FARMINGTON – More than 300 teachers and support staff members from Regional School Unit 9 favored a vote of “no confidence” in superintendent Tina Meserve this week according to a press release from the Mt. Blue Education Association.
Ballots were distributed by the member-based association to about 400 members and non-members. Of the 368 ballots returned, 91.3 percent said they have lost faith in Meserve’s capacity to lead, calling on school board members to take action.
“It’s terrible. It’s not something any of us wanted to do, but it’s where we as a staff feel like we are at,” Mt. Blue EA president Doug Hodum said.
Hodum, who has worked in the district for more than 20 years, said that morale is at an all time low right now. Meserve was hired by the district two years ago. According to the statement by the Mt. Blue EA, the superintendent has mishandled the treatment of staff since taking the position.
“Identified issues range from lack of responsiveness to staff health and safety concerns as we reopened during Covid-19, the tone of communication, the lack of willingness to truly collaborate with a range of stakeholders, micromanaging of tasks, unilaterally changing long-standing leave practices, and creating a division between the RSU 9 Board of Directors and the staff,” the press release said.
Meserve said Friday afternoon that she had been encouraged to not comment on the vote until she meets with the board.
School Board Chair Angela LeClair of Wilton said Friday that she was “a little surprised” by the vote of no confidence, as board representatives had recently met with MBEA leadership. She said that the board was planning to meet and discuss the vote next week.
“On behalf of the board, I would like to say how much we care about our staff and our school community. We of course want a district that works really well together,” LeClair said.
The MBEA and school board haven’t reached an agreement on a new teacher contract following the expiration of the previous contract on Aug. 31. Meetings got off to a late start with the onset of COVID-19, and negotiations have gone back and forth several times.
Hodum said the plan as of now is to continue with the negotiations process despite this week’s happenings.
“We have made our voices heard, and it’s a pretty loud statement,” Hodum said.
The next steps will be determined by the board of directors.
“We need support and leadership now more than ever for our students and for those who are working hard to meet the needs of every child. We are asking the School Board to carefully consider this vote and begin conversations about Superintendent Meserve’s performance over the past 2+ years, including her treatment of staff, her lack of collaborative problem-solving and her skill set,” Hodum said, as part of the MBEA’s statement.