Combating absenteeism that leads to failure

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WEST PARIS – The Board of Selectmen is expected to fill a vacancy on the SAD 17 Board of Directors at its meeting on December 13.

The vacancy was created by the SAD 17 board’s decision on December 3 to declare a vacancy.

Town Manager Wade Rainey said at least one person has expressed an interest in filling the vacancy. The person appointed will serve until the annual town election on March 2, 2019 when voters will elect a new member for a three-year term.

Former director Toby Whitman and the town of West Paris were notified two months ago in an October 11 letter from SAD 17 Board of Directors Chairman Diana Olsen that the action was being contemplated because the director had “significantly” exceeded the board’s limit on unexcused absences. At the December 3 board meeting Olsen said she had received no response from Whitman.

In the letter, Olsen said the last meeting Whitman attended was on May 7. At that time, Whitman had missed seven meetings without an excuse.

“The board acknowledges that unexcused absences may occur for a number of reasons and extends leniency as a general course of action. However, the extent of your absence from the board meetings has an impact on the residents of West Paris,” she wrote.

According to board policy, the board notifies the director in writing after two consecutive unexcused absences, copying the board of selectmen and informs the director that a third absence will constitute cause for the board to consider declaring his or her seat on the board vacant.

In this case, the board waited until the December 3 meeting to take the action. At that time Whitman had the right to appear and present the reasons why he was absent to the board and ask that a vacancy not be declared, which he chose not to do.

Under school board policy, an absence is routinely considered excused if the director or a member of his or her immediate family has an illness, there is a death in the director’s family, a short-term family obligation or an unavoidable commitment related to the director’s employment.

Other absences are considered on a case to case basis.

Once the declaration was unanimously approved state law determines how the vacancy will be filled.

Whitman was appointed to the school board in 2012, elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2016 for a three-year term.

He resigned from his selectman seat in 2003 before his term had expired. Whitman told the Sun Journal at the time that he was resigning because of frustration from pressure exerted on the board by a small group of residents. He later told fellow board members that he was resigning because of business obligations.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net