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Bedford's new superintendent pledges transparency after predecessor outraged public

Union Leader Correspondent

August 02. 2018 12:39PM

BEDFORD — Thrust into the superintendent role after Chip McGee’s resignation on Friday, Michael Fournier says he intends to lead with consistency, openness and transparency.

“Not only are these some of my personal values, they are also values shared by many in our community. I am confident that these shared values will spur us on as we begin the healing process,” Fournier said in an open message to Bedford families.

McGee resigned Friday in the wake of public outrage after educators from the Bedford School District and others spoke in support of former Exeter High School guidance counselor Kristie Torbick, who recently pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student.

“This has been a challenge for many of us here in town,” Fournier told the New Hampshire Union Leader just hours after he was appointed as interim superintendent, and charged with leading the investigation into Dean of Student Services Zanna Blaney’s testimony at Torbick’s sentencing, as well as related matters.

Fournier says he is acutely aware of the many emotions surrounding recent events.

“As directed by the school board, I intend to initiate an investigation into this matter with integrity, giving full deference to due process, student rights, employment law, board policies and all legal obligations required by a public school district,” he said in a statement. “In doing so, it is my hope that we will be able to stand tall knowing that we followed the right processes for the right reasons with the right outcomes.”

Several parents are still calling for the resignations of Blaney and Bedford guidance counselors Alison Mattson and Christine Mulcahey, who were among 23 people who wrote letters of support for Torbick; Torbick worked in Bedford before she left in 2016 and was hired in Exeter, where she met the victim, a freshman when the assaults occurred on multiple occasions.

“We are going to let the process take its course,” Bill Kassler, school board member, said of the investigation. “It is likely that there will be issues that the (school) board will have to weigh in on, but we are giving our entire support to the (interim) superintendent.”

Kassler described Fournier as a dedicated educator and administrator with a gift for communicating well.

Fournier, who has been principal at McKelvie Intermediate School for the past 11 years, has been with the school district for 18 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s degree in education from the University of New Hampshire, an education specialist degree and a current license with superintendent certification.

“He has got intelligence and emotional intelligence and he has got the full trust of the student body, staff and board,” Kassler said of the new superintendent.

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