LEWISTON — A long-time education technician in Lewiston Public Schools told the School Committee on Monday night that a negative school environment pushed her to resign Friday and she worries others staff members will do the same.

During public comment, Gabrielle Cote, who most recently worked in Lewiston Middle School, told the committee she resigned after 22 years with the district. She said that she is particularly concerned by the prevalence of fights in schools.

“I just think it’s important to know that it’s bad,” she said with emotion. “Teachers, my friends, are afraid to go to work, the kids are afraid, there’s fights almost every single day.”

This is a shared problem that she has heard from other teachers in Lewiston Middle and other schools.

Cote briefly shared details of several recent incidents which have left her concerned. In one of these examples, she recounted a time when a female Lewiston Middle student asked Cote to block the girls bathroom while the student was inside. Cote agreed.

“This child was so afraid to go to the bathroom that I had to (block the doorway for her),” Cote said. “We can’t wait to do something. I know two teachers right now who said, ‘Gabe, I’m leaving this year,’ and that was last week, it was only October,” adding that these teachers worked within Lewiston public schools, but not at Lewiston Middle.


Later in the meeting, Ward 6 representative Ronald Potvin asked Superintendent Jake Langlais to share his perspective on Cote’s comments and questioned whether there was anything the School Committee could do to address these issues.

Langlais responded that the negative environment is not specific to schools. He believes the unpredictability of COVID-19 and pandemic restrictions on activities has left students and staff tired and on edge. He confirmed that there have been “some” fights, but declined to share a number.

“As a (former) principal of both the middle and high school, I can tell you with adolescents, fights do happen,” he said. “Nobody here is blind to that … but the amount of disrespect and the comments back is something that I think we have to continue to put resources to keep teaching people what the routines and expectations are.”

Langlais said he hopes to talk with staff and the Lewiston Education Association to bring recommendations to address these concerns before the council.

In other business, the School Committee is preparing a capital improvement proposal to be put before the City Council. Currently, the facilities subcommittee is considering requesting funds to: conduct a facilities review to determine a three-, five- and 10-year improvement plan; upgrade the Dingley Building, which houses central office staff; investigate purchasing, leasing, or building a central office; and general maintenance for school buildings.

At the start of the meeting, Director of Adult Education Jennifer Tiner introduced the new assistant director of adult education, Razell Ward, who will begin in December.


According to Tiner, Ward has worked in the field of adult education since 2003.

“With a background in social work, she understands the barriers that our adult learners face, and she is skilled in designing programs that support self-sufficiency through education and training,” Tiner told the School Committee.

Ward previously worked as the director of adult education in MSAD 52, based in Turner. She currently serves on the Central Western Maine Workforce Development Board and the Maine Adult Education Association Board. In 2019, she was chosen as the Adult Education Administrator of the Year by the Maine Adult Education Association.

Langlais also shared an update on COVID-19.

He said COVID-19 cases have been increasing in the district, but did not offer numbers. Geiger Elementary School recently had an outbreak, which is defined as at least three epidemiologically connected cases.

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