By: MJN Team and Contributing Writer
Last week, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director, Kristina Stevens resigned from her position at MSAD 58’s Mt. Abram Regional High School. Stevens provided a 60 day notice in accordance with her contract. Stevens is by all accounts, well loved and respected by the students and faculty at Mt. Abram. Stevens embodies what students and need in an educator, administrator and athletic director. She engages one on one with students; she attends events important to students such as a memorial service held for two students who tragically lost their lives in February of this year; she ensure the athletes have the equipment they need to be safe and successful in their sports; and is a kind and caring advocate for her students. A Mt. Abram parent stated “Ms. Stevens invests in our children. She shows up. She sets the students up for success whether they need new uniforms, equipment of facilities upgrades. She talks to the kids and to their parents. She knows their names and she knows their struggles. Additionally, Ms. Stevens stepped in for the entire year as acting principal while still maintaining her assistant principal and athletic director responsibilities while the Principal, Michelle Tranten, was on extended maternity leave.
Unfortunately for the students at Mt. Abram, Stevens is just another in a long list of experienced faculty and staff who have resigned from Mt. Abram Regional High School since 2015. You may be asking what changed in 2015 – that was when Mt. Abram Regional High School hired a new principal named Michelle Tranten. Tranten came to Maine from Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida where she worked as an Assistant Elementary School Principal from 2010-2015.
Interestingly, students of Mt. Abram High School are presenting a petition of “Vote of No Confidence” in their principal, Michelle Tranten. More than half of the student body has signed the petition and Julia Wells, the student lead on this petition, has met with Superintendent, Todd Sanders, and school board chair, Kim Jordan though the issue was not resolved at that meeting. “The students need a principal who supports us, invests in us, and helps to make our school experienced the best. Our principal hardly knows our names, messes them up when she does try to talk with us, rarely shows up for events including major sporting events or important meetings and just in general, doesn’t seem too interested in our school or us,” said Wells.
This student petition comes after an MSAD 58 faculty petition for a “Vote of No Confidence” circulated last year but lost steam in June, as school let out. The students decided to take matters into their own hands and be heard. “We are tired of losing so many teachers who invested in us and who we built relationships with. We think the school board needs to investigate why so many staff members are leaving,” said a student who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
An school insider, who wishes to remain anonymous because they do not want to jeopardize their job said, “There’s been turmoil and contention since Mrs. Tranten came here. She is passive aggressive towards the staff and tries to be intimidating when she doesn’t see eye to eye with the faculty. And, she always does it with a smile on her face.”
Another student spoke up and made the allegation, “She [Tranten] took me out of my class and asked me if I needed her to buy me bras! I don’t know her well and I didn’t ask her to buy me bras? It was so embarrassing.” Another student with whom we spoke is a senior at Mt. Abram High. He told us that believes if he bumped into Tranten in the hallway she wouldn’t even know his name.
Student, Julia Wells, tried to bring some of these issues to the school board meeting on Thursday evening, October 21, 2021. Wells was shut down in the middle of her public comment by the school board chair, Kim Jordan, and was told that the meeting would be “shut down if she didn’t stop reading her comments.” Transparency clearly isn’t one of MSAD 58’s strong points. Wells made sure to let the entire school board know that she is meeting with the Superintendent and the chair on the next day. We do not have a clear answer as to why the school board was not allowed to hear Wells’ comments at the school board meeting. Additionally, Wells alleges that she was recently called out of class by Tranten and asked to stop her No Confidence Petition “because it was upsetting students.”
The students at Mt. Abram are fighting to be heard. They want more support, better leadership at their school, and they want someone who is there, someone who “shows up,” a soccer player stated. According to one school board member who also wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, “It’s a shame that the students are the ones who are carrying this burden. We have dealt with these issues for years and no one has done anything. Now, we, as the adults and leaders of this school, need to listen to the students.” A different school board member shared that there have been at least 7 emails from parents sent to the Superintendent, Todd Sanders, over the past 2 weeks about the principal.
Set forth below is the public comment meant for the MSAD 58 school board that Julia Wells tried to share but during which was interrupted and shut down:
“My mom is a Life Coach. She helps people identify problems and obstacles that block progress. She helps people transition from surviving life to thriving in life. Usually, people are so close to these obstacles and problems that they cannot see clearly. A life coach helps people to see clearly. Then, they help people to overcome their obstacles and thrive.
Here’s a few things a life coach might say to you:
- What are the red flags? How many red flags have you ignored so far? How many more do you want to ignore before we can tackle this obstacle?
- Or, how long should we kick this can down the road?
- A life coach might explain the definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.
Or, they might even ask you all of these things in the same, hard question:
- How many good people have you lost in your life because you keep ignoring these red flags, because you keep kicking this same can down the same road, and because you keeping doing the same things over and over again but you’re not getting anywhere?
- I can answer that for you. 28 people. Mt. Abram High School has lost 28 good, caring, vested faculty staff and administrators since 2015.
- The students at Mt. Abram are fed up with losing all of our good teachers, staff and admins. We build relationships with them, they invest in us, and then they leave. Have you asked yourselves why?
We students know why. We are asking you to take ANOTHER good, long, hard look at this petition of 120 students. Ask yourself hard questions about why we are STILL here talking about this today. Let’s stop making excuses. Let’s stop ignoring red flags. Let’s stop practicing insanity.
We are the students of Mt. Abram High School and we want to see change. “
These issues have allegedly been occurring at Mt. Abram High School for the past six years. Where have Superintendent Todd Sanders and School Board Chairwoman, Kim Jordan been? Why are they silent? Why are they alleging that Ms. Wells’ complaint is the first they’ve heard surrounding Tranten and her job performance? We reached out to Superintendent Sanders who indicated he had “No Comment” with regard to the allegations pertaining to Principal Tranten. Similarly, during our call to Principal Tranten, she referred us to Superintendent Sanders.
Adults associated with Mt. Abram High School as faculty, school board members or parents of students, some of you have sent emails with your complaints and concerns, why are others content with letting these issues rest on the shoulders of a 16 year old student?
We will continue to follow the story out of Mt. Abrams High School and provide you with updated information as it becomes available.
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