AUBURN — In the midst of her performance evaluation that was expected to lead to negotiations to extend her contract, Katy Grondin resigned Wednesday night as superintendent of Auburn’s schools.

The resignation will take effect June 30, 2020, at the end of the current school year.

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin gave her resignation to the School Committee on Wednesday, effective June 30, 2020. Lauren Schneiderman/Sun Journal

In a letter to Auburn’s  teachers and staff released Friday afternoon, Grondin wrote the decision was made “after much soul-searching.”

“I am so proud of all that has been accomplished over my career in Auburn,” Grondin wrote, “from the many students’ lives I have touched, to being named Principal of the Year, to celebrating the passing of the new ELHS Project, and leading our district to a place where we are aligned through Vision 2030 PreK-12.”

A 1982 graduate of Edward Little High School, Grondin has served as superintendent of Auburn’s schools since 2011, when she was chosen in a national search to replace the retiring Tom Morrill.

She began her career as a second-grade teacher, then became assistant principal and then principal at Sherwood Heights. Before becoming superintendent in 2011, she served a few years as assistant superintendent. She spent her entire 31-year career in education with the Auburn School Department.

Reached at home Friday afternoon, Grondin said no external factors contributed to her decision. Her overdue evaluation, her first in three years, was well underway, but parents were unhappy with that process and some of the policies Grondin had undertaken.

“It was my personal decision,” Grondin said. “It was time. I had to make this tough decision.”

Grondin said she had been thinking of making a change two years ago, but felt committed to seeing the vote on the new Edward Little High School facility through to the final successful vote.

That vote, held in June, overwhelmingly favored construction of the new high school, which is expected to begin in 2021.

She praised her staff for their extraordinary commitment to education, and said that their efforts is making her decision to leave easier.

“This is what’s best for me,” Grondin said. “I’m proud of our school department and our outstanding team. When things are going well and I see that outstanding work they do for our students, it makes me feel proud.”

Grondin was earning $132,000 in the third and final year of her current contract.

She will stay on through the end of the school year to help with the transition of the new school board which, following Tuesday’s election, will have three new members, including newcomer Pam Hart who soundly ousted Chairwoman Bonnie Hayes.

“It is time for me to make a change, and I am confident that a new leader will continue to foster the strong school community that all of you contribute to every day,” Grondin said.

Grondin received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine in 1986, where she also received a master’s degree in educational leadership in 1996. In 2006, she earned a certificate of advanced study in educational leadership from the University of Maine.

In 2007,  Grondin was named Maine’s Elementary National Distinguished Principal of the Year by the Maine Principals’ Association. She received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Maine School Superintendents Association earlier this year.

While she has received high praise from her peers, in recent years she’s come under fire from an active parents’ group, called Auburn Parents United, critical of her implementation of proficiency-based learning and concerns about the direction of public education in Auburn, and highly critical of the Auburn School Committee and former Chairman Tom Kendall for the failure to conduct Grondin’s performance evaluation for the past three years.

The Auburn School Department was recently the focus of a Boston Globe report about students facing bias and racism in schools, and on Wednesday Grondin and other administrators issued public apologies to students who felt their privacy was violated when they were selected by demographics, including members of the LGBTQ community, and called by name via the ELHS public intercom two weeks ago to attend focus groups as part of the school’s examination of internal bias.

Prompted by the Boston Globe report, the School Department had been working with consultant Steve Wessler, the leader of the Civil Rights Team Project in the Maine Attorney General’s Office, to help the school system study bias and harassment. On Wednesday, Grondin said the district had ended its relationship with Wessler.

Grondin said she has no immediate plans for the future.

School Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Hayes praised the work Grondin has done, from negotiating union contracts and managing budgets to helping to secure support for a new high school.

“She has done an exemplary job in shepherding the Auburn school system into the 21st century,” Hayes said. “More importantly, always has been an advocate for children in the Auburn School Department. In the past three years she has worked diligently with the Department of Education at the State level, the architects from Harriman Associates and the community to secure funding for the new ELHS… Ms. Grondin will be acutely missed in the position of superintendent.”


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