POLAND — A group of community members told the Regional School Unit 16 school board Monday they have no confidence in Superintendent Tina Meserve and presented a petition asking for an independent committee to look into her performance.

One of the community members, Caitlin Rawson, said about 100 people signed the petition. She said she’s concerned that staff morale is poor, student bullying is not being addressed and Meserve has cut teachers and programs while she makes $100,000 a year.

“I have teachers on my kid’s Facebook page who are looking for other jobs because they can’t get anywhere with Tina Meserve,” said Rawson, who lives in Poland and has three children in the school system. “I don’t want to lose good teachers.”

Meserve denied the allegations Wednesday.

She said she hasn’t heard from staff that morale is low. She believes the school system’s bullying policy is strong and every accusation is investigated and addressed. Programs have been added during her tenure, she said, and none have been cut this budget season. 

Meserve said positions did go unfilled last year, including two teachers at Poland Community School, a foreign language teacher at the high school and a few educational technicians, because the elementary school couldn’t find any good candidates and no one applied for the other positions at all.

“I don’t think we’re alone on any of that,” Meserve said. “When I spoke with other schools, they were all having issues filling that type of position.” 

She said the candidate pool has gotten better and those positions are not expected to be a problem to fill this year. However, she said one high school English teacher has been laid off because enrollment dropped.

Meserve, who has served as superintendent for the Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls school system for four years, said she was surprised by the call for an independent investigation into her performance.

“It’s disappointing because if you don’t know something’s coming, you can’t respond,” she said. “Or if you don’t know that people have concerns, you can’t respond.”

Rawson said she has approached Meserve about her complaints in the past but was not satisfied with the superintendent’s response. She also was not satisfied with the school board’s response Monday night. 

Because the issue was not on the agenda, parents presented their petition to the board during the public comment period. Board members refused to take up the issue then, saying it involved a personnel matter. They directed the group to go through the official complaint process.  

“They weren’t willing to listen,” Rawson said. “They just kept standing behind policy and they would not discuss that we had 100 signatures for a vote of no confidence.”

Meserve said board members plan to speak to members of the group and those who signed the petition to learn more about their complaints. 

“We’re trying to be proactive in getting to the bottom of it — where did this come from and what do we have to do next to make sure people feel heard?” she said.

Rawson reached out to all 15 board members Monday night. She said she was told board members will be meeting with people, but she’s not confident they’ll listen.

“I don’t feel like they want to hear us,” she said.

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