Wiscasset Middle High School students held a walkout on Monday, Nov. 20 in support of the school’s principal, who is currently on paid administrative leave.
Principal Gina Stevens has been on paid administrative leave since Oct. 30, following an investigation into a hidden camera placed in the school without knowledge of the current or past superintendent, according to Wiscasset Schools Superintendent Kim Andersson.
At 11:05 a.m. on Nov. 20, approximately 15 students exited WMHS and joined together in front of the school to walk to the superintendent’s office, at 225 Gardiner Road. Community members were encouraged to attend the walkout, according to a post written by Sara Lynn, a WMHS student, on the Wiscasset Maine Community Facebook page. There were about 10 community members present for the walkout, mainly parents of WMHS students.
WMHS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Sarah Hubert accompanied the students on their walkout to ensure their safety, according to a statement posted on the school website.
Sharon Jacques, mother of a WMHS student, attended the walkout for her daughter, Haley.
Jacques, as well as other community members, took the time to converse with each other and with Hubert regarding their thoughts on the investigation into Stevens’ alleged conduct.
Anna Strozier, WMHS junior, said she is upset about the current tension between the principal and the school board.
“I’m just pissed off that they are trying to get rid of her when she’s done nothing wrong,” said Strozier.
“The goal of this walkout is try to make it so that (Andersson) realizes that if they end up firing Gina Stevens, that we’re going to lose a lot of our teachers and that she’s going to lose a lot of her students, and then there’s really just no point in having the school open anymore once she loses teachers and students,” said Strozier. “And we’re also just trying to show our support for Ms. Stevens because we all do really love her and she’s a really good principal.”
Students and parents have voiced concerns that the 25 WMHS staff members who recently wrote a letter in support of Stevens will resign if Stevens is dismissed.
“(The students) are old enough to understand what’s happening, and if you don’t tell them what’s going on, they’re going to fill things in their head, they’re going to read what Facebook says, and believe all of that, and what’s really hard is the only thing we can tell them is there’s this process,” said Hubert. “No one knows what’s going to be the outcome, but we all want control, right? By doing this, they have a sense of control.”
Strozier said no one student was behind the walkout, but a collective group that simply wanted to show support for Stevens.
“It was just a bunch of us students coming together and trying to figure out how we could show our support in a way that would actually get people’s attention,” said Strozier.
Stevens remains on administrative leave following a special meeting of the Wiscasset School Committee on Nov. 13 to discuss the personnel matter. While personnel matters are normally handled confidentially, Stevens requested the situation be handled during public session.
The committee voted will hold a hearing at a time and date yet to be determined and will ultimately vote to decide if Stevens will be dismissed from her position. The hearing will likely be scheduled for some time in December, Wiscasset School Committee Chair Jason Putnam said after the Nov. 13 meeting.
The next regular meeting of the Wiscasset School Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. in the WMHS library.