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Kunin seeks new challenges, Deering High School seeks new principal

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Kunin seeks new challenges, Deering High School seeks new principal

PORTLAND — Ken Kunin will resign as principal of Deering High School at the end of the school year, he said, to seek a new challenge.

Kunin said his resignation has nothing to do with the bleak financial forecast for city schools, which face a mid-year cut of $2.6 million in state aid in the current budget and a nearly $6 million cut next year.

Nor was his decision influenced, he said, by changes sought by the superintendent of schools.

"Since 1986, I have been a principal," Kunin said. "I felt it was time for another challenge."

Kunin, who has been Deering's principal since 2005, said he would like to concentrate his efforts on improving policies that affect public education – specifically, policies and rules that guide the interaction between schools and student support services.

Often times, Kunin said, policies can prevent social service agencies, mental health experts and schools from effectively working together toward improving student learning.

"Sometimes the rules of the road impact the delivery of services," he said. "I want to make sure that the rules of the road really are helpful for children and families."

Prior to coming to Portland, Kunin held a variety of leadership positions in private and public education.

He worked for nearly a decade at the Walker Home and School, a Massachusetts-based day and residential treatment center for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

But after serving as its executive director, Kunin said he wanted to refocus his attention on students, rather than the bureaucracy of education.

In 1998, Kunin moved to Maine with his wife, Beth Stickney, where he became the principal of Reiche Elementary School.

After stepping down from that position in 2004, Kunin became the interim principal at Deering High School. The following year, he applied for and was selected to become for the permanent position.

Deering also happened to be his father-in-law's alma mater.

"I got a lot of information about Deering at family events," he said.

Kunin said his decision to resign was not influenced by some of the sweeping changes being made by Superintendent James C. Morse Sr., who has proposed a unified scheduled for the city's four high schools and hopes to trim the district's special education budget.

Kunin said he has worked closely with Morse and agrees with the direction the superintendent is taking.

"In many ways, it gives me confidence," he said. "There are still challenges, and there always will be challenges, but I feel like I'm leaving Deering a better place than when I came."

In a press release, Morse complimented Kunin's work at the city's largest high school, noting his long hours and efforts to attend after-school events.

"He has made a major contribution to the lives of Portland students," Morse said.

The current funding crisis also had no bearing on Kunin's decision, the school chief said, since he became accustomed to financial uncertainties through his years working for nonprofit groups.

Kunin said he and his family plan to stay in Portland, where his 8-year-old daughter attends Nathan Clifford Elementary School.

The School Department will form a search committee of teachers, students, parents and community members to find Kunin's successor. Anyone interested in serving on the  committee should contact Assistant Superintendent Jill Blackwood at 874-8100 or blackj@portlandschools.org.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net