Pembroke school board member resigns

Monitor staff
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Pembroke school board member has resigned after a resident complained her work as a part-time substitute teacher created a conflict of interest.

“I was put in the very difficult position (of) either resigning from this board or giving up working. Unfortunately I cannot afford to stop working,” Janna Culberson said, reading from a prepared statement at Monday’s school board meeting. “Nor did I want to cause the board any further turmoil trying to defend this personal attack.”

Culberson has been working as a substitute teacher at Allenstown’s middle and elementary schools for more than seven years, roughly the same length of time she’s been on the Pembroke school board.

She said she had asked Pembroke’s superintendent when she started her tenure on the board, Peter Warburton, whether she could substitute. Culberson said she’d only been told not to work for Pembroke’s schools.

Allenstown is in a separate school district from Pembroke’s and has its own school board. But it is part of the same school administrative unit, SAU 53. It shares central office staff and an SAU board. According to state law, no one working “on a salaried basis” within a school district or that district’s SAU can run for school board.

“I do apologize to my fellow board members; I feel I am abandoning you in this unsettled time,” Culberson said.

Pembroke school board Chairman Dan Driscoll said Culberson had stepped down of her own volition.

“Janna made her decision on her own, without any input from the board,” Driscoll said. The board will solicit applications to appoint someone to fill her spot until elections in March, he said.

The school board has been under intense scrutiny since October, when an unexpected $1 million revenue shortfall spiked taxes. Residents, livid about tax bills that for many jumped more than $1,000, have been packing school board meetings and demanding answers.

Culberson added in her statement that she “wanted to make perfectly clear that I am not resigning due to the shortfall or any of the backlash.”

Since the shortfall, the board has commissioned an independent audit – due in January – into why revenue projections were so far off. It’s also frozen the budget and proposed a spending plan for next year that makes steep cuts.

By a unanimous vote Monday, the board sent a $24 million budget proposal for next year to the Pembroke budget committee for review. The spending plan is about $1.4 million less than this year’s budget, and the bulk of the savings come from cutting six full-time teachers and 10 non-certified personnel.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)