AOS 93 Superintendent Lynsey Johnston will step down at the end of June after two years in the position.
“I am choosing to move towards other opportunities to utilize my skills and strengths and to seek a healthier work-life balance,” she said in her Jan. 2 resignation letter.
The AOS 93 Board accepted the resignation with regret following executive session at a special meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 24 and planned the search process for a new superintendent. (See related story.)
Johnston joined AOS 93 as principal of Jefferson Village School in August 2016 and became assistant superintendent in fall 2020. The board appointed her superintendent for the 2022-2023 school year, replacing Craig Jurgensen.
Before coming to Jefferson, Johnston had been principal of South Elementary School in Rockland’s RSU 13 since 2012, also serving as principal of Rockland District Middle School in her final year. She was born and raised in Lincoln County and taught in RSU 13 for years before moving into administration.
AOS 93 consists of seven towns – Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Jefferson, Newcastle, Nobleboro, and South Bristol – and contains five elementary schools – Bristol Consolidated School, Great Salt Bay Community School, Jefferson Village School, Nobleboro Central School, and South Bristol School. The search committee to replace Johnston will include community representatives from each town.
In an AOS, or alternative organizational system, each school operates as its own district and contracts with the central office for administrative services. AOS 93 has nine school committees, five of which meet monthly, and nine individual budgets.
Last spring, Johnston and her central office staff cited redundancies and inefficiencies in the system when they proposed developing a restructuring plan to be ready for voters by November 2024, with options including condensing schools into modified RSUs.
AOS 93 Board Chair Matthew Hanly wrote in a response letter on behalf of the board that Johnston has “experienced first-hand the complexities and nuances of this gargantuan task.”
“Notably, you initiated a Strategic Visioning process that has the potential for making this leadership position sustainable in the future,” Hanly said in the letter. “We are genuinely thankful for your service.”
Johnston said after the meeting that she is not sure how her resignation will affect the restructuring timeline, but it is unlikely to delay the process significantly. Because school committees voted against bigger changes like consolidating or becoming an RSU, there is less work ahead of her replacement than there might have been.
At this point, committees plan to pursue reclassifying AOS 93 with the state as an educational service center, which operates identically but makes the school system eligible for a six-figure increase in annual state subsidy. Great Salt Bay Community School, which serves Bremen, Damariscotta, and Newcastle students, hopes to condense to one K-12 school committee from its existing K-8 committee and three secondary school committees. Discussion is ongoing about options in Bristol and South Bristol.
All changes will need voter approval before going into effect.
Hanly wrote that Johnston was appointed “with the extraordinary support of every constituent group,” including central office staff, school communities, and families, and earned their respect.
“As chair of the board, I have been with you through the highs and lows of the past two years, through the personal attacks and violent threats bestowed upon you and your family, and through your efforts to put the safety – physical and emotional – of every member of our school community first,” Hanly said in the letter. “It certainly hasn’t been easy and I applaud your courage and heart.”
GSB and district administrators received several bomb threats and personal safety threats in 2022 and 2023, which staff said late last year were connected to a high-profile lawsuit against the AOS, the board, and a handful of employees including Johnston by a parent alleging the school hid her child’s gender transition
Judge Jon D. Levy dismissed individuals from the case in U.S. District Court in November 2023 and has not issued a decision on the remaining case against the school system.
After the meeting, Johnston said she will miss working with the community but is ready for her next step. She plans to work with central office staff through the end of the year to prepare for the leadership transition.