FARMINGTON – The Regional School Unit 9 school board approved a motion Tuesday evening to disavow statements made by one of its board members, as well as affirm that individual directors do not act for the whole board.The motion was made after the board left executive session Tuesday evening, “expressly disavow[ing] the following acts or statements made by Board Member [Craig] Stickney because the Board finds them to be inaccurate or because they carry with them the potential to expose the District to legal liability.”Most of the motion referenced the Feb. 6 forum held in Chesterville that Stickney helped organize. At that meeting, at which only Chesterville residents were allowed to speak, Stickney, the Chesterville director, laid out a series of concerns he had with the school district. According to the motion, these claims included that the district was not properly reporting bullying incidents, that $8,000 had been spent by the school board for unknown reasons, that district employees had been unlawfully overpaid by $230,000, and that the district was not staffing the Pathways for All Learners or PALs program.Board Chair Cherieann Harrison of Wilton addressed those claims in open session at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting. Reading from a statement, Harrison said that the $8,000 figure was actually $3,998, and that those funds related to attorney fees for legal consultation spent last year. The $230,000 was not an overpayment made to personnel, Harrison said, but instead represented funds used for a number of items, including audits of the Mallett School and Special Education department, technical costs relating to the enrollment of 52 new students, increasing substitute pay to meet the new minimum wage, an additional elementary teacher and earned overtime for staff, among other items.The PALs program was currently staffed by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, a social worker and a teacher, Harrison said. RSU 9 did have policies against bullying and trained staff to recognize and deal with bullying, Harrison said.At the Feb. 6 meeting, Stickney said that he intended to ask the Chesterville Board of Selectmen to add an article to the town meeting warrant to begin looking into withdrawing the town from the district. At their regularly-scheduled meeting the next evening, the board voted against adding such an article, by a vote of 4 to 1.The motion passed by the school board Tuesday said that Stickney’s comments were false. In the specific case of the $230,000 that Stickney said represented an unlawful overpayment to staff, the motion said that the school board was an employer, and therefore it was “inappropriate and a violation of Maine law” for a member to discuss personnel matters in public.“The February 6 meeting did not serve as a meeting to understand a citizen complaint so that it could be routed to the appropriate administrator,” the motion reads. “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.”The motion concluded by saying that board members had to be cognizant of the fact they were an employer and maintain “appropriate decorum.”“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 motion said.Out of executive session, the motion was made by Harrison, seconded by Vice Chair Irv Faunce of Wilton and approved by 13 directors in attendance. No one was opposed to the motion, although Director Jesse Sillanpaa of Industry abstained. Director Ryan Morgan of Farmington was absent Tuesday, while Stickney left the meeting during the executive session, prior to the vote.
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