In Pittsfield, two school board members abruptly resign

  • Seventh and eighth graders listen to English teacher Chris Davitt (center) during an interdisciplinary humanities block at Pittsfield Middle High School on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 4/29/2021 4:05:56 PM

Two of the five members of the Pittsfield School Board have abruptly resigned, blindsiding many in town and creating a rush to fill the spots.

School Board Chairman Adam Gauthier confirmed the departure of Bea Douglas and Ted Mitchell, two long-time officials in town. Both had one year left on their terms.

“Bea Douglas and Ted Mitchell have resigned due to health and personal reasons,” Gauthier said in an email. “It is unfortunate to lose them and the amount of experience that they brought to the table.”

No further information was available during school vacation week. Interim superintendent John Graziano was on vacation and Gauthier said he did not have a chance to call back and discuss the matter further.

Neither Douglas nor Mitchell, who both are still listed on the school district’s website as board members, could be reached.

It was unclear exactly when the pair left the board. Draft minutes from the Board’s April 15 meeting reveal nothing out of the ordinary – both were present, Douglass in person and Mitchell remotely. The pair, who make up the district’s contract negotiating team, gave no indication they were ending their tenure. 

Gauthier’s email to the Monitor was dated Tuesday, April 27, the same day a Facebook message was posted by the Pittsfield School District looking for people to fill the two open seats.

“We would like to thank Bea Douglas and Ted Mitchell for their years of service to the Pittsfield School District,” it read. “Their unanticipated resignations mean we have two open seats we need filled on the Board.”

Gauthier wrote in his email that the school board will accept letters of interest until 3 p.m. on May 3. “We will be reviewing the letters and possibly taking action on them at our May 6 board meeting,” he said.

The sudden exit by Douglas and Mitchell leaves three remaining select board members: Gauthier, whose term ends in 2024; Vice Chairman Justin Clough, whose term ends the same year; and Jessica Drouin, who has two years left on the board.

Mitchell, who was board secretary, and Douglas were both scheduled to serve until next year.

Although it’s an elected position, the School Board will now choose the new members, an issue that in other towns in the past has created friction between residents and the board.

While limited online information was available for Mitchell, Douglas’s LinkedIn page said she’s been teaching for 30 years, beginning at Barnstead Elementary School. She’s been a second-grade at Chichester Central School for 24 years.

She served on the Pittsfield School Board for eight years, and was the chairwoman of the board for 14 months.

Douglas continues to work with the Pittsfield Players, part of a local acting program, and she served on the board of directors for Blueberry Express Daycare for 10 years.

Douglas has also been a strong voice and contributor in the Granite State teaching community, and she has not hidden her feelings about the unjust way, through property taxes, that schools are funded.

Before Election Day this year, she tried to convince voters that the default budget, $900,000 more than the proposed operating budget, was the right way to go once the curtain closed in the voting booths.

“The only thing we can hope for is that people see that the cuts are so deep, and they see how detrimental it is to our school system,” she told the Monitor 10 weeks ago. “Vote it down and let the default budget kick in.”

Instead, the voters chose the operating budget in a landslide, keeping property taxes lower, but leaving the schools badly in need of improved infrastructure and school supplies.

One month after the vote, she left the school board, along with Mitchell, in a move that surprised even Select Board Chairman Jim Allard, who, when contacted, said, “I had no idea.”

Neither did most of the town, which continues to wonder.

“I am sorry,” Gauthier wrote, “that I can not respond more in-depth at this time.”

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