatives at the annual town meeting in March.

Washburn said the high turnover on the board and the absence of a long-term superintendent have stymied progress in the district.

“We are about to hire our fifth superintendent in as many years,” said Washburn. “Turnover in senior district roles has been on the uptick, and we are in the midst of the budget season. It is important to know where you have been to be able to see where you are headed, and my experiences would guide me.”

Interim Superintendent Robert Lucy was hired in February 2021 to fill in while Superintendent Shawn Chabot was on active duty with the Maine Army National Guard to support the guard’s COVID-19 mission. Chabot resigned on June 30, 2021, after his deployment with the National Guard was extended.

Lucy’s tenure ends June 30.

The school board started accepting applications for a new superintendent in late December. The application period ends on Jan. 31.

The story was updated at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 31, to correct the year former school board member Tyler Washburn resigned. 

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