Members of the SAD 1 school board vote Jan. 16 to reinstate the harvest break for Presque Isle High School. From left are Paul Saija, Julie Freeman, Carol Bell (hidden), Susan Goulet (hidden), Joanna Newlands, Robert Cawley, Jim Bubar, Board Chair Lucy Richard (hidden, hand visible), Superintendent Brian Carpenter and Assistant Superintendent Clint Deschesne. Other board members present were Curriculum Director Jennifer Bourassa, Lori Kenneson, Jane James, Roberta Fitzgerald-Hathaway, Michael Ouellette, John Johnston and Terry Sandusky. Credit: Courtesy of Terry Sandusky via Presque Isle Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Former SAD 1 superintendent Brian Carpenter has spoken out about his decision to resign from the district last month, claiming that the school board would have voted to terminate his position had he not resigned first.

Carpenter resigned Jan. 16, during a board meeting in which members voted to reinstate harvest break due to active support for the three-week break from area farmers. Carpenter said Jan. 31 that his decision had nothing to do with the board’s vote, which was a reversal of their earlier decision in 2018 to no longer allow high school students the three-week break to potentially work in farm-related jobs during potato harvest season.

“It’s up to the board to decide what to do regarding harvest break. All I needed to know was whether or not we were doing harvest break so that I could situate our school calendar,” Carpenter said.

When Carpenter announced his intentions to resign as SAD 1 superintendent he stated in his resignation letter, “I am writing to offer my resignation from employment as your superintendent of schools effective Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, contingent upon you agreeing to provide me the benefits set forth in Article 13(b) of my employment contract and payment to me for the unused vacation days I have accumulated during the 2018-2019 school year.”

He concluded by saying, “I wish SAD 1 all the best in the future and I am proud of the contributions I have made to the SAD 1 school system.”

Carpenter said Thursday that in the weeks following his final day with the school district, which was Jan. 18, he has felt the need to tell community members about his side of the story. He stated that on the night he announced his resignation the school board had been prepared to conduct a “vote of no confidence” in his performance and therefore terminate his position as superintendent.

Carpenter blames the school board’s decision on a recently published SAD 1 staff survey that the board conducted. The survey results showed that while 46 percent of SAD 1 staff said that they have “confidence” in their building administrators such as principals and their ability to provide leadership, 46 percent also said they had “minimum confidence” in the superintendent’s ability to provide leadership. According to the survey, 23 percent of respondents said they had “no confidence” in his leadership abilities.

The survey results also indicate that 56 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that “Decisions in SAD 1 always focus on what is best for student learning,” while 74 percent disagreed with the statement that “Central Office leadership is respectful of divergent opinions and of different points of view within boundaries of the values and mission of the district.” Sixty-eight percent disagreed with the statement, “I feel comfortable going to Central Office leadership if I have a problem.”

“This is the first survey that they’ve published and I believe it was part of a planned process to eliminate my position and replace me,” Carpenter said. “I think this was a political decision because there were people who just didn’t like me from day one because I was different.

“But the board wanted change when they hired me and that’s what I brought,” he said. “I never reduced the teaching staff. We’ve added new courses and eliminated ones that were no longer relevant. I did everything the board asked of me. What happened is that the board listened to the vocal minority and they hired the guy that I replaced three years ago.”

Carpenter was referring to new SAD 1 interim superintendent Gehrig Johnson, who also serves as the part-time superintendent of SAD 32 in Ashland, and previously spent nearly 30 as superintendent for SAD 1 until 2015 when the school board hired Carpenter. Before coming to Presque Isle, Carpenter, a native of Ludlow, had served as superintendent of RSU 20 in Belfast.

SAD 1 school board chair Lucy Richard announced last week that Johnson would work in the interim position for $30,000 from now until June 30 without travel costs and also fulfill a contract with SAD 45 in Washburn to serve 1.5 days per week as that district’s superintendent.

On Jan. 31, Richard did not deny that the SAD 1 school board had planned to conduct a “vote of no confidence” regarding Carpenter, but declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his resignation.

This was originally published in The County.