Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have given school boards the authority to decide whether their superintendents should be required to live in the communities where they work.

The bill, which has received widespread bipartisan support, is of concern to the communities of Biddeford and Augusta which have local charter provisions that require superintendents to live in those cities.

Officials from both cities say they fear they could lose their superintendents — each superintendent lives in a neighboring town — unless the Legislature can override the governor’s veto.

A vote to override the governor’s veto — a two-thirds majority is required in both the House and Senate — is tentatively scheduled to take place on Thursday, according to lawmakers.

“State government should not lightly put itself above the decisions of local voters when it comes to their municipal charters. This bill would override the decisions of Maine voters who have intentionally added these requirements to their charters. That is not something I can support,” LePage said in his veto message to the Legislature.

According to the House Democratic Office, L.D. 6 was enacted  by votes of 115-22 in the House and 28-6 in the Senate. Its chief sponsor was Rep. Alan Casavant, D-Biddeford, but it also received sponsorship support from several leading Republicans including Sen. Roger Katz, Rep. Matthew Pouliot and Rep. Corey Wilson, all of Augusta.

Critics say that unless the Legislature overrides the governor’s veto of L.D. 6, school boards may be forced to choose superintendents from a less qualified pool of applicants or “double dippers” — retired superintendents who are looking to re-enter the workforce.

City charters in Biddeford, Augusta, Waterville, Lewiston, Brewer and Presque  Isle require superintendents to live in their school districts.

“This bill puts the authority for decisions about superintendents back where it belongs: with local elected school officials,” Casavant said in a statement issued Tuesday. “They know that to do right by the children they serve they need to attract the most qualified superintendent candidates.”

Casavant, who also serves as mayor of Biddeford and chairman of the city’s School Board, said he is concerned that the city’s superintendent, Jeremy Ray, may leave unless the bill is passed.

That prospect would leave the city scrambling to find a qualified superintendent who is willing to relocate to Biddeford.

Ray was given an extension to meet the city’s residency requirement by Dec. 3. If the bill fails to pass, he says he is not sure what he will do.

The 36-year-old Ray is a former Westbrook school administrator who bought a home in Saco eight years ago. He was hired as Biddeford’s superintendent about eight months ago.

It takes Ray about three minutes to drive from his Saco home to his office at Biddeford High School. His wife, who is pregnant, teaches in Westbrook. They have a three-year-old son.

“This is a difficult situation because I love the city of Biddeford, I love my job, and the district is going places,” Ray said Tuesday night. “It seems strange to me that my only option that would allow me to continue working is to uproot my family and move to Biddeford.”

Pouliot, the Republican state representative, said Augusta’s interim superintendent of schools, James Anastasio, finds himself in a similar predicament. Anastasio’s contract expires Dec. 31 and is up for renewal, but he lives in Gardiner.

“He’d have to sell his home and move to Augusta in order to stay on,” said Pouliot, who works as a real estate agent. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Biddeford voters were given the opportunity in November to approve a change to the city charter thatwould have eliminated the residency requirement, but they rejected the measure.

“My concerns are especially strong when it comes to Biddeford, where the voters had this issue directly before them and chose to keep these charter provisions,” LePage said in his veto message. “I have received scores of letters from them encouraging this veto and I am acting today on their behalf.”

 

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