Falmouth narrows high school principal field to 3 candidates

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FALMOUTH — The School Department has selected three finalists for the post of principal at Falmouth High School.

The department is inviting residents to meet the candidates during a community forum from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, in the high school theater.

The three finalists all have extensive experience, and include David Creech, the current principal at Scarborough High School.

The others are Peter Badalament, who most recently was principal at Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Massachusetts, and Margaret Downs-Gamble, who has been a public high school principal, an assistant professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and an English professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Geoff Bruno, Falmouth’s superintendent of schools, said this week the hope is to announce the new principal at the School Board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21.

He said that plan would depend, however, on the ability of the search team to reach a decision at a meeting scheduled for Friday, when it will review the feedback from the candidate visits to the schools.

The School Department began its search for a new high school principal in late July, after Gregg Palmer resigned to become principal at Deering High School in Portland.

Bruno said the School Department received 15 applications. He said the three finalists were chosen because they all had “outstanding first-round interviews (and) intriguing educational experiences.”

He said all of the finalists also exhibited “a student-centered and collaborative approach to leadership and (received) outstanding reviews from supervisors and colleagues.”

Bruno said if either Badalament or Downs-Gamble are offered the post and accept, they would have to move, which might mean they wouldn’t be able to start until after the school year begins Sept. 5.

He said the feedback from parents and community members would be key to the selection process.

Creech has been the principal at Scarborough High School for the past four years and previously served in a variety of positions at Kennebunk High School, including as assistant principal and head of the mathematics department.

He has a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Southern Maine and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Maine at Farmington.

In an interview, Creech said he applied for the job in Falmouth because of the school’s reputation.

“Falmouth High School has a reputation for excellence and a strong, involved community that is dedicated to supporting their schools,” he said. “… What I have come to learn about (the district’s) beliefs and practices align with my core values as an educational leader.”

Creech said it’s an “honor and privilege to serve as high school principal for a school community,” adding, “I believe working collectively with all stakeholders is essential.”

If Creech is selected, he said, what he’ll most miss about Scarborough is “my relationships with students and staff. … We are blessed with great kids and a talented, dedicated staff.”

During his tenure in Scarborough, Creech said, “We have worked to create a student-centered high school that puts the needs of our students at the heart of all that we do. … Collectively, students, teachers, parents and community members have helped develop our courses, programs and activities, (which) provide our students with all of the resources they need to be successful.”

Julie Kukenberger, superintendent of schools in Scarborough, said this week that she aware Creech applied for the position in Falmouth, and she also provided him with a letter of recommendation.

She called Creech “a dedicated and passionate school leader” who is “detail-oriented and highly organized.”

“What I will miss most,” if Creech leaves Scarborough, “is seeing David interact with his students. He never walks past a student without saying good morning or acknowledging them in some sort of personalized way,” Kukenberger said.

She said if Creech is offered the position, the Scarborough School Department would immediately appoint an interim principal and conduct a search for a permanent replacement later in the year.

Badalament, in addition to serving as the principal at Concord-Carlisle High School, has also been the principal of Bellingham and Hanover high schools, both in Massachusetts.

He has also taught high school social studies, English and government. He holds a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.

Downs-Gamble was a dean and taught English at Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

She earned her doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas and has “written multiple, peer-reviewed articles and book manuscripts,” according to a Falmouth School Department press release.

Bruno said all candidates were required to have a master’s degree in education, along with leadership experience.

The candidates were also required to have experience teaching at the high school level and a background in student engagement, professional support and faculty supervision, and finance, budgeting and school operations.

The posted job description also said, “We expect our principal to focus on positive relationships and authentic educational opportunities for all students.”

The new principal should also “lead by example, demonstrate a commitment to outstanding teaching and learning and participate actively as a member of the district’s leadership team.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

David Creech, principal of Scarborough High School, is one of three finalists for the job of principal at Falmouth High School. Residents can meet all three during a special forum scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 17, at the high school.

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