LePage rebuffs superintendents’ call for permanent education commissioner

In a letter dated June 30, the Maine School Superintendents Association urged Gov. Paul LePage to appoint a permanent education commissioner.

LePage, who rescinded his nomination of former Husson University President William Beardsley after Democrats said they would question him during confirmation proceedings about his positions on transgender rights and teaching evolution, has appointed Beardsley deputy commissioner and said Beardsley will run the department from that post.

The group, a membership organization of Maine’s public school superintendents, said in a letter to LePage that a lack of leadership at Department of Education is causing problems. LePage replied to the letter from the organization on Thursday, saying he will re-nominate Beardsley in January if the leaders of the next Legislature are less likely to question his decisions.

“As I have previously stated, some members of the 127th Legislature prefer to play politics rather than act in the best interest of Maine students,” wrote LePage. “I am hopeful that the 128th Legislature will be different. If so, I I will again put forward Dr. Beardsley for confirmation as commissioner. If not, he will continue to run the department as deputy commissioner.”

Maine has operated without a permanent education commissioner since James Rier left the post in late 2014. Tom Desjardin served as interim commissioner after Rier’s departure. Beardsley replaced Desjardin as interim commissioner in October 2015. Maine law prohibits interim commissioners from serving longer than six months, a circumstance that has led LePage to shuffle leadership at the Department of Education while effectively leaving Beardsley to run the department as deputy commissioner.


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.