AUGUSTA — The Board of Education voted unanimously to extend the term of interim Superintendent James Anastasio for two school years Wednesday, until June 2015.

Anastasio has expressed interest in taking the job long-term, but because he is a resident of Gardiner, not Augusta, he can’t fill the job permanently. The city charter requires the superintendent live in the city.

Board members have said the residency requirement hindered their search for a new superintendent, and said they heard potential candidates for the job didn’t apply because they didn’t want to relocate.

The move gives the board more time to try to eliminate the residency requirement.

Board Chairwoman Susan Campbell said the school system’s attorney told the board they could legally extend Anastasio’s interim contract.

“The city charter has a residency requirement for the long-term superintendent, but does not address the status of an interim superintendent,” said Campbell, reading a prepared statement. She said since it’s common for non-residents to serve in interim capacities and there’s no language in the charter that precludes it, keeping Anastasio as interim does not violate the charter.

While board members didn’t take public comment before the vote, after the meeting city resident Mike Hein lambasted them for their decision, saying the move violates the charter.

“They’re giving the finger to every resident of Augusta,” Hein said. “This school board is drunk on power.” He said the absence of language about interim posts doesn’t give the board free rein.

“I think what they’ve done is an abuse of power. It’s offensive,” he said.

Legislation that would have allowed local school boards to override superintendent residency requirements and had multiple sponsors from Augusta’s delegation was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage this year.

Changing the city charter to remove the residency requires a citywide vote and voter turnout of at least 30 percent of the number that voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Campbell said city officials believe, based on experience, the next time voter turnout is likely to be that high would be November 2014, when the next gubernatorial vote is.

Campbell said extending Anastasio’s interim contract “is of course a reflection of the school committee’s confidence in Mr. Anastasio in the interim position.”

Campbell and Anastasio, who will be paid about $100,000 a year, both said extending his interim stint until June 2015 would give the board time to try to overturn the residency requirement and react to whatever the city’s voters decided.

“I thank the board for having confidence in me and allowing me to be of assistance during this transition period,” Anastasio said. “I look forward to continuing the relationship we have and making the Augusta School Department the best it can be.”

Before the meeting started, Anastasio said when he was hired as Cony High School principal in 2005 he wanted to move to Augusta with his family, but the real estate market was tight and he couldn’t find a home in the city, so he bought one in Gardiner instead.

Anastasio, has been interim superintendent since Cornelia Brown, former superintendent, left for a new job Jan. 1.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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