Bath high school teacher to be next principal

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BATH — Eric Varney, an award-winning faculty member at Morse High School for 15 years, will become the principal Aug. 1.

The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors on Monday unanimously backed Superintendent Patrick Manuel’s nomination of the Bath resident. Varney replaces Jay Pinkerton, who will retire July 31 after five years at Morse.

Varney, who became assistant principal last year, started at the school teaching physical and Earth sciences, following time at the Catalina Island Marine Institute in California and the Schooner Ernestina Commission.

The 1998 Morse graduate has spent most of his professional time there teaching Advanced Placement Environmental Science, a program he started. He was named Sagadahoc County Teacher of the Year in 2014, and was a semi-finalist for Maine Teacher of the Year in 2015.

The 38-year-old is married and has one son, who could graduate with Morse’s class of 2034.

“It feels excellent” to be named the principal, Varney said in an interview March 9, noting he decided a few years ago to explore the administrative track.

“Although I absolutely loved teaching, and feel lucky to have spent the years in the classroom that I did,” he said. “I just felt as though I wanted a bit of a new adventure, and I couldn’t be happier to be assuming this role at Morse.”

Varney praised the school community and faculty, particularly Pinkerton, who “is leaving me in a great spot,” he said, noting that when Pinkerton became principal, “I knew then that had an opportunity to really learn from somebody who has not just a great amount of experience, but the opinions that I trust.”

Varney had an internship with Pinkerton, who he also called level-headed and thoughtful.

Areas he said he wants to focus on at Morse are boosting student attendance, and the transition into a proficiency-based educational system.

Varney’s salary is still being determined, and a new assistant principal will be chosen before Aug. 1, Manuel said March 9.

More than a dozen people applied for the principal job, and four were interviewed by an 18-member panel of students, parents, teachers, administrators and a School Board member.

Varney is “bright, well-respected as a teacher, and (has) also done an excellent job this last year as assistant principal,” Manuel said. He also praised Varney’s professionalism, high expectations, and level of investment in the school.

“You put that whole package together, and we were very impressed,” he added.

Varney is due to be the first principal of the new Morse High School, due to open fall 2020, replacing the 1920s structure on High Street.

It’s a prospect he called “very exciting.”

“The old Morse High School is a great old building with many memories for many of us in this community, but it is time for a new, modern building for the work that we do,” Varney said. “The plans are progressing every week, and the next facility is sure to be a beautiful place to go to school.”

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

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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.