Olsen elected chairwoman of SAD 17 board

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PARIS — Diana Olsen of Otisfield was elected chairwoman of the SAD 17 board of directors Monday.

She succeeds Ron Kugell of Oxford who decided not to seek re-election after 20 years at the helm.

In a 523-385 weighted vote, Olsen won over Natalie Andrews of West Paris. Both declared their candidacy prior to the election and were given three minutes to make a statement.

Olsen, who taught in the University of Maine System for many years, said she hopes to move student academic success forward and will focus on curriculum needs, resources, special education and other issues.

Andrews, who is assessor for Norway, said she sees a lot of strong personalities on the board, but the cohesiveness of the board is one of its strengths.

“I think our strength is our diverseness,” she said.

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The weighted vote has been rarely used by the board but is necessary to ensure a candidate has at least 51 percent of the vote.

It is based on town population, which also determines the number of representatives each town can have. For example, Paris sends four representatives, while Hebron sends two.

In a weighted vote, Hebron representatives Elizabeth Swift and Lew Williams each get 40 votes while Paris directors Sarah Otterson, Mike Dignan, Bob Jewell and Henry Raymond each get 56 votes. There is no provision for absentee ballots.

Both candidates entertained questions from fellow board members, including Norway representative Stephen Cummings who questioned Olsen’s work history.

“If you get elected, I’m done,” Cummings said after saying he had a “problem” with a former educator directing the 22-member board.

After congratulating Olsen on a “good job” as she walked to the front of the table to take her seat as chairwoman, Cummings left the meeting and did not return.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts lauded Kugell for his work as chairman and for his friendship.

In what he called his “swan song,” Kugell said he was retiring as chairman “with mixed emotions.”

“I think you’re a great bunch of people,” he said.

Kugell is up for re-election next year and will decide then whether he will run again, he said.

Board members also:

• Re-elected Donald Ware of Norway as vice chairman;

• Unanimously re-elected Bob Jewell, Barry Patrie, Al Lisowski and Lew Williams to the Finance Committee; and

•Appointed Debra Hertell as voter registration clerk for district meetings;

Colpitts told board members he has decided to table a vote on proficiency based education grading system for at least a year.

The board has approved proficiency-based  education, but how to grade students has been controversial.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

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