Loss leads Bath high school principal to resign after next year

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BATH — Looking to start a new direction in life after a recent personal loss, Peter Kahl, Morse High School’s principal since 2007, plans to resign next year.

The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors accepted Kahl’s resignation Tuesday, Superintendent Patrick Manuel said Wednesday. The resignation is effective July 31, 2013.

“I appreciate all he’s done for Morse High School,” Manuel said, adding that the search for Kahl’s replacement could begin early next year.

Kahl, 47, of Bath, said last week that the recent death of his partner of 20 years, Martin, was the key factor behind his decision to resign. The past year has been tough, Kahl said, because Martin was in an intensive care unit in Indianapolis, after his second liver transplant. Kahl was flying back and forth to Indiana.

“He died Feb. 18,” Kahl said. “And as soon as he had died, my connection to Maine – it was a decision for us to move up here together, to live here together – sort of disappeared.”

The tragedy prompted Kahl to make a major change, which he figured would mean leaving Maine.

“But I didn’t want to rush through the process of trying to finish out the school year, and sell my house, and do everything at once,” he said. “So I thought it was probably most fair to the high school to to give them a year’s notice.”

Kahl’s plan is to go abroad, through the International Schools Services. Although he would ultimately like to work in Europe – South America and Japan are other top choices – he said he might have to start in the Middle East, where Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates interest him.

“Martin and I always talked about living abroad,” Kahl said. “But when his health began to deteriorate in 2003, before we even moved to Maine, we realized it probably wasn’t a good time to go into a different health-care system, so we stayed.”

Kahl said he has loved his time in Maine, and will maintain a connection to the state through his camp on Hancock Pond in Denmark.

He and Martin previously lived in Maryland, close to Washington, D.C. Kahl started as an English teacher, then became a mentor for other teachers, which helped prepare him for the administrative world. He became assistant principal at Cony High School in Augusta in 2004.

Kahl said he was reluctant to apply for the principal’s job at Morse, given his home’s close proximity to the school. But he eventually found the arrangement beneficial.

“As principal, with the number of hours it requires and the number of obligations you have, it was very convenient to be able to just walk across the street and connect with the house before I went off to my next meeting or to my next event,” he said. “And I have never had an issue, in the five years I’ve been there, of my house being vandalized, or targeted, or anything. It’s been great.”

The greatest reward of his job has been becoming part of the “long-standing tradition of Morse High School,” Kahl said, mentioning that working with the Bath High School Alumni Association “was just fantastic.”

Kahl praised “the spirit of Morse that ultimately catches all the students up.”

On the other hand, a key challenge has been changing a perception of Morse that Kahl said is untrue – an image that drugs, violence and teen pregnancy are rampant at the school.

“Anybody who you talk to who is currently (attending) Morse says it’s a great school,” he said. “But what tends to happen is that the people who went to Morse … sort of remember it the way they did when they were there. … They continue to perpetuate an image of the school that no longer exists, and it’s unfair to Morse, because I think Morse does a great job by our students, and I think it does a great job by our community.”

Kahl said he has thoroughly enjoyed his time at Morse, and “will cherish my time and memories being here.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Peter Kahl

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.