AUBURN — After suffering serious injuries in a fall from a ladder, Auburn School Committee Chairman Larry Pelletier has resigned, saying his injuries prevent him from performing the job.

He is the fourth committee member to quit in the past year.
 
Tom Kendall will serve as acting chairman.
 
Pelletier, 67, said Friday he had returned home from BJ’s with his wife on Nov. 1 when he “got the bright idea” to clean leaves from their roof’s gutter. After his wife went inside, he got the ladder and climbed high enough to reach the gutter.
 
After clearing leaves, “the ladder got away from me,” he said.
 
He fell 10 feet, landing on a mailbox. He tried to stand, but couldn’t. The pain was excruciating.
 
“Luckily, I had my cellphone,” he said.
 
Pelletier called 911, then his wife.
 
At the hospital, doctors told him he broke his back, neck and three ribs.
 
He’s undergone several surgeries, and was hospitalized for 20 days at Central Maine Medical Center.
 
Pelletier faces more operations and hours of physical therapy, but he’s able to walk.
 
“Everything works,” he said with a chuckle on Friday. “I’ve been for several walks. I’m just restricted.”
 
He wore a neck brace for several months and got out of a body brace on Jan. 22.
 
Pelletier said he’s appreciative of support from neighbors, friends and co-workers at Maine Oxy, who have delivered propane or shoveled his home after every storm.
 
In the hospital, he received cards and well wishes from students at Fairview, Park Avenue and Franklin schools.
 
“One student wrote, ‘What were you doing on the roof?'” Pelletier said. The cards “helped. They were inspiring.”
 
Overall, it’s been a tough year for the School Committee. Four out of eight committee members have quit during the past year.
 
The first to step down was Mike Farrell, who left the committee in March, just a few months after being sworn in. Farrell said he received “great opportunities for my family” and could not represent his Ward 1 constituents.
 
In May, then Chairwoman Tracey Levesque resigned from her Ward 4 seat because she had unexpectedly moved out of the ward.
 
In November, at-large member Ron Potvin resigned because of health reasons. Potvin gave his resignation in person at a School Committee meeting.
 
Current members are Peter Letourneau, Ward 1; Bonnie Hayes, Ward 2; Tom Kendall, Ward 3; Christopher Langis, Ward 4; Laurie Tannenbaum, at large; and mayoral representative and City Councilor Mary LaFontaine.
 
The open seats are one in Ward 5 and one at-large. They will be filled in a June election, Kendall said.
 
“The board and I are sorry to lose Larry, but fully understand his reasons,” Kendall said.
 
When the committee takes up the budget in March, it will mean a heavy schedule.
 
“I will miss Larry as he was a calm voice of reason in the midst of any debate, and always brought the voice of the people to any discussion,” Kendall said.
 
One reason Pelletier resigned in January was to allow the election to proceed to fill two vacant spots.
 
“Should no one step up to the challenge, the board may appoint representatives as the city charter permits that,” Kendall said. “If he is feeling up to it, we could place him back on the board in June, if there are no other candidates.”
 
Kendall said it is unusual to have half the board resign in a year.
 
“The circumstances surrounding each have been unique to the individual, he said. “None of them are a reflection on the responsibilities of holding a seat on the committee.”
 
Although the number of committee members is smaller, the work and the goals remain the same, Kendall said.
 
Superintendent Katy Grondin said Pelletier will be missed “due to his strong advocacy for students and families. It has been important for him to understand an issue, and see the issue from different perspectives, rather than making quick judgments.”
 
Pelletier said he plans to continue to serve on other committees, including the Wellness Committee.
 
“Been there, done that — don’t want to do it again,” he said with a laugh.
 
He said he hopes community members will step up and serve, “and do what’s best for students. The budget ties your hands. Someday, I hope we can get around that.”
 


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