FAIRFIELD — Two administrators in the local school district are on voluntary paid administrative leave, according to the superintendent, a move that also comes after the district approved eliminating or changing their jobs.

Cheryl Brackett, the director of operations, and Cory Rogers, the special education director, have been on leave since March 22, School Administrative District 49 Superintendent Reza Namin said.

Shelley Rudnicki, School Administrative District 49 chairwoman, listens to Reza Namin, superintendent of SAD 49, during a school board meeting Thursday at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield. The discussion centered on who could engage legal counsel for the district. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

In an email to SAD 49 staff members that was given to the Morning Sentinel on Friday, Namin said the administrators were put on leave until further notice “in response to their request regarding the same and in an effort to reach a mutual agreement regarding the terms of their employment with the District.”

In the meantime, Namin said he and Assistant Superintendent Roberta Hersom would take over their duties. He would not elaborate on the reason for the leave.

Brackett earns a salary of $79,655 and Rogers, $88,895. Namin said they are being paid their full salaries while out on leave.

The move comes shortly after the district approved an administrative restructuring plan put forward by Namin, who started working in the district in August and put the plan before the school board for approval in January.

SAD 49 consists of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

The restructuring plan includes eliminating three administrative jobs, restructuring and advertising for five others and adding two new positions by June 30.

Brackett’s job is one that is scheduled to be eliminated, while Rogers’ job would be restructured, given a new title and description and advertised for.

Employees were mostly quiet on the restructuring changes in the immediate aftermath of their approval, but there are indications the district could face legal ramifications or have to pay out settlements to employees because of the plan.

Both Brackett and Rogers declined to comment on the situation Friday.

At Thursday night’s budget workshop meeting, school board member Jenny Boyden, of Clinton, expressed concern it could result in significant costs that haven’t been budgeted for.

“I don’t feel we have a timeline of when potential costs could occur and if they occur, under what authority are we allowed to pay them?” Boyden said. “Do they have to be included in the budget? If they’re not included in the budget and they factor into the fund balance, how does that factor into the upcoming year? Next year?”

The restructuring originally was estimated to generate an annual cost savings of $113,000.

Boyden said Friday she didn’t know how much the plan could end up costing the district.

“I really don’t have a response that would be adequate,” she said. “I have asked for the same info, and I don’t have a number.”

Boyden, who voted against the plan when the board approved it in January, said board members haven’t received enough information on it to know if it will help the district run better or more efficiently, which is part of the reason she originally did not support it.

When asked where the costs would come from, she said, “Administrators have contracts. I’m not sure what I can say beyond that.”

Namin would not say Friday what potential costs could be associated with the restructuring or how much they could be.

In February, the board received a letter from affected employees threatening to sue the district.

Namin has declined to release a copy of the letter to the Morning Sentinel, saying to do so would be a violation of Maine law protecting the privacy of certain employment records.

He said Thursday any potential costs of restructuring would come out of the 2018-2019 budget and would be associated with salary lines.

However, he did not answer when asked if there would be additional costs such as a financial settlement for affected employees, and if so, where in the budget that money would come from.

The concern about the cost of restructuring was among a handful of issues discussed Thursday night as board members moved to approve a $27.1 million 2019-2020 budget. The budget passed 6-5-1 and will now head to a district budget meeting May 14 and a referendum June 11.

A breakdown of the board voting was unavailable Friday.

The budget as originally presented by Namin included the use of $1.8 million in reserve money to produce a tax increase of less than 1 percent in all four towns in the district.

Board members instead moved to reduce the amount of reserve to $1.1 million, which Namin said still will maintain a minimal tax increase.

This is the first year the district has taken a schools-based approach to the budget, with principals and school committees in individual schools serving as the starting point for what they’d like to see in the budget.

The budget includes five new teaching positions, which Namin said will address problems with class size and replace some positions that were cut in the last budget cycle.

It also includes the loss of a mathematics coach at Benton Elementary School, because of a loss of state funding for the position, and the loss of an elementary-level literacy coach, as the job was moved to another position.

Some board members expressed concerns about the way the changes were made, saying they thought there was no communication with them.

“I have concern about the positions that were added because they were kind of added on the fly based on a need at a certain time, and we weren’t given the opportunity to evaluate should it be this position, or should it be this position,” Boyden said. “That was kind of made internally, which I understand some things have to happen sometimes, but that came away from something the board could have weighed in on.”

Board member Kara Kugelmeyer, of Albion, also expressed general concern about the budget, saying, “I’m just really worried we’ve introduced a lot of factors that are a little bit beyond our control to understand. We want to introduce so much change at once, but I would caution that for an institution that has not seen a lot of change, it’s like a champagne bottle. If you rip the top off, you will see an explosion in your face.”

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected] 

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.