Back to school: SAD 75 starts new year with new administrators

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TOPSHAM — School Administrative District 75 is starting the 2011-2012 academic year with new people in top jobs, but many of those faces are familiar.

Brad Smith replaced Mike Wilhelm as superintendent of schools on July 1. Smith had served as assistant superintendent since last October. Wilhelm was hired as assistant superintendent in 1989 and became superintendent two years later.

“This is a really good school system,” Smith said last week. “It doesn’t need major changes in it. Mike Wilhelm left this school district in a good place, and so we need to continue that work.”

Smith’s assistant superintendent has also spent time in the district. Elaine Dow, who was hired last month to serve in an interim capacity through next June, was SAD 75’s interim assistant superintendent in the months leading up to Smith’s hiring as assistant superintendent.

Craig King remains principal of Mt. Ararat High School, but has two new assistant principals: Donna Brunette, who was co-principal at Mt. Ararat Middle School, and high school social worker Mimi Sorg, who is filling in for a year while Don Gray is on military leave.

Bill Zima, who had been vice principal at Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro, has replaced Brunette at the middle school.

The Harpswell Islands School opens its doors this year as the renamed Harpswell Community School, and it will also house students from the now-closed West Harpswell School. Kerry Bailey, who once helmed West Bath Elementary School,  is the Harpswell school’s new principal.

The Capstone project, which marks the culmination of a student’s high school experience, will kick off officially this year at Mt. Ararat High School. A pilot version of the project, which involved 13 juniors and two seniors, ran from January to May.

In the program, seniors develop projects that show their skills as lifelong, self-directed learners, and as quality workers, effective communicators, problem solvers and informed and integrative thinkers. The projects go beyond regular academic work and expand upon the students’ school experiences.

“We want kids to be aware, starting their freshman year, that part of the culture is that you take on a very meaningful exploration of learning, and you’re in charge of learning and organizing that and pursuing that, and having the school act as a resource for you,” Smith said.

Also new at Mt. Ararat High School is a “Ninth Grade Academy,” geared toward helping at-risk students coming up from the middle school.

“Ninth grade can be a very difficult year for students,” Smith said, adding that the academy offers “a different sort of structure for those kids who need it.”

The middle school’s focus will continue to be teaching toward state standards.

“The expectation currently in Maine is that when students graduate, they’re proficient in the Maine Learning Results in order to earn a diploma,” Smith said.

The first day of school is Tuesday, Aug. 30, for the elementary schools and grades seven through nine. Other grades start Wednesday, Aug. 31.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.