Recent controversies drive contentious election

Heated RSU 40 School Board election goes to the polls

Mon, 06/10/2024 - 8:30am

    Four RSU 40 seats are up for grabs: two in Waldoboro and on each in Warren and Union. At stake could be the existence of the schools themselves. Several candidates’ supporters espoused belief in the dissolution of public education. 

    Those candidates would join a growing bloc of Board Members who would choose to deny the school district funding altogether and either voted no or abstained from each budget line at this year’s annual meeting. 

    This the second year of hotly controversial elections in RSU 40. A policy protecting Transgender and Gender Expansive students, Policy ACAAA, was deleted by the school board at their June 6 meeting, despite vocal, vehement opposition from RSU40 district staff, students and community members. 

    In 2022, the book Gender Queer narrowly survived a challenge brought by local residents. At the June 6 Policy Meeting, Board Member Randy Kassa, who voted against the book and to delete Policy ACAAA, has proposed that the Board adopted a revised version of Policy IJJ, Selection of Education of Materials. Discussion was tabled until the next meeting, which will be after the June 11 election. 

    The issues have prompted what may be a first in its kinds: a student group has formed to endorse school board candidates. In letters to the editors of the Courier-Gazette and the Lincoln County News, the Education Matters Student Association expressed their concern over the current make up of the school board and to endorse candidates who supported keeping Policy ACAAA. 


    Steven Karp, Tabatha MacArthur, Leah Shipps, and Benjamin Stickney are candidates for two open seats. 

    MacArthur has refused to provide any media statements, she did not speak at either the May 16 or June 6 school board meetings, and she has no publicly viewable social media accounts. 

    Steven Karp has unsuccessfully run for school board twice previously. He has spoken against Policy ACAAA and Gender Queer at multiple school board meetings, including the May 18 and June 6 meetings.  

    In a June 6 Facebook post, Leah Shipps wrote: “Today is the day that we show up to support our transgender and gender expansive students. Whatever the final vote, folks need to know they are loved and supported by their community - and that we will continue to protect their human rights.”

    At the June 6 school board meeting, candidate Benjamin Stickney spoke in favor of retaining Policy ACAAA. 


    Board Member Naomi Aho is running for reelection. Torry Verrill is running for the seat.

    Aho voted to delete Policy ACAAA. At the May 18 school board meeting, she said Policy ACAAA made, “one group have special rights.”

    At the June 6 Policy Committee meeting, Aho advocated for adoption the revised version of Policy IJJ submitted by Kassa. 

    At the June 6 Board Meeting, Verrill said: “At the last Board meeting, 40 members of RSU40’s community spoke to keep Policy ACAAA, Transgender and Gender Expansive Students. Less than ten people from the community spoke against it. 

    “The community members who spoke in support of the policy included students, staff, teachers, and administrators from your district. The district you are supposed to represent.” 

    In closing, Verrill said, “To the transgender and gender non-conforming students who are listening, know that you are loved and supported.”  


    Rachel Wilcox and Timothy Wood vie for an open seat. At a May 15 Meet the Candidate event hosted by the Courier-Gazette they were asked if they agreed with the then-proposed deletion of Policy ACAAA. 

    Wilcox said: “No, I do not support it. Every child deserves to feel safe and secure in public education.”

    She went on to say the school board has to write policies to really outline what will happen so it is clear with no confusion.

    Wood said, “The school district is not required to have a specific policy on this issue.” He went on to say that “some may argue that it is discriminatory to have a policy that gives special rights to one protected group and not others.”

    Wood and Wilcox were later asked to share and discuss their position on, “removing materials from school libraries.”

    Wilcox said it, "comes down to intellectual freedom and the power of representation.”

    Wilcox said, “It’s my job as a fellow Mainer and fellow American to make sure you always have space to tell that story and that everyone who wants to read it gets a chance to.”

    Wood said “The books can be found online” and “they are in no way being removed from viewership.” He went on to say the books in questions are “ideology-based and contain explicit content and should not be in a taxpayer-funded public school library.”

    The full video can be watched at Town Hall streams. 

    RSU 40 also includes  the towns of Washington and Friendship, but neither have school board elections on June 11.

    Reach Sarah Masters at