MSAD 58 announces contract terminations as part of reconfigure

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The MSAD 58 school board discusses teacher contract terminations.

SALEM – During the MSAD 58 regular school board meeting on Thursday, March 17, the school board discussed 10 educator positions that will be contractually impacted in the changes made following the district reconfiguration.

In reconfiguring the district, the school board voted to begin by creating a middle school with grades 5-8 in the current Strong Elementary School building, and develop two elementary schools at Kingfield and Phillips schools. This met the immediate needs of the district by significantly reducing the number of teaching positions and bringing the teacher to student ratios closer to what the state expects to see.

However, by reducing teaching positions, several teachers faced termination of their contracts at the end of this school year. The decisions on which contracts to terminate involved district administration, the ‘meet and consult’ committee of the school board, the Mt. Abram teachers association, and legal counsel. Factors that contributed to the decisions included seniority, impact areas, teaching certifications, and contracts. For example, a teacher currently in a middle school took seniority and held an appropriate teaching certificate to replace a probationary teacher at the high school, bumping that probationary teacher onto the list for contract termination.

Of the teachers impacted, four are continuing contract teachers: Jillian Withee, Lance Harvill, Emily Brittelli and Francois Moretto. Harvill and Brittelli hold full-time positions and Withee holds a half-time position. Per the school board vote, these teaching contracts will be terminated on the day before the first day of the 2022-2023 teacher work year. Moretto holds a full-time position which will be reduced to a half-time position, Superintendent Todd Sanders said.

Mt. Abram High School

The remaining staff are probationary teachers: Karen Pease, Felecia Pease, Dorrie Robinson-Dunham, Tori Lands, Jessica Hughes, and Gary Henshaw. The school board voted that they would not be nominated for a teaching contract for the 2022-2023 school year.

Given the teaching certificates held by these staff, they cannot simply be transferred to an open teaching position. Teachers may be able to apply for a conditional teaching certificate with the state and apply for one of the positions open within the district should they choose to do so.

During the school board discussion and during the motions that were made, the board and administration emphasized that these decisions were not a reflection of the performance of the teachers and was instead necessitated by local conditions and the reconfiguration in the district. Sanders said that the teachers they will be losing are excellent teachers.

During public comment, Lance Harvell, one of the teachers impacted, commended the board for making the tough decisions they had made. Having served on boards and currently serving as a county commissioner, he stated he knew how difficult the process was. He acknowledged the board had to make these decisions given the declining student numbers and thanked them for hiring him four years ago, saying that he has had the time of his life.

There was no further public comment.

In addition, the district accepted with regret a letter of retirement from Strong Elementary School principal Brenda Dwiggins. Dwiggins has served as the principal at Strong for the last four years. Her final day will be June 30, 2022.

The board also accepted letters of resignation from Kathleen Doyon, second grade teacher at Strong Elementary School; Adam Perry, an ed tech at Strong; and Dora York, the food service director for the district.

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