Falmouth School Board to vote on new principal for high school

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FALMOUTH — Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers announced Monday that she will recommend the appointment of Gregg Palmer to replace Allyn Hutton as high school principal.

Hutton is leaving at the end of the school year to become superintendent of the Kittery school district.

“Two of the School Board members were on the search committee,” Powers said. “I’m sure we’ll have their support.”

The Principal Search Committee, made up of the two school board members, teachers, administrative staff, students and parents, reviewed 19 applications and met with five candidates for the position.

After an all-day session with Palmer last week, the committee voted unanimously to recommend him for the position. He accepted the district’s offer Monday morning.

“I am excited. Falmouth is a great school,” said Palmer, who is currently the middle and high school principal for the Searsport school district.

Palmer’s contract, including salary and benefits, have not yet been confirmed. A salary range of $95,000 to $99,500 was posted with the position announcement in February.

Palmer has been in Searsport for eight years, and has worked with the staff there to implement standards-based learning to increase test scores. Since the initiation of several intervention programs that aim to catch struggling students before they begin failing, Searsport has seen SAT scores improve by 20 percent.

“Less than 2 percent of our kids repeat a course,” Palmer said. “It used to be 12 to 14 percent.”

Although Searsport High School has only 230 students, Palmer has also worked in larger districts. He taught for several years in Brewer, which has a larger school system than Falmouth. He also has served on the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which is the accreditation agency for more than 2,000 schools in New England.

Palmer was introduced to Falmouth last year when he came with the accreditation team that evaluated the high school. The accreditation report, which is posted on the school’s Web site, commended the school for a recent decision to “collapse upward” and remove the lowest academic level classes, but criticized teachers’ access to collaboration opportunities across disciplines.

While Palmer had to take a critical eye to the school then, he said he will take some time to get to know the district before recommending any changes after he is on the job.

“I think anyone would be foolish to come rolling into town and say ‘here’s my list of things to get done,'” he said.

Powers said she was very happy with the outcome of the principal selection process.

“Falmouth High School has really grown under Allyn Hutton,” she said. “Now the high school is ready for its next leader.”

While the district has made some difficult choices to balance the budget over the past few years, some are predicting next year will be even more challenging, as stimulus money disappears as a source of revenue. Palmer, however, is more optimistic.

“Some are talking about next year as a cliff year. I’m not sure that’s what will happen,” he said. “I think the Obama administration may help with that.”

He said that regardless of what happens, his main goal would be to make sure cuts do not limit student experiences.

“You have to try to maintain balance and trim the budget in a way that you don’t lose programs,” he said.

Palmer said he, his wife and 9-year-old son will begin looking for a house in the area very soon. He said he believes it is important to live in the same town where he works.

The School Board will vote on Palmer’s appointment at its meeting on April 28. The contract will be discussed, along with all of the other administrative contracts, at an executive session likely to be scheduled in May.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net.