WATERVILLE — School board members say their decision Monday night to dismiss former Waterville High School Principal Don Reiter was made after weighing the evidence presented in a three-day disciplinary hearing, and they were not influenced by new allegations that Reiter had inappropriate relationships with students in New Hampshire a decade or more ago.

The board voted 6-1 Monday night to dismiss Reiter from his position. He’d been on leave since Sept. 1. The former principal has 30 days to appeal the decision.

The school department’s attorney has alleged that Reiter took a female student into his office on the first day of school in August, told her he had selected her to have sex with him, and that if she tried to leave, she would never graduate.

Meanwhile, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said her office is still reviewing information the Waterville Police Department uncovered before deciding whether to press criminal charges.

Reiter’s disciplinary hearing before the Board of Education was held over three days, Nov. 10, 11 and Monday, and included hours of testimony and evidence, most given in confidential executive session. The hearings followed a two-month investigation by top school department administrators into the students’ allegations against Reiter.

Schools Superintendent Eric Haley didn’t respond to calls Monday and Tuesday seeking information on whether Reiter, who was paid $102,000 a year, gets severance and how long Assistant Principal Brian Laramee would continue as acting principal at the school, which has 500 students and about 40 teachers.

The Waterville Police Department completed a four-week criminal investigation into the allegations on Sept. 25 and sent it to the district attorney’s office for review. Then on Sunday, police confirmed to the Morning Sentinel they were investigating new allegations that Reiter had inappropriate relationships with high school students when he worked in New Hampshire.

On Monday, hours before the board hearing, the police department released a detailed timeline about the department’s investigation, starting the previous Thursday, of allegations by two former Macenic Regional High School students. One said she had a relationship with Reiter that became sexual during or after her senior year at the New Ipswich, New Hampshire, school, and another who said she had an inappropriate relationship with Reiter when she was 17 years old and gave police 147 pages of letters he allegedly wrote to her.

Reiter worked at the school from 1998 to 2004.

School board members on Monday voted unanimously not to reopen the case to consider possible new evidence from the New Hampshire allegations.

In an email Tuesday night, Gregg Frame, Reiter’s attorney, said he was “disappointed, understandably,” by the board’s decision.

“Over the next week or so, I will sit down with my client and discuss whether an appeal is warranted,” Frame said.

“The New Hampshire allegations came as a surprise to me,” Frame added. “I do think that, having been appraised of the allegations, the board should have opened the hearing to new information and allowed Don to respond to them. I do not think it’s possible the board could have made a decision last night without taking into account the NH allegations.”

Reiter was hired as Waterville Senior High School principal in 2007 and was popular with students and staff. There was strong support for him in the community, and parents and teachers staged a rally last Friday in support of him.

But the allegations released on Monday afternoon shook the confidence some vocal supporters in the community had in Reiter.

Shanon Dixon, a mother of six Waterville High School graduates, helped organize a rally in support of Reiter at the high school last Friday and planned another in front of the George Mitchell School before Monday’s school board hearing.

That demonstration was called off when the new allegations were detailed by police Monday afternoon, and Dixon said she didn’t attend the hearing.

Although Dixon isn’t certain the allegations against Reiter are true, she is no longer fully supporting him.

“I went from totally backing him to having skepticism, and if I have skepticism, I can’t back him 100 percent,” Dixon said.


Board member Susan Reisert, who was the only one to vote against dismissing Reiter, said Tuesday that she was not convinced by the evidence presented at the hearing.

“I was not persuaded by the evidence and could not in good conscience vote to dismiss given the evidence and testimony given to us,” Reisert said.

At the beginning of the board’s deliberations, Reisert didn’t believe she would be the lone dissenting vote, but by Wednesday night last week it was “pretty clear” she would be the only board member voting against dismissal.

After taking the weekend to think it over, she still “felt very clearly that I was not persuaded and even though I was going to be alone, I had to vote my conscience,” Reisert said.

Because the new allegations were from New Hampshire and at least a decade old, she did not place much weight on them, Reisert said. She voted against reopening the case to consider the new allegations because she didn’t believe it was the board’s place, she said.

“We’re not an offshoot of the police department. It was just not relevant enough, and I didn’t think it was going to change anyone’s mind,” she said.

Reiter still has supporters in the community, and Reisert has received emails from people who say they did not want him to be fired, Reisert said.

Three board members who voted to dismiss Reiter said Tuesday the New Hampshire allegations didn’t play a role, but the evidence they heard at the hearing did.

Board member Pamela Trinward said the evidence they heard, much of it in executive session, made it more likely that Reiter’s accuser was telling the truth.

“It seemed more likely that her story was true, and the way she behaved following the incident was more believable than the way he did,” Trinward said.

Trinward was on the committee that hired Reiter as principal. He was her personal choice and had done a tremendous job, she said, but with a large population of at-risk students in Waterville, the board had to make their protection its only priority, she said.

“The school board’s ultimate responsibility is to the students in our schools,” Trinward said. “To provide a safe environment where they can be successful.”

Board Chairwoman Sara Sylvester said she was glad the ordeal was over, but “there is no relief there because there is no winner.”

