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Morning Star

School Superintendent Warns Teachers to Stay Out of Consolidation Process

EAST MILLINOCKET -- Keith Ober, School Union 113 and Millinocket’s new interim school superintendent has warned teachers in East Millinocket to stay out of the consolidation process.

Staff members and participants at a meeting with the East Millinocket Teachers Association were appalled by remarks that Ober reportedly made to them at a June 10th meeting.

“We met our superintendent this afternoon,” said Robert Marquis, president of the association, “and the association is concerned.”

“The message was not positive,” he added. “It was very unprofessional.”

Statements Ober made appeared negative to those who were at the meeting, and were directed toward the teaching staff.

According to people who were in attendance, Ober directed the teaching staff to stay out of the consolidation process, suggesting that they could not be objective.

Ober told teachers that the best thing they could do in the coming year was to “stay out of the way and don’t get involved.”

Marquis characterized Ober’s statements and attitude as condescending and insulting.

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Ober also apparently found it necessary to tell the teaching staff to act professionally toward the students.

“In 25 years, it’s never been insinuated I’d cheat the kids,” said Marquis.

Marquis also complained that staff members were given insufficient time to ask questions of Ober, who is scheduled to assume the combined positions vacated by Sandra MacArthur and Brent Colbry.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Ober is reported to have said in reference to the teaching staff, “So you’re afraid of me - this is good.”

Ober describes the issue as a misunderstanding brought about by bad timing and a lack of judgment on his part.

He said that the true intent of the meeting was to allow outgoing superintendent Sandra MacArthur to say goodbye to the faculty. As such, he said that he was unprepared for questions posed by members of the teacher’s association.

“When you’re pressed for time,” he said, “you don’t always get the true message across.”

The message he had intended, said Ober, was that it was his belief that teachers should avoid involving themselves in the ongoing consolidation talks because it would be difficult for them to remain objective, given the affect that consolidation may have on their jobs. He characterized the comment as a suggestion rather than a directive.

Ober said that the comment about faculty members fearing him was a misguided attempt at levity.

“I don’t know where I came up with that,” he said. “It was stupid, out of order, and inappropriate.”

“We’ll work it through, and we’ll deal with it,” he said.

-- Ken Anderson 06/17/03