The South Portland City Council will appoint a resident to the District 3 School Board seat in the wake of member Hannah Bitjoka’s resignation in November.

In her resignation letter, Bitjoka said she brought serious issues in the schools to the board, such as “bullying and drug use, as well as feelings of being unsafe and unwelcome,” and that some of those issues have not been addressed.

“When I accepted the Board position last year, I looked forward to the opportunity to help improve the South Portland schools, and benefit schoolchildren and parents, by addressing critical issues that we face as a community,” she wrote. “After a year on the Board it is evident that, on many issues, mine is a lone voice and that I am not aligned with the Board’s direction and priorities.”

Bitjoka did not reply to a request for comment.

When contacted by The Forecaster, School Board Chairperson Elyse Tipton deferred to comments she made at a Nov. 15 City Council meeting.

“I’m disappointed Hannah resigned,” Tipton told the council, adding she had conversations with Hannah about the issues she was concerned with.


“I think in her letter to you, she conveyed that she was feeling like she could not be effective,” Tipton said. “As chair, I felt it was my job to help to see if she and I could figure out how she could feel differently, but in the end it did not work out satisfactorily to her.”

At a Nov. 14 School Board meeting, Superintendent Timothy Matheney gave a presentation on how the school department addresses bullying and student mental health, including through investigations and mediation. More than 40 school staff members, such as counselors, social workers and psychologists, are dedicated to mental health, he said.

Residents interested in the vacant District 3 School Board seat have until Dec. 16 to submit applications to the City Clerk’s office. Candidates must be registered voters in District 3.

Interviews and the appointment will be made at the Dec. 20 council meeting. The appointee will serve until the November 2023 election.

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