December 3, 2012

Madison high school principal ousted as SAD 59's cash flow, enrollment shrink

Stephen Ouellette's dismissal a necessary trimming of administration, says superintendent

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

MADISON -- The principal of Madison Area Memorial High School was fired because of what the superintendent has called a need for administrative restructuring.

School Administrative District 59 Superintendent Todd LeRoy said the decision to dismiss Stephen Ouellette was based on anticipated lower revenue and student enrollment as the town of Athens negotiates to leave the district.

"It wasn't justified to have three full-time principals and a superintendent," LeRoy said.

The school board had been discussing administrative restructuring since January, he said, and had "given me approval to move forward with this."

"We looked at the school and the size of the school and the fact that Starks left and now Athens is withdrawing. It seemed to be the best time to move to a new administrative setup," he said.

Ouellette, who was in his third year as principal, said he had no comment other than that "I was very disappointed with that decision. It was just a great shock."

His last day of work was Friday, although he will continue to be paid by the district for the remainder of the school year. LeRoy said the decision should save the district money in the long term. He said they knew they would be making administrative changes before the end of the year and wanted to give Ouellette as much notice as possible so he could start job searching.

"The decision was not disciplinary in action. It was based solely on economics and was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do as superintendent," said LeRoy, who said that he would be taking over the role of principal at the high school.

"There is no doubt he did a wonderful job and worked very hard," LeRoy said.

LeRoy said the board gave him the authority to make administrative restructuring decisions in January. The decision by Athens to further look into withdrawing from the district has had a significant impact on the district, he said.

"It sounds like they are very serious about it and I can't imagine them going back on the negotiations we have begun," said LeRoy.

If Athens withdraws, about 150 students would leave the district, he said.

"We are looking at making some cuts and those cuts can't always be educators. It can't always be teachers," said LeRoy.

"They are trying to blame this on Athens. Just cutting one administrator doesn't save that much," said Karen Corson, a member of the school board as well as a member of the Athens Education Exploratory Committee, which was formed earlier this year by residents of the town looking into withdrawing from the school district.

Other members of the school board could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com

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