FREEPORT — Following the resignation of the former superintendent, and with Freeport’s withdrawal hanging in the balance, Regional School Unit 5 has hired two interim co-superintendents.
William Michaud and Michael LaFortune took on the new roles July 1 after the RSU’s first superintendent, Shannon Welsh, retired. They will serve until June 30, 2015, which may be Freeport’s last day in the RSU, depending on the outcome of a November referendum.
The Maine Department of Education has approved Freeport’s plan to withdraw from the RSU, which also includes Durham and Pownal. The final decision will come from the voters.
According to Michaud, the School Board decided to hire the pair as interim superintendents because it is still unclear if the withdrawal will happen.
“The thought was that rather than have one superintendent for RSU 5 today, when they don’t know what the configuration will be next year, they decided to go with interims,” Michaud said.
The idea was Michaud’s. He said he wanted to take the job while still being able to work part time at his law practice. He and LaFortune will each work 2 1/2 days a week. Michaud said he will deal primarily with finances, while LaFortune will work with curriculum.
Michaud and LaFortune both said they will not concern themselves with the debate surrounding the RSU 5 withdrawal. They said their focus will remain on how to best serve the students and teachers.
“We made an agreement going forward to try to educate the students the best we can,” LaFortune said. “We’re trying to stay out of the RSU 5 debate.”
Michaud agreed, saying he wants to leave that to the voters.
“We take no position on what the configuration of RSU 5 will be,” Michaud said. “The biggest challenge will be to keep the political question out of the school.”
Michaud and LaFortune have also been given the challenge of finding a permanent superintendent, to start by July 2015. Michaud said if the referendum fails, they will begin the search immediately and would hope to hire someone by January.
If Freeport ends up withdrawing, the pair would have to find a new superintendent for the town, as well as someone for RSU 5.
Between finding a replacement and keeping students out of the withdrawal debate, Michaud and LaFortune both said they expect many challenges. But it is something they are both looking forward to.
“It’s going to be an interesting journey,” LaFortune said.
Prior to accepting to this position, Michaud was superintendent in Scarborough and interim superintendent in Yarmouth. He left that career path for law.
LaFortune was the first superintendent of RSU 23, comprised of Old Orchard Beach, Dayton and Saco. RSU 23 has since split apart and now includes only Old Orchard Beach schools.
The pair has worked together previously in Bath, where Michaud was superintendent and LaFortune was a principal and then assistant superintendent. LaFortune became Bath’s superintendent after Michaud left for Scarborough.
They said they are looking forward to working together again.
“Sharing a job like this with Bill seemed interesting,” LaFortune said. “I wouldn’t want to do it alone.”
Michaud expressed similar thoughts about working with LaFortune.
“There aren’t too many people I’d do this with,” he said, “but we work well together and we make a great team.”