Paris residents to vote Tuesday on recalling school director

Jan. 7—PARIS — Residents will head to the polls Tuesday to determine whether Sarah Otterson remains a director on the Maine School Administrative District 17 board.

Polls will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Town Office.

Nearly 700 residents signed a petition offered by resident Armand Norton to recall Otterson after she voted to support the Gender Identity of Students policy being considered by the school board. The controversial issue has divided parents in the eight-town district.

A similar petition also sought the recall of Director Julia Lester, but she resigned last month rather than face the recall vote. Troy Ripley was appointed to replace her.

Otterson and Lester were targeted by a group of Paris residents for supporting the policy, which would include controversial provisions such as requiring school staff to keep confidential from parents any discussion where students claim to be transgender.

Proponents claim the policy would help protect children.

Against the advice of the town's attorney, selectmen accepted the petitions and scheduled the vote.

Town attorney Philip Saucier from the law firm Bernstein and Shur in Portland said in November that from his research on the issue, along with guidance from the Maine Municipal Association, the only way to remove a school board member would be if it is authorized by a charter.

"The school is a separate legal entity," Saucier said. "It is not part of the town."

Asked by board Chairman Christopher Summers if the town could face legal jeopardy if it approved the recall vote, Saucier said, "It could certainly be subject to challenge, and a court would ultimately weigh in on this question."

Despite the advice, the board voted 4-1 to send the matter to voters to decide Otterson's fate. Summers, Michael Bailey, Peter Kilgore and Carlton Sprague voted in favor, while Scott McElravy, citing the attorney's advice, voted no.

If Otterson is recalled, selectmen will appoint her successor. If Otterson survives the vote, she will continue to serve the final year of her three-year term

As of noon Friday, the town had issued 141 absentee ballots.

To read a copy of the policy, go to https://tinyurl.com/yty6p7fr.