FAIRFIELD — School Administrative District 49 superintendent Reza Namin is resigning after less than one year on the job, after contention over staff cost-cutting plans that mobilized students in protest and led to a turnover in leadership on the school board.

Namin met with School Board Chairman Shawn Knox on Monday to submit his resignation letter formally, in which he says his resignation is effective Aug. 2, while also making reference to the divisiveness that has marked district board meetings in recent months. He sent an email Tuesday to the SAD 49 faculty and staff announcing his resignation.

Namin’s first day as SAD 49 superintendent was Sept. 1, 2018. The school district serves Albion, Benton, Clinton, and Fairfield.

“I would highly recommend that prior to the appointment of a new Superintendent, the members of the board working closely to move away from the existing culture of a divided board to a new culture of the United board,” Namin, who earned a salary of $120,000 annually, wrote in his resignation letter. “No superintendent would be able to perform his or her duties without a united board and without systematic shared values and a shared vision.”

Shawn Knox, School Administrative District 49 board chairman, right center, listens to a speaker June 20 during a SAD 49 board meeting at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield. Superintendent Reza Namin, sitting at left center, submitted his resignation Tuesday after less that a year on the job. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

Namin wrote that he has accepted a position as dean of STEM and accountability at a public charter school in Massachusetts, though he declined in an interview to identify the school, saying only it’s in an urban area with a diverse population of students.

Isaac Badenya Thomas, a teacher at Lawrence High School, said after learning of Namin’s resignation on Tuesday morning he felt the action was “further proof that students, workers and families in our district have learned how to stand together and defend ourselves and our community.”

“It reminds us that we have the power to change the conditions that we work in, study in and live in,” Thomas said. “What gives me hope is that we have shown ourselves and our neighbors in other school districts that the cafeteria workers and custodians of this world are full of ideas about how our schools should run. If we succeed in making MSAD 49 a better place, it will not be because we remove a particularly bad administrator or hire a particularly good one, it will be because we continue to take more control as students and workers over our school and our lives.”

However, Thomas said that even with the refreshed sense of hope, the wounds left by Namin’s term as superintendent still remain. “This does not undo the harm done to our district this year, which was not done by one person alone,” Thomas said. “Nor is it the last time we will have to stand up for our schools and each other.”

SAD 49’s school board will meet on Monday next week to discuss the next steps in finding a replacement for Namin.

Namin’s resignation comes after months of controversy over a staff restructuring plan that led to calls for his resignation and the ouster of the school board’s leadership. At an April meeting, both the board’s then-chairwoman, Shelley Rudnicki, and then-vice chairman, Tim Martin, were ousted from their leadership positions but remained members on the board.

Lawrence High School Principal Mark Campbell resigned in April as part of a settlement involving Namin’s restructuring plan, which prompted more than 300 students to walk out of class and gather outside the superintendent’s office to protest what they saw as Campbell’s forced exit, which had been announced days after it took effect. Students, parents and staff members have criticized the chaos that they say has ensued in the district since Namin’s restructuring plan began to unfold, and others have complained about a lack of transparency and disorganization.

Namin later apologized for failing to engage enough with students and pledged to establish new lines of communication with them and the staff.

Shelli Rudnicki, then School Administrative District 49 board chairwoman, right, listens to Reza Namin, SAD 49 superintendent, during a school board meeting April 11 at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield, where the discussion centered on who could engage legal counsel for the district. Morning Sentinel photo file by Michael G. Seamans

Controversy has followed Namin in previous positions before he came to Fairfield. Namin was also superintendent for the Westbrook School Department, where he was employed from 2009 to 2011. During his time at that southern Maine school district, Namin enacted a restructuring plan similar to the one he attempted at SAD 49. But upon his departure from the district, one official stated that the plan was unsuccessful and the system soon reverted back to its original operation.

After his resignation in Westbrook, Namin spent 18 months with the Spencer-E Brookfield School District, where he eventually also resigned because of disagreements over an attempt at restructuring. Namin later claimed that his time at Brookfield was rife with retaliation and racism on the parts of his former colleagues in an attempt to destroy his reputation. After he left Brookfield, the district banned Namin from its premises and officials have declined to comment about why that decision was made.

Namin left Brookfield in 2013 to work for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts as its chief academic officer. That agency had nothing but good things to say about his work.

Chairman Knox on Tuesday congratulated Namin on his new opportunity and has emphasized the board’s focus on finding a new superintendent.

“I expect we will be working with the Maine School Management Association to assist us in finding a superintendent in the very near future,” Knox said. “This will be a priority for the board as we understand how important it is to have a strong leader in place before the start of school.”

 

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