After a meeting that spanned more than three hours and included a two-hour executive session pertaining to the evaluation of Superintendent Bruce Mailloux, the board of directors voted unanimously Jan. 12 to extend his contract for another year.

The motion to extend Mailloux’s contract included an amendment that the board would set goals for the superintendent to meet over the next 12 months. That amendment was offered by Director Denise Dakin of Stockton Springs, and seconded by Director Kenneth Lindell of Frankfort.

“We want it in the motion,” said Dakin.

In addition, the board voted to rescind its action from the Dec. 15 special meeting, during which the 11 board members who were present (out of 17) voted 8-3 to advertise Mailloux’s position without inviting him to attend the executive session that occurred prior to the vote. That action raised ire in the community and triggered several letters to the Journal in support of Mailloux and the work he’s done, both in SAD 34 and now in the 6-month-old RSU 20.

Not all directors were on board with the move, particularly Lindell, who said he would vote against the motion.

“I intend to vote against the motion to rescind, simply because the board acted properly,” he said. “No laws were broken… Nothing in my mind rises to the level of this rather serious motion of rescinding our decision.”

Lindell acknowledged the board had not followed its own policy with regard to conducting its evaluation of Mailloux at the Dec. 15 meeting, and he said the evaluation could have been “done in a better way.” He added, however, that he felt the procedural error had been addressed earlier in the Jan. 12 meeting, during the closed-door session. [Editor’s note: The information in this paragraph was not included in the original version of this article.]

When it came time to vote on the motion to rescind, other directors — including Dakin, Tony Bagley and Jim Cunningham of Searsport — also voted in opposition, but the motion passed.

After the motion to extend Mailloux’s contract carried, Dakin offered a heated commentary to the crowd that filled the cafeteria at Troy Howard Middle School.

She said she was unhappy that the controversy over the superintendent’s contract led some in the community to make derogatory comments about children who attend schools in communities that were formerly part of SAD 56.

She also stated it was time for the district to come together, and for the community to stop identifying themselves as being from either the former SAD 34 or SAD 56 communities.

“In the future I don’t plan to call it the former [SAD] 56,” she said. “We are an RSU. … None of us have taken this decision lightly.”

The two-hour-plus executive session and resulting votes came after the board heard from more than a dozen members of the community, all of whom asked the directors to reconsider their previous decision to open up the superintendent’s job.

Local attorney Lee Woodward, who typically moderates town meetings and school budget meetings, stated he was at the meeting to serve not as a moderator, but as a “glorified time-keeper.” He presented the crowd with a sign-up sheet, and asked that anyone wishing to address the board add their name to the list. As part of the ground rules for the meeting, Woodard said the public was free to make comments to the entire board, but added that the board would not respond to the comments and would only listen to what was being said. Each speaker was afforded a time limit of three minutes at the podium.

Richard Marsden, a former teacher, Swanville selectman and Regionalization Planning Committee member, reminded directors that when Mailloux was initially hired in SAD 34, he faced an $800,000 budget deficit. Marsden noted that after the shortfall was eliminated within a year’s time, the statewide school consolidation mandate became the new challenge Mailloux faced. Marsden said Mailloux handled that issue, which he described as “touchy, tricky and complex,” in a way that one would expect to see in a good leader.

“I would suggest and hope that the board would consider just plain renewing his contract,” Marsden said.

As was the case with the other people who addressed the board, Marsden’s comments triggered applause from the standing-room-only audience.

David Delano, a parent, said he had dealt with Mailloux for years and found that his door was always open, even if Mailloux didn’t always agree with him. He added that he did not want to see the district hire a new superintendent who resided in a different community.

“He puts his same tax dollars in the same pool that I do, and that’s important to me,” Delano said.

Former RSU 20 Vice Chair Eric Sanders, who left the board after being elected to serve on the Belfast City Council in November, asked the board to correct what the public viewed as a mistake on their part.

“I believe we have a united front here,” he said, as the room erupted with applause.

Sanders said Mailloux made moves ahead of the state mandate to consolidate that signified his dedication to bringing the SAD 34 and 56 communities together, such as bringing former SAD 56 Business Manager Brian McFarland on to serve both districts a year ahead of time. Sanders added that Mailloux retained many members of the SAD 56 staff, including Special Education Director Sharon Goguen and IT Director Bob Bradford.

“It’s OK to make mistakes, we all do that,” he said. “And it’s OK to change your mind.”

In addition, former SAD 34 directors Barbara Klausmeyer and Carol Fortin urged the directors to reconsider.

Captain Albert Stevens School Principal Susan Inman spoke on behalf of her staff, stating that Mailloux has been an honest and open administrator over the 11 years she has worked with him.

“It is my deepest hope, and that of my staff, that the board reconsider its decision,” Inman said.

Tonya Tibbetts spoke on behalf of the tri-town Parent Teacher Group that serves Searsmont, Belmont and Morrill, noting that the organization was “disappointed” in the board’s Dec. 15 vote to advertise Mailloux’s job.

Dorothy Alling of Searsport said the Legislature should enact laws mandating workshops for school boards to avoid a replay of what occurred Dec. 15. She added that directors’ ignorance of either the law or board policy was not acceptable to her.

“It doesn’t make it legal, or it doesn’t make it right,” she said.

Ron Jarvella, who worked in public schools for 30 years as a teacher and administrator, cautioned directors about what could happen if their Dec. 15 decision stood.

“When you find a good superintendent, you’ve got a treasure,” he said. “If you let them go, you’re opening up the door for God knows what.”

Searsport District High School Junior Zach Parker, Belfast Mayor Walter Ash and Rep. Jayne Giles, R-Belfast, also spoke in favor of keeping Mailloux on board, as did several longtime SAD 34 staffers like Lila Nation.

After the meeting, Mailloux said he knew there were some wounds that needed to heal as a result of the events over the last month, but added that he was looking forward to carrying out the business of operating RSU 20.

“I’m just glad it’s over. It’s time to move on and continue with the process of bringing everyone together,” said Mailloux.