South Portland charts new course to pick School Board appointee

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The School Board is undertaking a more open, transparent process for recommending an interim appointment to the District 5 seat to serve until the November 2011 election.

The new process comes one year after an appointment to a vacant District 3 School Board seat drew criticism because of the superintendent’s involvement.

The School Board must recommend to the City Council a candidate to replace Alan Livingston, the current District 5 representative who was elected to the City Council in November.

“Because of the – in my opinion – incorrect perception of how it was done last year, we’re going to make it a point to do it as a hearing,” said Ralph Baxter, the incoming board chairman.

Last year, individual board members sought candidates to fill the seat. But this year, the city has taken out an advertisement in a weekly newspaper and posted a notice to residents on its website.

The notice tells interested residents to submit a letter of intent to the City Clerk by Nov. 25.

District 5 represents the west end and the duties of the School Board are outlined in the City Charter.

“Hopefully we get a couple of candidates,” Baxter said.

Last year, about 20 people were interested in the District 3 School Board seat, but only three remained interested after getting more information, one of whom was a vocal critic of the schools.

Jerald McQueeney was ultimately selected to fill the seat, even though there was no formal interview process and no formal vote taken by the board.

Superintendent Suzanne Godin said at the time she conducted an informal straw poll over the telephone to decipher who the board supported – a process that took place outside of the public eye.

That admission drew criticism since the superintendent is an employee of the board and it would be a perceived conflict of interest for her to help choose one of her bosses.

Meanwhile, the City Council, which by City Charter must ultimately make the appointment, only received McQueeney’s name, rather than all three who remained interested.

This time, however, Baxter said the board will conduct their discussions in public to avoid a similar situation.

“That way, no one can say they didn’t have a chance to be part of it,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we do it as publicly as we can.”

Baxter said if there is more than one person, there will be a formal interview process that will include the City Council.

The board may interview candidates in a public session, since the School Board is made up elected officials, who are not protected by typical employee confidentiality laws.

“Unfortunately, there is no formal procedure,” said Baxter, who asked the council to establish one. “So we’re going to do it this way. Make it a board meeting and a board discussion, so it’s all public so everyone can see it.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

Sidebar Elements


Anyone interested in being a candidate for the District 5 School Board seat may mail a letter of intent by Nov. 25 to:

City Clerk’s Office

Attn: Susan Mooney

25 Cottage Road

South Portland, ME 04106

For more information, visit SouthPortland.org

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