Media Archive

Former SAD 41 employee questions hiring decisions

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 47, November 24, 2004
To the editor:

As a longtime employee of SAD 41 in Milo, I have witnessed and have questioned the hiring and promotional practices of the administration and Board of Directors. I have seen longtime employees with tried and true records of service and excellent educational qualifications passed over and denied promotions and/or transfers. I have questioned these decisions, but placidly went on with my business and trusted that those who are hired or elected to "run the district" must have good reasons for their decisions.

Last week however, a decision was made by the superintendent and the board of SAD 41 that defies reason, logic, and is noncompliant with state regulations regarding the hiring of the most highly qualified candidate, to such a degree that I feel compelled to speak out.

Mrs. Susan Worcester is a longtime and esteemed employee of SAD 41. She has been a special education teacher in the district for over 30 years. She, at one time, assumed the leadership role for the entire elementary special education program for a period of three years when certified teachers were unavailable.

During this time she managed a caseload of over 50 elementary special education students with a variety of disabilities. As the consulting teacher, she supervised educational technicians in three elementary schools, while she case managed the program, and carried out administrative responsibilities including the evaluations of her staff.

I know this personally because I have had the great honor of working closely with Susan, I can say emphatically that Susan did the job required of her with skill and professionalism. She has demonstrated an incredible working knowledge of special education laws and regulations, and has also exhibited wonderful interpersonal skills when working with children, parents, advocates, the ed techs she supervised and colleagues. I respectfully say that in my opinion and the opinion of many of her colleagues, Susan is the epitome of a professional she puts the best interest of students of SAD 41 foremost at all times.

This fall the special education director in Milo resigned, and Susan applied for the interim position left in her absence. Most of us who know Susan felt that she would be a wonderful candidate, and encouraged her in this new endeavor. I am appalled and disappointed to say that Susan was denied this advancement, not because the district hired an experienced director, or a person with more advanced degrees, and certainly not with the years of educational experience, than Susan has. Instead the superintendent recommended to the board, a woman who was trained by Susan while she (Susan ) performed her consultant role for the district. This person holds a provisional certificate, not a professional certificate as a special education teacher and her educational background is not in special education, although she is currently in the process of obtaining a master's degree in this area. This woman has two years of teaching experience. I ask the question, " What is wrong with this picture?"

Sadly, this is not new in SAD 41, of late it seems an example of "business as usual," but it is an extreme example of the need for those of us who want "Highly Qualified Educators" for our children to ask questions of our superintendent, administrators, and our board members. I would urge all concerned citizens to call your board members and ask for reasons. After all, we pay these administrators and elect these board members to choose the best and most qualified people to work with our children.

Please just ask the question "On what basis was this decision made?" I hope if you do that, you get a satisfactory answer. I've asked, and I haven't been satisfied yet. In fact, I was told by a board member that she did not know who the other applicants were when the interim director was nominated, only who the superintendent had chosen to recommend. Maybe if enough of us ask hard questions, those we pay to make decisions and those we elect to represent us will ask questions of their own concerning the hiring practices in the district. SAD 41 has lost many excellent teachers and administrators in the past two years, and I fear that this will continue into the future. Is this what we want? How can any of us trust the current superintendent and the board of directors when they hire the lesser qualified applicant for a job even if this practice is in violation of state regulations?

If any of you are concerned about this travesty, please let your voice be heard. If you are concerned, ask questions and expect answers and accountability. Call board members, attend board meetings and, after that, perhaps the best and most qualified will be leading our schools.

Ellen N. Kirby
Former special education teacher
SAD 41
Lakeview Plantation

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.