Inauguration reveals split on Portland School Board

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PORTLAND − Saying she was sorry to put a damper on a special occasion, School Board member Sarah Thompson at Monday’s inauguration said she could not vote for Anna Trevorrow as chairwoman.

Trevorrow was nominated for the post by Laurie Davis. But Thompson said an unofficial straw poll of board members, conducted after the Nov. 8 election, showed unanimous support to return Marnie Morrione to the post of chairwoman.

Thompson said there were “behind-the-scenes” phone calls over the weekend for “pulling the rug out from under” Morrione, who, she said, had served the School Board well and did a lot of hard work over the last year.

Thompson said the maneuvering to make Trevorrow chairwoman was “not transparent and collaborative,” and she could not sit “idly by and say nothing. Our actions speak louder than our words. We are looked upon to set an example, and this is not one of our shining moments.”

In her nominating statement, Davis said Trevorrow is always “prepared, thoughtful and open to new ideas” and someone who has “a continuous commitment to improvement and an eye on the future approach.”

The vote was 7-2 for Trevorrow, with Morrione  and Thompson opposed.

Prior to the vote on the new chairwoman, board member Stephanie Hatzenbuehler said she wanted to “respect and validate” Thompson’s comments and to celebrate the work by Morrione, particularly in helping smooth the transition for Xavier Botana, the superintendent of schools who came on board just six months ago.

On the other hand, Hatzenbuehler also said while “I don’t take the choice to support Anna lightly,” she still had a strong belief in Trevorrow’s leadership skills.

In relinquishing the post, Morrione thanked the board and the community for the opportunity to head the School Board during the past year. She also said she will continue the decision-making goal she set when first running for a seat on the board nine years ago, which was to always ask, “Is this in the best interests of the students?”

In the City Hall inauguration ceremony that lasted more than an hour and incorporated students from the various schools in the city, outgoing board member Pious Ali, who was seated on the City Council earlier in the day, was thanked for his commitment to the board and for bringing new voices into the mix. The student representatives from the four city high schools were also honored for their contributions.

Morrione said the board has accomplished much, but there was still more to do, particularly better engagement with students and parents and meeting the infrastructure needs of the school district. Also, the School Board and City Council are weighing the merits of bringing a bond of more than $70 million before voters to substantially renovate and update four of the city’s elementary schools.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter @KirishCollins

Anna Trevvorow, left, the new School Board chairwoman in Portland, and newly elected board member Roberto Rodriguez take the oath of office during an inauguration ceremony held at City Hall on Dec. 5.