FALMOUTH — The school chief has packed up his desk and is ready to move on.
Superintendent George Entwistle III will take charge of Belmont, Mass. schools next week, after five years in Falmouth. Assistant Superintendent Barbara Powers will become interim superintendent as the School Board begins a nationwide search for his replacement.
One of the lessons Entwistle taught the School Board will help make his departure a little easier.
“He showed us nothing is forever; he was not afraid of change,” former board Chairwoman Beppie Cerf said. Cerf served on the School Board for the past six years and was active in the search process that netted Entwistle.
For Entwistle, who lives in Cape Elizabeth, the Falmouth position was his first experience as superintendent. He came to town after serving one year as Camden-Rockport’s assistant superintendent – his professional foray into education.
Though shy on actual educational experience, Entwistle’s background as a psychologist and as a vice president of human resources, combined with seven years on the Cape Elizabeth School Board, gave him a unique perspective attractive to both the Falmouth School Board and now, Belmont.
“(As a psychologist) I worked particularly with kids and adolescents who had learning issues and disabilities,” Entwistle said. “That orientation helped me be pretty kid-focused. The business background was really helpful – there are a number of models that work in business and some of my team members were surprised some of those also worked in the school. It was great preparation for the job of superintendent.”
During his years in Falmouth, Entwistle helped raise school leaders’ morale, giving them vision and encouraging a new openness, Cerf said.
“The teachers are happy, the kids are happy and when students come home happy the parents are happy,” she said.
When asked what he considers to be his greatest accomplishment, Entwistle talks about the planning and open communication brought about by community dialog, which he said brought “all stakeholders together,” even during potentially contentious budget processes.
“I’m hoping that dialog piece with the community will continue, because I think it gave the community greater ownership of their schools; I think it worked well,” he said.
Entwistle said another change during his tenure has been to look at students “more holistically,” rather than simply academically, initiating an approach that better addresses their social and emotional well-being and includes service learning to involve and motivate students.
As he looks toward Belmont, Entwistle said he will utilize what he’s learned during his time in Falmouth.
“Falmouth gave me the opportunity to be superintendent and in some ways to test out some of the planning and focus ideas; it allowed me to test some of those things I thought needed to be changed,” he said.
Though Belmont is similar to Falmouth in some ways, it is larger, with more students and a more diverse student population, including some who do not speak English, he said.
But he appears quite confident the methods that made his Falmouth tenure successful will work in Belmont.
Entwistle also believes he is leaving the district in good shape and in good hands.
“It’s difficult to leave, particularly when things seem to be going pretty good, so I would say my advice would be to continue to listen to students, parents, community members and staff; I think those voices and input have taken us in the right direction,” he said. “I’m really pleased to be able to transition to Barbara (Powers) as interim. She’s done an extraordinary job as assistant superintendent.”
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.