WINTHROP — An official with the state’s teacher union said she is frustrated that the Winthrop School Board hasn’t responded publicly to a formal complaint that her group filed early this year about embattled Superintendent Gary Rosenthal.

On Tuesday afternoon, Joan Morin, a regional director for the Maine Education Association, said that her group filed the complaint in late January on behalf of the Winthrop School Department’s employees and administrators, who have become frustrated with the leadership of the department.

But a day after the Winthrop School Board held a closed-door meeting that lasted more than three hours, Morin said the group still hasn’t made public the findings of an investigation into that complaint.

“We do believe the School Board has received a findings report,” she said Tuesday. “However, we have yet to hear from the board on what the findings were or what they plan to do as a result of the findings or the complaint itself. We had hoped to hear something after last night’s board meeting. Nobody has shared anything with us. We’re frustrated and in the dark, frankly.”

Morin declined to go into detail about specifics of the complaint against the superintendent.

Virginia Geyer, chairwoman of the School Board, didn’t respond to a call seeking comment on Tuesday.

Campbell Badger, an attorney for the Winthrop School Department, said he couldn’t confirm whether the district has received a complaint about Rosenthal or whether an investigation has been performed, because of a state law that makes disciplinary matters confidential unless an action has been taken.

As a general matter, Badger added, the School Board members take all complaints seriously and “do their due diligence” to investigate them.

Rosenthal, who attended part of Monday night’s School Board meeting with an attorney who is representing him, also said he couldn’t confirm whether a complaint about his leadership has been received or investigated.

Because of laws that prevent school officials from discussing personnel matters, Rosenthal said that people should withhold judgment until “documented facts” can be heard.

“I am represented by an attorney, and there is no decision that has come out yet, so I can’t say too much,” Rosenthal said Tuesday morning. “I can’t really say anything more than that. The only thing I would say is this is a very emotionally charged issue. I think we’ve always tried to do what’s best for the kids and what’s best for the district. I would ask you to keep those two things in mind.”

Later Tuesday, after Rosenthal learned of Morin’s comments to a reporter, he added, “It’s a personnel matter, and I think, to get one side of the story is kind of biased. Joan has a perspective. There are two sides, and I think you really need to hear the other side.”

An email seeking comment from Maria Fox, Rosenthal’s attorney, wasn’t returned immediately Tuesday evening.

The superintendent has become a controversial figure in Winthrop.

School Board members have remained supportive of him, praising his work and extending his contract, even as he has come under fire from town officials since the discovery of a $1.5 million shortfall in the School Department’s budget more than a year ago.

Rosenthal, like the School Board, has argued that town officials should have caught that revenue shortfall before it developed. And School Board members have pointed to the academic success of the town’s students and the fact that the School Department has ended many years with a budget surplus as evidence of Rosenthal’s aptitude.

More recently, though, a rift has been forming between Rosenthal and the School Board on the one side, and the employees of the district on the other.

A group of administrators has been working with Morin to form a union because of the feeling that their concerns haven’t been heard by the School Board.

And on Monday night, nearly 20 employees of the School Department came to the School Board to publicly convey their concerns. The group included teachers, educational technicians, cafeteria workers and administrators, including all three of the district’s principals.

Near the start of the meeting, the School Board voted to enter a closed-door, executive session to discuss a personnel matter.

Standing around the lobby of the Town Office as the meeting continued in private, the employees said they have concerns with the School Department, but declined to detail those concerns or respond to follow-up questions.

“We are here to ensure that the committee recognizes the seriousness of the situation and does the right thing,” said Terry Buchanan, a teacher at Winthrop Grade School, who was partly reading from prepared remarks. “We need quality leadership and collaboration at all levels. Our students, staff and community expect and deserve strong educational leadership. We’re here to bear witness. These are serious concerns. We want proper due process to happen.”

Buchanan, who declined to elaborate on her concerns, is president of the Winthrop educators’ union, which has about 70 teachers and 45 support staff in its membership. She was among the five or so employees who stayed for the entirety of the School Board’s meeting.

Another attendee was Karen Criss, principal of Winthrop Middle School, who is among the nine administrators trying to start their own union. Asked why she came to the meeting, Criss read a prepared comment that was close to Buchanan’s and encouraged a reporter to contact Morin for answers to other questions.

In an interview Tuesday, Morin said she has received varying complaints about Rosenthal’s “professionalism and leadership” of the district. In December, she said, she sent a letter notifying the School Board about those complaints.

Then in late January, Morin said, she sent a formal complaint to the School Board after employees expressed “concern with the School Board’s lack of action and support.”

Now, Morin said, she would like to hear the findings of an investigation that she thinks was launched as a result of that complaint.

Badger, the School Department’s attorney, said he couldn’t confirm whether the district has received a complaint about Rosenthal. But if the School Board takes any action regarding an employee, he added, they must do so in public session.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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