WATERFORD — Barry Patrie has resigned his seat as Waterford representative to SAD 17’s School Board. Since his first election back in March of 2011 he served in several capacities, including as a school board representative on Voc. Region 11 Oxford Hills Tech School’s board of directors

Early this year Patrie already had plans to retire but when former district Superintendent Rick Colpitts announced his departure first Patrie decided to stay on to be involved with the transition in leadership.

“It was time,” Patrie said ahead of Monday night’s school board meeting where he was honored by his colleagues and administrators. “You hear of people going out at the top and others say, ‘why did he leave? He’s still got good stuff going.’ But he went out on top. What people don’t realize, they may think we’re at the top, but we’re declining.”

Retiring SAD 17 school board Director Barry Patrie (left) introduces Board Chair Natalie Andrews (second from left) to his family, daughter Caroline (far right) and wife Donna. Patrie was honored at Monday night’s school board meeting for more than a decade of service to the school district. Nicole Bowman / Advertiser Democrat

Patrie’s wife Donna and his daughter Caroline Patrie were on hand to see his final night with his longtime colleagues, with son David DuVall and his wife Lily from Gray and son Christopher Patrie and his partner Gloria from Greenville, SC watching via web feed.

Patrie’s 11 year service career with SAD 17 was preceded by a six or seven year stint as a science and math educator, which followed a brief retirement from country shop keeper, which came about following a career as a professional and consulting certified engineer.

After teaching math at Lake Region for about five years he was not ready to fully retire. The person who was Waterford’s school board director at the time told Patrie he was not going to run again and suggested he should do it.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into when I said I was going to run for the board,” Patrie told his colleagues Monday night. “I didn’t know if I could get elected. Then I discovered that if you put your name on the ballot, you’re elected! It’s as simple as that!

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my years on the board. I have met a lot of great people, have made some great friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though at times I acted like I didn’t, okay?

“But I just have one word for you all: do what is best for the district. Keep the kids and the district in mind in your actions. That’s all I ask of you. I thank you for your good wishes and I wish the best for all of you because these are trying times.”

During a phone interview Tuesday afternoon Patrie reflected back on his tenure with the school board. He served on six of the district’s seven committees over that time, sometimes as chairman on most of them.

“The biggest part is always budgeting,” he said. “It’s difficult for every school district. Everyone wants kids to have a good education, but people don’t want to pay for it. Maine education has been grossly underfunded. It’s difficult to maintain good schools while keeping taxpayers happy.”

Lest anyone forget how difficult it can be, when Patrie served his inaugural term on the board the country had sunk into an historic recession. Oxford Hills had laid off more than 40 educators. He said it has only been in the last couple of years since Maine’s state leadership began supporting education at the level it was required to.

“Back then, a student who wanted a good education could get one in Oxford Hills,” Patrie said. “For students who struggled, we had few resources to help them.

“COVID has been a blessing in disguise for education. The federal government and the state are finally funding schools. Now we have more options for those struggling kids, SAD 17 is in a better position to do what is better for all students.”

Even considering his contributions to the finance, budgeting, negotiations, personnel, operations and curriculum committees, Patrie feels his legacy as a school board director is being a good listener and a straight talker, learning all sides of different issues before making his own decision on them. And sticking to his commitment once he has taken his position.

He said that waiting to exit the board until the change in leadership was completed was the right decision. He did not participate on the superintendent hiring committee until late in the process when the choice had come down to two candidates.

“There was an ‘old guard’ component on that committee,” Patrie said, choosing his words carefully. “A few people thought that Monica (Henson) was too different for us, she was a southerner. A bit of provincialism. In response, one person said they were unaware that being local was a criteria to being qualified.

“It seemed that some were not serving the best interests of the district. So I inserted myself into the committee and I called them out.”

At one final meeting, the chair of the hiring committee asked that every member comment of their perception of the two finalists. Patrie made sure he was the first to speak.

“I wanted to go first, to make sure that everyone understood my position,” he said. His colleagues were shocked at how forceful he was in making his case. A few of them maintained their preference for the candidate more like themselves, but Patrie was confident that after listening to his case others still on the fence with their decision came over to his side.

Monday night, Patrie reaffirmed his support for the new superintendent as he accepted the plaque for service that Henson presented him at the board meeting.

“She’s a keeper,” he said. “Many of you had doubts. She hasn’t been here that long. But I’ll tell you, she’s a keeper. Treat her well.”

The board chairpersons who presided over Patrie’s first and final terms addressed the outgoing director.

Barry Patrie, (left) accepts a plaque of appreciation from SAD 17 Superintendent Monica Henson Monday night for his years of service on the district’s school board. Also pictured, Board Chair Natalie Andrews and Director Ron Kugell (far right). Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

“When Barry first became a member of the board, and that was over a decade ago, it didn’t take me long as chairman of the board at that time to recognize that he was going to be an outstanding member,” said Ron Kugell, director from Oxford. “All of you are aware of a lot of the things that he has done through the years. He has served on several committees, he served as leadership on several of them. He’s worked hard on things that operate in the shadows, like negotiations, which aren’t easy to work on. He’s also been involved outside, say of the board itself in that he was part of a carpooling crew that used to take board members to MSMA events.

“Through those things I got to know Barry more personally and as much as he tries to hide it, he really is a nice guy.”

Natalie Andrews of West Paris, current board chair said, “I’d like express my enormous gratitude and thanks to Barry, who has been our director from Waterford for many, many years, as well as a teacher. He was a mentor to me personally when I first came onto the board. He dealt with a lot of my tears, honestly. I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank him.”

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