Former Carrabec High School math teacher Anthony Pranses, who recently resigned following allegations of improper interactions with students, said school officials found him in violation of school policy in six different instances.

Anthony Pranses Courtesy photo

Pranses resigned Friday from his position at Carrabec High School in North Anson after a weeks’ long investigation conducted by Regional School Unit 74 Superintendent Mike Tracy in response to a complaint made by a member of the school community. The incident sparked public outcry over the superintendent’s handling of the case and led to contentious questions about how school personnel should speak with students and parents about sensitive matters.

Pranses said in a phone interview Monday that he was told that he was in violation of six of 10 items in one section of the conduct code in the school’s handbook during his meeting with Tracy, union representatives and the school district attorney  on Friday.

The six items include singling out a particular student or students for personal attention and friendship beyond the normal teacher-student relationship; encouraging students to confide their personal or family problems (outside of guidance staff); disclosing employment concerns; addressing students with terms of endearment/pet names; “friending” students on social networking sites; and communicating with students on non-school matters via computer, text message, phone calls or letters.

Pranses said that he was told that he spends too much time with students and families outside of school — “more than I should” — by administration. Pranses said that this is because he offers one-on-one tutoring with students (with parental approval) at their homes and attends sporting events at the school.

As for students sharing personal information with him, Pranses said that if the conversations are more than “boyfriend-girlfriend” rants, he always refers them to the guidance department.

“The students run to me,” Pranses said.

Pranses also said that other faculty at the school share similar relationships with students.

As for disclosing employment concerns, Pranses said that many students reached out to him at the beginning of his suspension asking if he had been fired and he responded to the messages to the best of his abilities.

Pranses said that there was one instance of a student nickname. While he did not reveal all of the specifics, he said that one student in his classroom has a nickname that the student asked to be called and that Pranses was not the one to create it.

Pranses said that any “friending” or social media activity began when he was placed on administrative leave.

Communicating with students about non-school matters through technology came up during the meeting with administration. He said he contacted students always with the administration’s and parents’ knowledge.

The trespassing order he received while on administrative leave was lifted because he has partial custody of a student who lives within the RSU 74 district but attends Skowhegan schools. The parents of the student coordinate the arrangement, he said. The student plays sports for Carrabec schools, and Pranses attends the games on occasion.

Since his resignation, Pranses said that he has told several people about what happened during his Friday morning meeting. He said that he still plans to pursue action against Tracy after Jan 1., when his administrative leave is over, saying that Tracy tarnished his name over the course of the investigation, painting him as a “pedophile,” although only Pranses used that word publicly.

Pranses wrote in an email he sent out to parents shortly after he was placed on administrative leave “…Tracy began interviewing students. Each was asked if I had any inappropriate sexual contact with them and/or otherwise made them feel uncomfortable. Naturally, no sooner than the first student was interviewed, word was spread throughout the school and community at large, that I was being investigated as a pedophile.”

Further he wrote, “Your superintendent has told them that I am a sexual predator who thinks they are retarded.”

Tracy said that never once during the investigation did he refer to Pranses as a pedophile nor did he suggest it.

“Two days into the investigation, he sent out a letter saying that he was a pedophile,” Tracy said.

Though instances such as Pranses’ investigation do not come up often, Tracy said he has handled them before at other institutions that he has worked at.

“If I lose my job because I was doing what I thought was the right thing, so be it. I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing,” the superintendent said.

“What happens when we receive a complaint is dependent on its nature,” Tracy said.

In response to the events last week, Tracy sent an email out to the community addressing the tensions at the school board meeting. Pranses’ suspension sparked student protests, and last Wednesday a tense 26-minute school board meeting ended abruptly after a loud, gavel-banging exchange between the chairperson and a parent ended with the parent being removed.

“Recently it has come to our attention that the proper process for handling student or community complaints has not been clearly explained,” Tracy says in the letter.

“The notion of the chain of command, or handling situations at the lowest ‘level of supervision’ is the expectation for everyone’s benefit. … As the concern makes its way up the chain of command, the process typically becomes more and more formal.”

Mike Tracy, superintendent in Regional School Unit 74, said Nov. 18 that no students were suspended for walking out of Carrabec High School in North Anson on Nov. 15 in support of Anthony Pranses, a teacher who had been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into a complaint about him. Prances resigned Friday. Morning Sentinel file photo

Maine law states personnel matters are confidential and cannot be disclosed to the public, Tracy says in the letter, and that is why many of the comments made at last week’s meeting were dismissed.

“The content of a complaint against a school employee is NOT for public consumption and cannot be heard in open public session at a school board meeting,” the letter says. “Most recently we had a school board meeting that ended abruptly because comments strayed into impermissible personnel matters, so the Board was compelled by law to protect the rights of its employees by terminating the discussion.”

Nevertheless, Tracy writes, he wants to assure the public that the board is open to comments that will benefit the school district. Tracy recommends that those with complaints redirect their comments in writing to the appropriate person within the district.

On Wednesday night, there will be an RSU 74 special meeting with the Board of Directors, where, Tracy says, the board will be reviewing conduct “in the wake of recent matters.”

“(At Wednesday’s meeting) the board will be able to hear what is protocol, process, policy and law,” Tracy said.

“The efforts are being made to reestablish and rebuild the community,” Tracy said. “And to continue my work, which is protecting students. That is my goal first and I have and will always continue to work with the students in mind and doing what I think is best for the kids.”

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

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