FARMINGTON — Thirteen members of the 16-member Regional School Unit 9 board of directors voted Tuesday to reaffirm that individual directors do not act or speak for the full board. They also disavowed certain acts and statements made by Chesterville director Craig Stickney.

RSU 9 school directors vote to approve a field trip Tuesday night prior to an executive session on Director Craig Stickney of Chesterville, far left, at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. (Sun Journal Photo by Donna M. Perry)

Stickney held a community forum Feb. 6 at the Chesterville Town Hall to voice his concerns about RSU 9. No one was allowed to speak on behalf of RSU 9, though Superintendent Tina Meserve and several board members were in attendance.

Only Chesterville residents and Stickney, a facilitator and a student speaker were allowed to speak, according to a report of the meeting.

On Tuesday, the school board held an executive session and afterward, according to a motion by Chairwoman Cherieann Harrison of Wilton and seconded by Vice Chairman Irving Faunce of Wilton, members disavowed Stickney’s statements or actions because the board found them to be either inaccurate or they carry with them the potential to expose RSU 9 to legal liability.

When contacted by email, Stickney wrote that he did not know what the board voted on. The Sun Journal sent the written motion to him but he had not responded as of 4 p.m.

Harrison read from a statement at the beginning of Tuesday’s board meeting that she said clarified some of the misinformation made during community discussions or questions. One was in regard to Stickney saying at the forum that he did not know what $8,000 spent by the board between July 1, 2018, and Dec. 15, 2018, was for.

The correct figure was $3,998, Harrison said. The issue was publicly addressed at a board meeting last year in regard to the money for legal consultation, which could include contract negotiations, bidding issues, board training consultations and student or staff issues.

According to Tuesday’s motion: “Mr. Stickney orchestrated a public meeting at the Chesterville Town Hall to discuss school board business. During the Feb. 6 meeting, Mr. Stickney admitted that he has been previously told that he should not act independent of the board but falsely stated that the board chair has not explained why doing so is problematic. In truth, the board chair offered such an explanation in a registered letter sent to him in December 2018.”

“When the subject of the district’s curriculum was raised in this independent forum, Mr. Stickney stated that he had never seen the K-5 curriculum before but that he was instructed to vote on it anyway,” according to the motion.

The Feb. 6 “meeting did not serve as a meeting to understand a citizen complaint so that it could be routed to the appropriate administrator. Rather, Mr. Stickney created the forum independent of the school board so that he could make disparaging remarks about others and to undermine school programs,” according to the motion.

During the forum Mr. Stickney made a number of false criticisms about district “staff responsible for certain expenditures and for payroll. Contrary to the facts Mr. Stickney claimed that the district made $8,000 in “unauthorized expenditures” and may have unlawfully overpaid staff in the amount of $230,000. The board is an employer and, as a member of the board, it is inappropriate and a violation of Maine law to discuss personnel matters in public,” the motion said.

Harrison read a long list of items that the $230,000 was used for during the open board meeting Tuesday. Those included technical costs for 52 new students, raising substitute pay to meet minimum wage, an additional elementary school teacher, staff overtime that was worked and audits of the Mallett School and Special Education program. This was also discussed in public last year.

The motion went on to say that Stickney also made the false statement that the district does not have any staff for the district’s Pathway for All Learners Program. Harrison previously said some staff has been hired.

The board “also emphasized that members of the board must be cognizant of the fact that they are an employer and must maintain appropriate decorum in that role,” according to the motion. The motion also said it “is never appropriate to tell the superintendent in a private conversation to ‘screw you’ or to use other inappropriate, unprofessional, or disrespectful words or tone of voice when addressing the superintendent.”

The superintendent is the chief executive officer of the district and deserves the board’s respect and that it could create a hostile work environment for an employee,  according to the motion.

Voting in favor of the motion were: Harrison; Faunce; Carol Coles of Starks; Doug Dunlap, Scott Erb, Tami Labul and Iris Silverstein, all of Farmington; Lisa Laflin of New Vineyard; Jeff Harris of New Sharon; Betsey Hyde of Temple; Angie LeClair of Wilton; Lidie Robbins of Vienna; and Debbie Smith of Weld.

Farmington director Ryan Morgan was absent, Industry director Jesse Sillanpaa abstained, and Stickney left the executive session shortly after it started, according to minutes.

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