SCARBOROUGH — The three finalists for the superintendent of schools position visited the schools this week, while the two finalists in Cape Elizabeth plan to visit Cape schools the week of April 25.
The communities both used outside consultants to help with their search for candidates, and the leaders of both school boards said they are pleased with the results – even though they find themselves in the position of possibly competing for the same candidate: Craig King, superintendent in Regional School Unit 10.
Elizabeth Scifres, chairwoman of the Cape Elizabeth School Board, said they knew it was “a distinct possibility all along” that the two towns would end up with some of the same candidates.
Overall, she said, “The School Board was very pleased with the quality of applicants and the choice that was afforded us.”
Donna Beeley, chairwoman of the Scarborough Board of Education, also said her board was pleased with the “highly qualified group” of candidates that applied for the superintendent’s post.
Scarborough’s superintendent, George Entwistle III, announced early last December that he will retire at the end of the current academic year. Entwistle’s annual salary is $141,600.
About a month later, Meredith Nadeau, Cape Elizabeth superintendent, announced she will return to her home state of New Hampshire to become the head of schools in the Newmarket School District. Her last day on the job in Cape Elizabeth will be June 30; her annual salary is $132,000.
Beeley said the School Department received 16 applications from interested candidates. A search committee chose seven and then a subcommittee of the School Board recommended the three finalists.
In addition to King, the other two candidates are Brooke Clenchy and Julie Kukenberger, both from Massachusetts. Clenchy is the senior associate commissioner of education for the state of Massachusetts, and Kukenberger is the assistant superintendent of schools in Haverhill.
All three candidates were contacted for comment this week, but only Clenchy and King responded.
Clenchy said she applied because Scarborough “is a high- functioning school district where the children and staff do very, very well in terms of academic success.”
Clenchy also said the Scarborough School Department shares her educational values and the schools in town are “vibrant and alive.” She said the district has a “passion for doing right by the children. That’s why I think it would be such a good fit.”
King, whose school district serves Rumford and 11 other communities in the western Maine foothills, agreed.
“Scarborough schools stand out for a number of reasons,” he said. “The families value education a great deal and the School Department strives to provide high-quality learning opportunities for its students.”
In prior visits to the schools in town, King added, “I have observed a number of impressive things (including) high-quality, cross-curricular instruction taking place in the classrooms, (and) libraries and learning commons that engage students in research and inquiry. All the students I encountered were engaged in active learning (and) there was a positive buzz in the air (at) every school.”
For its next superintendent of schools, Beeley said, the district wants someone who is “a good communicator, qualified in budgeting, knowledgeable about the curriculum and a good organizer and leader.”
That profile was gleaned from an online survey, as well as from several focus groups that included school staff, administrators, elected officials and community members, she said.
Beeley said the School Board planned to meet in a closed-door session after the candidates visited “to discuss who would be the best fit. They all have strengths and this will be a tough decision because they’re all very good candidates.”
In all, she called the superintendent search process “well developed,” and said, “I feel confident we will get a candidate excited to come to this district by the end of the month.”
Scifres continued to decline to reveal how many people originally applied for the Cape superintendent’s post.
“The Advisory Screening Committee, the interview committee, and my fellow School Board members (conducted an) intensive, thoughtful, and demanding search” for the right candidate, she said.
Along with King, Steven Bailey, superintendent of the Central Lincoln County School System in mid-coast Maine, was also selected as a finalist. He declined to comment until after his visit to the schools.
Bailey has local ties, after previously serving as the assistant superintendent and curriculum director in South Portland, along with being a principal at a South Portland school.
“My conversations with the School Board and school personnel have left me with a very positive impression,” King said. “Although Cape Elizabeth is a very high-functioning school department, with impressive student and faculty achievement, it’s not interested in resting on its laurels. (The district) wants to (continue to) engage all students at high levels and expand previously untapped learning opportunities.”
Like Scarborough, Scifres said the Cape schools are looking for a superintendent who is a good communicator.
They also want someone with experience, who is good at consensus-building and who will make it a priority to create a positive teaching and learning environment for all staff and students, she said.
Scifres said the search for a new superintendent has gone well, with those involved in the process “being careful to honor all input from the various focus groups and surveys. Every voice was heard, honored and weighed as we moved forward.”
Clockwise from top left: Craig King, Brooke Clenchy, Steven Bailey and Julie Kukenberger. King, Clenchy and Kukenberger are candidates for Scarborough superintendent of schools; King and Bailey are candidates in Cape Elizabeth.