Outgoing SAD 75 Superintendent Steve Connolly intends to move forward with the creation of a “thrive committee” that would tackle issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in the school district and has brought in a diversity and equity consultant to work with staff.

Connolly, who has resigned effective at the end of this school year, told The Forecaster he is aware of “racial incidents” and “personal attacks” happening in SAD 75, which covers schools in Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Harpswell.

“(There are) situations going on in the community that are disturbing,” Connolly said in an interview with The Forecaster, and there is “certainly an undercurrent of exclusivity.”


The committee would consist of community members and students and be “made up of a reasonable number of people with adequate support from students to consider what the next steps are to move forward,” he recently told the school board. He told The Forecaster he is also considering forming a separate student-only cabinet.

The board did not take an official vote on the creation of the committee when Connolly proposed it in a January meeting, but a majority of members gave a thumbs up when asked if they would support that kind of initiative.

At that same meeting, board member Brandy Robertson said her daughter, a senior at Mt. Ararat High School, has told her that racism is “horrendous” there.


“So I think it’s great that you’re getting into this work,” Robertson told Connolly.

At an earlier school board meeting, a middle school parent and the board’s two student representatives also brought up issues of prejudice and racism in the schools and encouraged the board to do more to educate students about cultural differences. The parent said her child, who is Black, had been added into a group chat titled “We Hate Black People” created by other students.

Connolly has brought in New Hampshire-based consultant Lawrence Alexander to work on diversity and equity within the district. He said he hopes Alexander will help the district “develop long and short term goals and create actionable steps.”

“Our schools (should be) a place where every student has the chance to thrive,” Connolly said.

In 2020, the Brunswick district started a similar initiative, forming a staff and student committee as well as a parent advocacy group dedicated to looking at equity in its schools.

“I wrote a letter with a call to action to the school board and the community that we do some self reflection and ensure that we’re working on this,” said Brunswick Superintendent Phil Potenziano.


His district has implemented some changes and “removed some barriers for students,” but it still has “a lot of work to do,” he said, adding that the school board and the school community have been supportive of the district’s equity goals.

Results of the Brunswick effort so far include an improved outreach to parents whose primary languages are not English and the collection and distribution of culturally significant recipes.

In his letter of resignation, Connolly cited ideological division in the district as one reason he’s leaving.

“I find I have not been effective at managing the implicit divisions that exist based on political, personal and ideological beliefs which, in my view, are stagnating the opportunity for systemic educational progress,” he wrote. “Every student should have the right to thrive in the MSAD No. 75 community, regardless of any single person’s belief system.

“We have much good work to do in the coming months, and I will work to be as focused as possible on the important work ahead of us,” wrote Connolly in his letter.

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