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Bangor Superintendent Betsy Webb To Step Down In October

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Natalie Williams
/
Bangor Daily News
Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb speaks to students at Fruit Street School in this Jan. 10, 2020, file photo.

Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb said Thursday she will step down in October after 12 years leading the city’s schools to become a professor at the University of Maine.The public announcement of her retirement came the day after Webb and school committee members apologized to students of color for their experiences with racism at Bangor High School, which they learned about through a Bangor Daily News article published earlier this week. Webb also shared details of an outside investigation she has ordered into how Bangor High handled reports of the discrimination that five Black students experienced.

“She is an outstanding leader and I have often said with her skills, she could lead a Fortune 500 Company. We are lucky she chose education,” Bangor School Committee Chair Warren Caruso said in a statement. “We also know Dr. Webb will guide us through the next several months with a focus on the priorities of reopening plans and a call to action to build antiracism and equity.”

The school committee has not announced a timeline for the search for Webb’s replacement.

The Bangor School Department has stood out as a strong academic performer during Webb’s tenure based on standardized test results. Bangor students consistently outperform their peers statewide, and their overall performance has actually improved statewide in recent years while the statewide performance stagnated.

In addition, the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers has actually narrowed in Bangor in recent years while it’s grown statewide. Some 55 percent of Bangor students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, making the district poorer than the state as a whole.

But the school department under Webb and her predecessors, including the school committee, has drawn criticism for being closed off. School committee members have been told their job is to support the superintendent, and public debate among members and public comment at meetings have traditionally been limited. The committee has gone long stretches recording unanimous votes.

Last fall, Webb and school administrators came under fire for Bangor High School’s response to a student’s suicide, which the high school principal announced to students over the loudspeaker, going against expert advice for schools on responding to a student’s suicide to help students grieve and prevent more suicides. The school department also ignored outside offers of help from two organizations with mental health expertise.