PARIS — The directors of Maine School Administrative District 17 voted Wednesday evening to put Superintendent Monica Henson on paid administrative leave.

Oxford Hills School District Superintendent Monica Henson. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal 2021 file photo

A statement announcing the move was read by Vice Chairman Jared Cash of Norway about 7:30 p.m., after a 3½-hour executive session with attorney Tom Trenholm of Drummond Woodsum.

Cash and Chairwoman Natalie Andrews of West Paris declined to say what the district’s leadership will look like in the interim.

“We are working on that now,” Cash said. “It will be a collective effort.”

Henson was present at the start of the meeting as it entered and executive session but was not seen again as the board voted and made their announcement.

The decision follows board meetings in the past week at which staff at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris alleged Henson inappropriately restrained a student last fall. Several have filed complaints with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

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The student’s mother, Ashley Rowe of West Paris, has filed a complaint with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

Members of the Sheriff’s Office were at the school Tuesday and interviewed five educators as part of their investigation, according to Giovanna Bechard, spokesperson with Maine Education Association.

Officials with DHHS were also at the school conducting an investigation.

Henson’s restraint was made public at the school board’s meeting Jan. 18 when representatives of Oxford Hills Education Association presented the board with a list of 27 complaints against Henson and announced a vote of no confidence in her leadership. A dozen concerned educators, parents and residents also spoke out during the meeting against Henson.

Megan Smith, left, and Heather Brown, both of Norway, stand Wednesday in front of a message they painted on property Brown owns on outer Main Street in Norway. “We hope that people driving past will get a feeling of community pride and know there is support for them,” Brown said. The Oxford Hills School District is embroiled in a controversy involving Superintendent Monica Henson. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The board issued a statement to “members Oxford Hills Community,” saying, “Over the past few weeks, we have heard the many voices, the many different perspectives about issues concerning Superintendent Henson’s leadership of our school administrative district. We continue to receive texts, emails, and calls, and we are sorting through all the varied communications.

“This effort requires time to conduct a proper and complete investigation, a thorough consideration of the issues presented, consultation with our legal advisers, and careful deliberation of all that we have learned. We ask for your understanding as we gather and evaluate all the relevant information.

“As the School Board, we are accountable to you and committed to resolving the matters before us with integrity. In fairness to all parties involved, including Dr. Henson, she will be on paid administrative leave while the board works to a resolution.

The statement concludes by saying, “Please know we take very seriously our responsibility to place the best interest of our students at the center of this process. We promise this mission is first and foremost in our minds. We express our sincere gratitude for your patience as we do our work.”

Henson, of Auburn, was appointed to the position in July.

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