PARIS — The SAD 17 board of directors Monday approved a proposal from an ad hoc committee to move forward with hiring a new superintendent. Part of the proposal included increasing the funds for the search from $8,000 to $20,000.

The plan gives giving the board chairwoman and the superintendent search committee authority to oversee the search process, including all decision-making through the search. It also approved the proposal with the Maine School Boards Association. The committee also requested that the funds allocated to the search be increased from $8,000 to $20,000.

“We need to move ahead and do what we need to without having the board vote on every change on the proposal we have with MSMA,” Committee Chair Curtis Cole told the Board. “The $8,000 is based on a limited number of applicants…if we don’t spend the extra money it will go back into contingency.”

“The $8,000 is pretty bare bones,” board Chairwoman Diana Olsen of Otisfield said. “There are a number of uncertainties that we will find as we move forward. We want to avoid being slowed down from requesting more.”

Director Lew Williams of Hebron told the board that the request for extra funds was from him.

“We’re posting the position on March 12, launching a survey on the 15th, identifying (results) between March 15-26 and interviewing committee people,” Williams said. “On the 26th we will close the survey, and are looking to make the final decision by May 11. We need to have the ability for funds if we need to move around” to make that deadline.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts announced in January that he plans to retire June 30.

Director Mark Heidmann of Harrison was the only one to vote against the proposal.

In another matter, Director Bob Jewell of Paris reported that the Budget Committee met Feb. 24 with Business Manager Cathy Coffey to review the superintendent’s budget proposals for 2021-22.

In his report, Colpitts said that Oxford County has been cleared for in-person school attendance. Oxford Hills Comprehensive High and Oxford Hills Middle schools will continue with hybrid learning but will open the schools for in-person learning on Wednesdays for a half day. The second half of the day will be to provide support to remote students and students requiring additional interventions.

Colpitts announced that classrooms damaged by bursting pipes last month were repaired and reopened as planned Feb. 22. Several directors urged administrators to look closely at the HVAC system to determine what the failure was before pursuing insurance claims.

The superintendent also announced that Leslie Swett, food service manager at Oxford Hills Middle School’s south campus in Oxford is retiring after 29 years. Kathy Bracken has also announced her retirement after 44 years and Dean Dillingham, SAD 17’s facilities director, will be leaving to work in the private sector as of April 30.

Director Troy Ripley of Paris asked about issues in Bracken’s letter of resignation where she cited situations where she did not believe administrators had acted above board. He requested that Olsen look into the allegations and address them publicly.

Other directors wanted to know why the resignation letter was placed in an online directory instead of being distributed to them.

Jewell and Natalie Andrews of West Paris both voiced concerns with how the letter was handled. It was received more than a month ago and many, Andrews included, did not know it existed until Monday night’s meeting.

“She [Bracken] had an opportunity to come before the board to speak and she decided not to,” Olsen replied.

“Considering the contents of the letter, I am uneasy that we were not notified of it,” Director William Rolfe of West Paris said, suggesting that further discussion be moved to an executive session.

In other business, directors approved second readings of several board policies, including school board meetings, board organizational meeting and board officers.

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