Portland School Board panel proposes tighter nepotism rules

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PORTLAND — The School Board policy committee is recommending an updated, more restrictive nepotism policy to the full board.

The new policy, approved by a 2-1 vote, would more tightly govern the hiring of family members of existing School Department employees and School Board members.

Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson and board member Pious Ali voted in favor, while member Laurie Davis was opposed. Member Jon Eder was absent from Monday’s meeting. 

The updated policy would prohibit immediate and extended family members of School Board members and the superintendent of schools from being employed by the department – with some exemptions, including for individuals already employed.

It also says no immediate or extended family members “shall be employed in a position within the jurisdiction of an administrator or supervisor,” with an exemption for employees already employed.

An immediate relative in the updated policy would be a spouse, sibling, parent, child, or domestic partner. Extended relatives are grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and in-laws.

Exceptions to the policy can be made, and Thompson said in the case of immediate or extended members of a School Board member’s family seeking employment, an analysis would be done by the superintendent.

Davis said she voted against the motion because she considers it “a major shift” that could deter people who may be interested in running for the School Board. She said the proposed policy is “overly restrictive.”

“If this policy had been in place I probably wouldn’t have run for School Board,” Davis said. She said she has adult children who work in education.

Davis said the new policy turns away from the current policy, which only prohibits employment of family members living in a board member’s home. Under the proposed policy, every family member would have to seek an exception.

She said this will make it “a lot easier to take the job candidate who didn’t need an exception.”

“It makes it more difficult than it needs to be, and limits the number of people who would run and serve on the Board,” Davis said. 

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.