Brunswick thins Stowe school principal choice to 2 candidates

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BRUNSWICK — The search committee to find a new principal for Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School has narrowed the field to two candidates.

Tonya Arnold, principal of the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will Hinckley, and Patricia Crowley-Rockwell, assistant principal of King Middle School in Portland, were introduced at the school on Monday, Sept. 12.

Assistant Superintendent Pender Makin, who chairs the search committee, said at Wednesday night’s School Board meeting that input from the Monday evening forums, where both candidates took questions from the school community and staff, will likely be the deciding factor for the committee.

About 40 people were present during both the staff and community meetings, which took place simultaneously in separate rooms at the elementary school. 

Each candidate had 10 minutes to introduce herself, and then fielded questions from the audience for 30 minutes. Attendees were encouraged to fill out a sheet that included columns for positive and negative feedback. AmeriCorps volunteers with the School Department collated the feedback into major themes.

“I thought the event went well,” Makin said.

She said the committee felt equally confident about the candidates, meaning that the feedback from Monday’s event “will absolutely influence the final decision.”

The search committee, composed of School Board members, teachers, parents and support staff who were appointed in August, narrowed a pool of 15 applicants to seven candidates who were offered interviews last Sunday.

The interviewing process took 13 hours, according to Makin, but by 9:30 p.m., the committee reached “an enthusiastic consensus” around Arnold and Crowley-Rockwell, she said.

Makin said she did not participate in choosing the final candidates, and only facilitated Sunday’s process.

The committee was scheduled to meet Thursday, Sept. 15, to review feedback from each forum, and to nominate one, both, or neither of the candidates to interview with Superintendent Paul Perzanoski.

Perzanoski will then recommend his choice to the School Board for a vote. Makin said the committee “will go back to the drawing board” in the event that neither candidate moves forward.

While introducing Monday’s community forum, Makin said the search process was “the most wide-open, crowd-sourced, integrity-filled” process of which she’s ever been a part. The process began with building a job description, available on the School Department website, that Makin said was based on input from the community.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

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Reporter on the Brunswick/Harpswell beat. Proud Bowdoin grad that you can find reporting on municipal, school, and community news, or inside the many coffee and sandwich shops around the Midcoast. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100.