Franklin Countys First News

RSU 73 superintendent resigns

Standing room only in the Spruce Mountain Middle School cafeteria.

JAY - More than 150 residents of Regional School Unit 73 towns attended Thursday's school board meeting, learning that the district's superintendent had resigned and participating in a three-hour-long discussion.

The meeting began with Board Vice Chair Michael Morrell  of Jay moving to authorize Chair Denise Rodzen of Livermore Falls to accept the resignation of Superintendent Todd LeRoy, who did not attend the meeting. The motion passed unanimously.

The resignation of LeRoy caps off a tumultuous three weeks in RSU 73, going back to the Dec. 21 removal of Spruce Mountain High School Principal TJ Plourde from his position. In a letter released to the Sun Journal on Dec. 24, LeRoy said that the plan was to reduce the administrative team by one member and transform the middle and high schools into a secondary school under the leadership of a single principal. While LeRoy specifically wrote that Plourde was not being fired, he did state that the district would provide assistance and positive references for Plourde to find employment in a different district.

That story broke the following Monday and "blindsided" the school board, as Rodzen put it, adding that the press release had "made no sense." She, and other board members, said that there had never been any kind of vote to either reduce the administrative staff or combine schools.

The reaction to Plourde's apparent from staff, students and parents was fierce, leading to the creation of Facebook pages opposing the action, circulation of a petition that, among other things, called for LeRoy's termination and a vote of no confidence by the district's Education Association that passed 155 to 4.

Following the release of the letter, LeRoy left the state. This delayed the board's response, Rodzen said, as they waited for his return to determine the reasoning for his decision. Rodzen and Morrell met with LeRoy as soon as he returned on Jan. 1. The superintendent's action regarding Plourde's position was reversed soon after that meeting.

"You have to have the person here to pull it back," Rodzen said, referring to the superintendent's action. She contrasted LeRoy's proposal and action with how the district's elementary schools had previously consolidated: a lengthy process that included administrative meetings, staff discussions and public forums.

The agreement the district has with LeRoy includes regular payments through Jan. 9, 2020, an element that immediately drew the ire of some of those in attendance. While acknowledging that the outcome didn't "sit well" or "feel good," Morrell said that the board felt it was the best option available. Other avenues, such as attempting to outright dismiss LeRoy, would have involved legal fees and paid administrative leave that would have combined to potentially exceed the year-long payments, Morrell said. That option also may have been unsuccessful.

LeRoy had been operating on a two-year contract that would have expired in June 2020.

The school board met in Executive Session as part of Thursday's meeting. In part this was to review suggested interim superintendents recommended by the Maine School Board Association.

Dozens of people in attendance addressed the board. One common theme was communication, with parents and local area residents offering suggestions to build trust and come together as a community. Students that spoke said that the impact of the turmoil had been profound; some spoke to the importance Plourde had in their lives. Board directors, in turn, thanked members of the public for their calls and emails and for the strong turnout Thursday evening.

Director Bob Staples of Jay said that this "fiasco," as he put it, had resulted in his first call in the two years he had been on the board. He encouraged residents to stay engaged and "keep calling."

Both board members and public speakers suggested that the energy that resulted from the incident should be channeled to benefit the students and district. Several audience members pledged to take a greater interest in board and district business in the future. Discussion associated with that point included potentially shifting board meetings from the Central Office on Cedar Street, a smallish space, to the larger schools to encourage meeting attendance. Board members, some, like Rodzen, stating they would not be running for their seats next year, encouraged members of the public to take out nomination papers at their respective town offices.

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15 Responses »

  1. It is a good idea to have new faces on the board. People get set in their ways and beliefs. Term limits put in place might be wise. Anyway, thoughtful of them to step away and let others be on the board. Good luck to all in Jay, Livermore, and the Falls.

  2. Good for him!

  3. So let me get this straight.
    Major changes were proposed and executed in the administrative ranks at many of the spruce mountain schools. This was done without any consultation with any of the board members. Highly doubtful that the chair, or vice chair, or a few other members were not in the know.
    And if the superintendent resigned, why would we taxpayers be holding the bill for $120,000.
    None of this makes any sense. People in the know are obviously not telling the truth.

  4. Because, Peter, it would have cost the town more to fire him and then go through all the legal fight. In the end he may have been able to stay if the state decided he hadn't done anything wrong. In the future perhaps the person hired should have a time of probation .

  5. Well said Bob , surrounding districts should definitely take note of this.

    Peter, I am only assuming but I would have to say they need to honor the contract. I wouldn’t doubt the “lawyers” for the district told the board they would be liable in some way some how. There is only one lawyer firm I know that represents school districts and they have a slanted way to look at things from my experience with them to say the least.

  6. I'd like to see the supers contract that says if the superintendent resigns, he gets paid for a whole year. I would hope that none of our administrators in this district have such a clause in their contract. If they do, then shame on the school committee for signing such a contract
    This district probably needs changes to be made. I'm assuming that a few of the administrative staff have become stale and there are a few bad apple teachers that I am tired of hearing about. Our test scores are not what they should be. At some point you have to say that doing the same thing over and over will only get you the same results.
    Good luck in making the changes necessary for Spruce Mountain to become a highly performing school district.

  7. Maybe RSU 9 should learn from mistakes of others and follow suit.

  8. You wana know why he's getting paid? because not all of the school board members were truthful. Some knew this was coming ... because they told the superintendent to do it.
    but if they sign an agreement that says "hush hush, go away quitely and we'll pay you" board members that live in the towns save face and none of us ever hear the full story.

    That board needs to be cleaned out. HIt the reset button and elect people who want whats right for kids!!!

    sure would be nice to hear Leroy's side of this disasterous mess

  9. Thank you Jason, Good point.

  10. For what its worth with my two cents, I believe it definitely goes into some of the school board knowing of this move to consolidate schools, without any doubt. I work at a local district and through knowledge of how things work there, someone on the board knew about this. Good job board, good job.

    Im so glad my children are out of the debacle they call RSU 73, good people throughout the district, but a disgrace of a school board and top administration.

  11. Why when someone resigns would they get paid unless they where only willing to submit resignation papers contingent upon a monetary value? As a taxpayer our money gets wasted on many things, this is one of the instances I'd rather is went to attorney fees than one cent in his pocket.
    Hopefully the district along with surrounding areas put clauses in their future contracts. Mt. Blue also has their own new issue with similar leadership style, although maybe not as extreme in opinions I've heard shared.

  12. The next superintendent needs to be hired with a one year probationary contract. Period.
    Every teacher in the world is hired that way.
    If they prove themselves, fine. Good administrators have nothing to worry about. They will continue to be hired year after year. If you aren't as good as you look on paper....good bye.

  13. Reads like the super over in RSU 49 figures it is wise and with job security to share decision making not only with his board but also with the public in the towns of Fairfield, Benton, Clinton,and Albion. In the plan to restructure the administration he is meeting in all 4 towns 'schools with the taxpayers welcomed. One would think that anyone would include the board and public in major changes or implementations to a school district AND abide by the consensus of those parties. Is it wise to go against public opinion? I rather think not, but if that is the way chosen the rope is long enough!

  14. Bob I like your optimism. It will never happen in our district though. We may have public meetings but the general consensus is usually ignored and we are told that they “know” best. It would be wise for people to pay very close attention too because I believe our district isn’t far off from a similar situation. The budget is coming soon.

  15. It's been going on way too long,clean the whole board and dept.supers out.......