“That’s the one relief I have, that it is over and we can build back to the school we are and give the seniors the year they deserve,” she said.

Sylvester said she voted to dismiss Reiter because of the evidence presented in the case.

“I feel that I have a duty to protect the students of the Waterville School District,” she said.

The board was presented with enough evidence to make an informed decision, she added.

“I certainly think that if we felt we could not make a decision, I think we would have said that,” she said.

“I really want people to know it wasn’t taken lightly. It’s sad,” she said. “There is no victory lap after this.”

Board member Joan Phillips-Sandy said she was leaning toward dismissal by the end of the session last Wednesday and was quite certain of her decision by Monday night’s meeting.

“I voted that way because I believe that is where the evidence led me,” Sandy said.

“I have been on the board a long time, and I have worked with Don,” she said. “Personally, I like him and respected his work as a principal, but I had to fairly assess the evidence as presented.”

The New Hampshire allegations are “completely irrelevant” to the Waterville case, she said.

In an email, board member Maryanne Bernier declined to comment because of “the confidentiality of the information and it may end up in the courts.” She referred questions to the board’s lawyer, Bryan Dench. Board members Tiffany LaLiberty and Elizabeth Bickford did not respond to emails requesting comment Tuesday.


On Tuesday, Waterville Police Chief Joe Massey said that the police department’s final report on Reiter still stands with the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office. Waterville investigators looked into the New Hampshire allegations to see if there was any connection to the Waterville allegations against Reiter.

“We did not uncover anything new in terms of criminal charges in Waterville,” he said.

It is against state law for a teacher to have sexual contact with a student under the age of 18.

Detective Sgt. William Bonney is still compiling reports from the New Hampshire investigation, and once that is complete, the department will determine what steps to take next, including turning the information over to local police in New Hampshire, Massey said.

New Ipswich Police Chief Timothy Carpenter did not respond to repeated messages left Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

“We have completed the case,” Massey said, “but should new information come in that is relevant, we would reopen it.”

Releasing detailed information about the New Hampshire investigation Monday afternoon was not connected to the school board hearing three hours later, Massey said.

“We thought the public interest would be best served,” Massey said. “It had nothing to do with the timing of the board meeting.”

Asked whether it was unusual for the department to release a timeline of its investigation into the New Hampsire allegations, Massey said, “We release information to the public and the media every day about crimes we are investigating.” Sometimes that information is released up front and sometimes it is withheld, he said.

Massey said the police department was aware the Morning Sentinel had received tips about the New Hampshire allegations and wanted the information to come from his department before the newspaper made it public.

“You have to remember that we were aware that you folks were getting information, and we did not want a one-sided story out there,” Massey said. “The Morning Sentinel would have gone ahead if I had said nothing about it.”

Later Massey said, “Sometimes if we don’t respond to a request from the news media, they might go ahead and print what they have.”

Scott Monroe, managing editor of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal, said the information the newspaper initially received was a tip from an anonymous source, and the newspaper would not have published a story unless police or another official source had corroborated the information.

The newspaper contacted Waterville police on Sunday, and the department chose to verify that it was investigating the information, Monroe said.

Maloney, the district attorney, said Tuesday afternoon her office has received the letters Reiter allegedly sent to his former New Hampshire student, and she intends to review them before making a recommendation on criminal charges.

She has already completed a review of the investigation into the Waterville allegations but wanted to see if there was anything in the letters “that bears a similarity” to the local case.

“I think it is important for me to review all the information at my disposal” before making a decision, Maloney said Tuesday.


Trinward said Tuesday that the school department had taken some “pretty serious criticism” from sexual assault victim advocates and others over the way the incident had been handled and “unfortunately, we probably deserve it.”

“Let’s be honest, there was a lot more information that got out than should have” about the student who alleged Reiter asked her for sex, Trinward said. That information was coming from high school staff, she said.

A portion of the audience at the two hearings last week and Monday night — about 125 people each night — were teachers who made it clear they supported Reiter, at one point giving him a standing ovation.

Trinward said that she is “enormously disappointed by the staff at Waterville High School” for that behavior.

There was “a large vocal group that was letting the public know the girl’s name and her information and painting her with an unfavorable brush,” Trinward said.

“There’s some healing that needs to be done,” she said. “There’s some work that needs to be done.”

Dixon, the mother of six Waterville High School graduates, said she spent Monday feeling “literally sick to her stomach, thinking what a horrible person I was” because now she thinks the Waterville student who initially accused Reiter might be telling the truth.

“I feel terrible for definitely thinking the girl was a liar. Look at how she has been ridiculed,” Dixon said. She had wondered why, if the allegations were true, more students hadn’t come forward.

“Because of people like me who judge, that’s why,” Dixon said. “That’s easy to answer.”

Now she isn’t sure what to believe. She’s decided not to take a stance until the whole story comes out.

“I’m not 100 percent sure he’s guilty. I’m not 100 percent sure he’s not guilty,” Dixon said. “I have questions, and if I have questions, I can’t back somebody like that.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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