Beckwith to head special services

BAR HARBOR — Kelley Sanborn, director of special services for the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) for the past 16 years, will leave that post at the end of the summer and switch to teaching students with severe disabilities at MDI High School.

She will be succeeded by Melissa Beckwith, the MDIRSS director of special education for the past seven years. Special education is a major component of special services, which also includes social work, psychological counseling and occupational therapy services for students in the district’s nine schools.

The MDIRSS board last week unanimously approved Superintendent Howard Colter’s appointment of Beckwith.

Sanborn will succeed Roberta Raymond, who is retiring as the teacher for the high school’s SUN room – for “students with unique needs.”

“Those are the students who have the most severe disabilities,” Sanborn said.

She said she is changing jobs because she is ready for a different type of challenge.

“It’s time to get back to the kids, to be close to them again,” she said. “That’s where my heart lies, making sure those kids are being well served.”

In November 2014, the MDIRSS board denied her request to take a year-long sabbatical with partial pay.

“The relentless nature of what this work entails is the reason I would like to be pro-active and take a break before I need a medical leave,” she said at the time.

In March 2015, Sanborn went on medical leave and was out for the rest of the school year. Beckwith filled in for her.

Colter told the school board last week that he wanted to appoint Beckwith director of special services without advertising the job or conducting interviews.

“It seems to me justified, given that Melissa has done this job as recently as last year, and she has done other parts of the job over some time,” he said.

“She is, in my opinion, qualified and deserving of this change in terms of title and responsibility. And I would hate to put people through the [application and interview] process just to be politically correct.”

Colter said he intends to advertise for the director of special education position, “So it isn’t as if it’s all an internal shuffle.”

Noting that it is confusing to have two positions with similar titles, Colter said the “director of special education” title probably would be changed to something like “assistant director of special services.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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