CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board this week agreed to a three-year contract with new Superintendent of Schools Donna H. Wolfrom.

Donna H. Wolfrom, superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 38, will become school chief in Cape Elizabeth next summer. photo

Wolfrom’s selection was announced Dec. 13. She will begin work in Cape Elizabeth on July 1, 2018, at an annual salary of $135,000.

Wolfrom, who is in her sixth year as superintendent of the Maranacook Area Schools, will finish the school year in Regional School Unit 38. She will replace Meredith Nadeau, who resigned from the Cape Elizabeth position in 2016. Howard Colter, a retired superintendent from Mount Desert Island, has served as interim superintendent.

According to a Dec. 19 announcement, the School Board sees Wolfrom “leading Cape Elizabeth Schools in a positive direction, as she has done in RSU 38,” where she faced several high-profile matters as superintendent, including a lawsuit that alleged “head-bagging” incidents in 2015.

In August 2017, Michelle and Adam Woodford reached a tentative $95,000 settlement with the Maranacook district and the teacher identified in the lawsuit.

According to the Kennebec Journal, the Woodfords sued the school district and longtime teacher Laura Reville on behalf of their daughter. They claimed that on four separate occasions in fall 2015, Reville put a paper bag over their daughter’s head in front of her classmates to embarrass or humiliate her, which led to bullying and other inappropriate conduct from fellow students.

Their complaint, filed on Nov. 18, 2016, in Kennebec County Superior Court, charged that Regional School Unit 38 violated the state Freedom of Access Act and an anti-bullying statute in connection with results of a school investigation into the incidents.

It stated that four head-bagging incidents occurred Sept. 15 through Nov. 7, 2015. Another teacher learned about the action from students on Nov. 8, 2015, and reported it to Principal Jeff Boston that day. It says Wolfrom began an investigation as a result of that report.

Both the district and Reville denied the allegations.

“We are always concerned about the safety of our students,” Wolfrom told the Kennebec Journal in November 2016. “We never want students to be bullied, humiliated or embarrassed by anyone.”

Wolfrom also recommended not to close Manchester Elementary School after continued concerns about the school’s air quality last April.

According to the Kennebec Journal, the latest trouble for the 65-year-old school began March 29 when a fourth-grade teacher complained of a smell in her classroom. A check of the room yielded no obvious cause.

At the time, Wolfrom said she hadn’t heard from any parents who wanted the school to close. However, the director of the local teacher’s union, Joan Morin, said the union was concerned about whether the building was safe. She sent Wolfrom a letter asking that the school be closed for the remainder of the school year.

In a Dec. 13 email, Elizabeth Scifres, former chairwoman of the Cape Elizabeth School Board, said Wolfrom was the outstanding candidate in the search for Cape Elizabeth’s permanent superintendent because she “encompasses a combination of qualities that our stakeholders felt were important, (such as) high emotional intelligence, warm, approachable, collaborative, supportive, a good listener and communicator, (with) successful district-level experience.”

On Friday, Dec. 15, Wolfrom toured all three schools, met with administrators and teachers, and with district staff and directors. According to the School Board’s announcement, feedback was positive, and Wolfrom reported “having a wonderful day with students and staff.”

“I’m honored and overwhelmed to have been selected,” Wolfrom said Dec. 13. “Cape Elizabeth has a reputation of having an excellent school system and community.”

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