OAKLAND — The Town Council will take it slow in filling Oakland’s vacancy on the board of Regional School Unit 18, where the public debate over a new learning system has created an unusual level of interest.

On Thursday, the council put out a call for candidates for the position, which was vacated when 21-year board member Donna Doucette resigned June 6, citing the district’s transition to a proficiency-based learning system.

Two candidates have come forward, but the council decided Wednesday to postpone its decision until July 17, so that other potential candidates will have the opportunity to express interest.

“They decided on a thoughtful process, rather than a rushed one,” Town Manager Peter Nielsen said. Each town in the district selects its own school board members.

Oakland residents who would like to be considered for the position have been asked to pick up a petition of interest from the town office. While the forms will establish that there is some level of support for each candidate, Nielsen said there is no firm requirement for a number of signatures. In order to be considered, the forms must be returned to the town office by July 1.

The council will hold a special workshop session on June 18 to decide the process by which they will make their decision, which Nielsen said could include gathering public opinion in a forum, or by other methods.

A large number of residents attended the Wednesday night council meeting, and also sent what Nielsen called “a blizzard of emails” to lobby for two candidates who have expressed interest: Mary-Anne LaMarre, who was defeated by Doucette at the polls in November 2,004 to 921; and Tom Burton, the assistant director of athletics at Colby College.

Both LaMarre and Burton have a unique claim on the position.

At least once in the past, a school board vacancy was filled by the council by the second-highest vote-getter, which in this case would be LaMarre, but the council is not required to follow that precedent this time around, according to a legal opinion provided by Lee Bragg of Bernstein Shur, a law firm.

Following Doucette’s resignation, she identified Burton as someone she would like to see fill her position.

The council decided to postpone the decision after a motion to appoint LaMarre failed in a split, 3-2, decision.

A permanent replacement will be elected in November, but election regulations state that person won’t be seated until July 1, 2014, and so the interim person appointed by the council will serve for an entire school year.

The person elected in November will serve the rest of Doucette’s three-year term, which runs until June 30, 2016.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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