NORTH ANSON — The gavel slammed down.

“Leave!” the board chairman yelled. “Leave!”

But Leah May, whose child attends Carrabec High School, refused to leave the gymnasium at Carrabec Community School.

Instead, May continued to talk or shout over the slamming of the gavel and the warnings. May admonished school officials for what she claimed was their neglect of student behavior and asking students “questions about sex without contacting their parents.”

The exchange was illustrative of the tension at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Regional School Unit 74 board of directors. The meeting ended abruptly with May’s removal. It was the latest indication of the division within the school community over an unspecified complaint about a teacher and school officials’ handling of the complaint.

Anthony Pranses Courtesy photo

Earlier this month, math teacher Anthony Pranses, 52, was placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation was conducted. Superintendent Mike Tracy has said the internal investigation was prompted by a complaint made against Pranses by a member of the school community, but Tracy has refused to reveal the nature of the complaint.

The teacher’s suspension was the reason behind a student-led protest Nov. 15 at Carrabec High School.

At Wednesday’s meeting, board Chairman Robert Demchak opened the public comment section of the meeting by reminding community members of the guidelines for public comments, including that those who speak must be talking about an item that is related to the board of directors’ agenda, comments must remain civil and comments about specific individuals will not be tolerated.

Those who wished to speak during public comment signed up before the meeting.

May got up to speak to the board of directors. Previously, May told the Morning Sentinel the investigation being conducted by school administration had been done inappropriately and that parents should have been notified before students were questioned.

“I think we all know why I’m here tonight, because I’ve made myself very vocal,” May said to the board. “I feel as though plenty of things were handled incorrectly, (including) the questioning of students.”

Andrew Rowe, a freshman at Carrabec High School, said he and other students had been pulled out of class by administrators. Rowe said students were then taken to a room and, with the door locked, questioned about Pranses.

“There was a rumor going around that our teacher was touching students,” said Rowe, 14. “Without parent permission, we were brought into the office behind locked doors and told not to tell anyone about the conversation.”

Rowe’s mother, Annie Harris-Rowe, said she went to administration after she heard that her son had been questioned and was not given information because it was an ongoing investigation.

“They took my son in a room and shut and locked the door with just Mike Tracy,” Harris-Rowe said. “They asked him questions — whether he knew if a teacher had sex with anybody or talked to anybody about sex.”

After May’s remarks, Demchak reminded May of the guidelines for public comment and said the matter to which she was referring could not be discussed. Demchak then gave May a warning.

Leah May, whose child attends Carrabec High School in North Anson, addresses the Regional School Unit 74 board of director Wednesday night in the gymnasium at Carrabec Community School. May was later removed from the meeting after shouting at board members during an exchange related to an investigation of Anthony Pranses, a math teacher at Carrebec High School who was recently placed on administrative leave.

But May continued.

“As a taxpayer, I should not be paying the salary of a person who has done their job incorrectly,” May said.

Demchak then slammed the gavel and told May her comment was attacking an individual and would not be accepted at the meeting. May insisted her comments were being directed at the entire board.

Demchak then ordered May to be removed from the meeting, but she continued speaking, insisting her comments were being directed at the entire district.

Demchak continued to slam the gavel and call for May to be removed, and May continued shouting until she was escorted from the meeting.

“You will be hearing from my lawyer with a sexual harassment lawsuit against your school!” May said, referring to the student questioning, as she was being removed from the gymnasium.

From there, Demchak continued the meeting and went down the list of those who wished to address the board, with some attempting to pick up where May had left off before being shown the door.

A group of more than 20 had gathered with May before the meeting, and several board members tried to speak up in between commenters, saying the school was brushing the matter under the rug by not addressing the tension in the room.

At the end of the 26-minute meeting, an argument erupted between the board and members of the community. Members of the board then moved to adjourn the meeting and encouraged those with complaints to email Demchak directly.

RSU 74 serves Anson, Embden, New Portland, North Anson and Solon.

 

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

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.