PARIS — Directors of Maine School Administrative District 17 unanimously appointed Chief Curriculum Officer Heather Manchester as interim superintendent Monday, five days after Superintendent Monica Henson was placed on paid administrative leave.

Heather Manchester, chief curriculum officer for the Oxford Hills School District in Paris, addresses the board of directors in July 2020. On Monday, they unanimously appointed her acting superintendent. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat file photo

“We knew we had to put someone in front of the staff who was comfortable and had a running knowledge of our district,” Chairwoman Natalie Andrews of West Paris said after the afternoon emergency board meeting. “Heather was the person that came to everyone’s mind for that, as well as having the credentials. She has a running knowledge of everything that is going on within the district right now.”

Andrews said the decision was reached after consulting with the district’s attorney and Steve Bailey, head of the Maine School Board Association.

Henson, who was hired in July 2021, is under investigation by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office after allegations that she improperly physically restrained a child at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris last September. She was placed on leave Jan. 26.

The incident was made public Jan. 18 when the Oxford Hills Education Association presented the board with a list of 27 concerns about her leadership and announced members had taken a vote of no confidence in her.

Henson responded in writing to the concerns the following day.


On Jan. 19, directors instructed district Chief Child Services Officer Jan Neureuther to report the incident to DHHS.

Empowered by their union’s stance, Agnes Gray staff who witnessed the incident in September separately filed a report with DHHS on Jan. 20.

The student’s parents learned the full details of the incident after the Jan. 18 school board meeting and filed a complaint against Henson with the Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 21.

The position of assistant superintendent was eliminated when Patrick Hartnett left in October 2021 to become an assistant professor at the University of Southern Maine’s School of Education and Human Development.

The position was eliminated and the district split the duties between a chief operating officer to oversee technology, facilities, athletics and transportation, and a chief financial officer to lead the business office. Hebron Station School Principal Donald Thorne was chosen for the former and accountant Carrie Colley for the latter.

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