BUXTON — The School Administrative District 6 board didn’t punish Superintendent Frank Sherburne despite acknowledging late Tuesday that the district’s nepotism policy was violated when the district hired his son, provoking outrage among parents who had waited more than four hours as the board met behind closed doors in executive session.

“You should all be (expletive) ashamed,” parent Lillian Goulet shouted to the board after the decision was read as several parents started speaking over each other and interrupting the board in outrage.

Board member Bradley Garand was reading a board statement that was later posted on the district website: “This decision displayed a lapse in judgment by the Superintendent and he has accepted responsibility for it, but the Board is convinced that the extraordinary circumstances outlined in the nepotism policy existed and that the decisions made by the Superintendent, the Chair and Vice-Chair were made in good faith and with the best interest of the District in mind.”

“You are not protecting our kids, you all need to go,” Richard Bourgeois-Lang said, walking up to the table where the board sat and slamming his fists on it as he spoke.

The board met for more than four hours Tuesday to review a report by an attorney from Drummond Woodsum and two board members. The report found Sherburne discussed the hiring of his son with the chair and the vice.

“The chair and vice chair told the superintendent that they were ‘OK’ with (Zachariah Sherburne) applying,” but the superintendent should check with the union and not have any supervisory authority over his son, the report said. The full board was not informed of the hiring and there was no discussion Tuesday night of whether there would be repercussions for Chairwoman Rebecca Bowley and Vice Chair Jacob T. Stoddard for their role in Zachariah Sherburne’s hiring.

The report found that Zachariah Sherburne had applied for education technician certification with the state and the Department of Education acknowledged receipt of his application on Feb. 2, but later said the paperwork was incomplete because of transcript problems. The report said Zachariah Sherburne had his fingerprints taken on Feb. 16, but the state said it never issued an eight-week temporary card indicating he had applied for a criminal background check.

Asked if Frank Sherburne might be punished in the future, board Chairwoman Rebecca Bowley simply said his annual evaluation was coming up in a month. The last sentence of the board’s statement said the board “is taking steps to address the personnel matter,” but there was no elaboration on what those steps might be.

Zachariah Sherburne’s hiring came to light after he was charged with sexually assaulting a student in another district. Sherburne, 23, also lacks the required state approval to work with students.

The board met privately without Frank Sherburne for about an hour Tuesday evening to review a report by an attorney from Drummond Woodsum and two board members about the district’s nepotism policy and whether it was violated.

The board members came out without commenting and voted to immediately go into a second executive session with Sherburne present for a personnel matter.

“I’d like to see it done tonight. I’ll be grateful when it’s all over, when he’s out,” said Goulet, who’s son is a sophomore at Bonny Eagle High School. “I personally think the whole administration needs to go.”

Richard Bourgeois-Lang of Buxton holds a sign protesting the SAD 6 board's handling of the controversy surrounding Superintendent Frank Sherburne. Bourgeois-Lang and his wife, Melissa Bourgeois-Lang, left, created an outburst at the end of the meeting, after it was clear that Sherburne had not been fired. Richard Bourgeois-Lang slammed his fists on the table where the board sat, saying, "You are not protecting our kids, you all need to go."

Richard Bourgeois-Lang of Buxton holds a sign protesting the SAD 6 board’s handling of the controversy surrounding Superintendent Frank Sherburne. Bourgeois-Lang and his wife, Melissa Bourgeois-Lang, left, created an outburst at the end of the meeting, after it was clear that Sherburne had not been fired. Richard Bourgeois-Lang slammed his fists on the table where the board sat, saying, “You are not protecting our kids, you all need to go.”

One person addressed the board before the executive session, asking if it would make public any findings of its investigation into the nepotism issue.

“Our children and communities are depending on you to do the right thing,” said Amanda Cooper, who is a teacher in another district.

 

Zachariah Sherburne left SAD 6 in March and was subsequently charged with gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor. His alleged female victim is a 16-year-old student at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, in SAD 55, where the younger Sherburne previously worked as an educational technician.

Some parents have started a petition calling on Frank Sherburne to resign. He has refused to talk to the media since the issue surfaced.

SAD 6’s nepotism policy forbids hiring of immediate relatives of the superintendent or board members.

Before Tuesday’s first executive session began, board member Daniel Kasprzyk tried to use procedural rules to cancel the executive session and open up public discussion. So far, the public has had no opportunity to comment on the Sherburne situation, since it has not yet been discussed in an open meeting.

Kasprzyk also said he thought that “two individuals” should recuse themselves from participating in the executive session, but he did not elaborate. His motion died for lack of a supporting a vote from a second board member.

At a board meeting Monday, Kasprzyk raised the issue of hiring independent legal counsel, instead of using attorneys from Drummond Woodsum, which represents the district, to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

Stephen Langsdorf of Preti Flaherty said it’s not unusual for a board to hire outside counsel for fact-finding work, then present that work to the board so they can have their own counsel advise them.

SAD 6 board members voted down Kasprzyk’s motion, and used a Drummond Woodsum lawyer to do the investigation.

Sherburne has faced challenges in the district before.

In less than five years as superintendent of SAD 6 in Buxton, he’s been accused of unfairly pushing out a principal, having inappropriate communications with a student and failing to cancel classes during a snowstorm.

The state revealed last week that it has never issued any approvals for Zachariah Sherburne – who was first hired in SAD 55 in November – even a temporary eight-week card that shows he provided the state with fingerprints for a criminal background check.

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