New Scarborough principal promises focus on community partnerships

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SCARBOROUGH — The new principal at Pleasant Hill School said her philosophy centers on creating an inclusive environment for students to enjoy learning.

Raised and educated in Georgia, Jesseca Steele moved to Maine in 2013 to raise her family. She and her husband, Clay, live in Saco with their two school-age children.

Steele’s first day at the kindergarten to second-grade primary school was July 1, under a one-year contract.

Superintendent Julie Kukenberger said Steele is not new to the Scarborough school community: she had a year-long internship under Kelli Crosby, principal of the Benjamin Wentworth School. Steele had already been part of goal-setting and strategic planning in the district through the internship before being tapped to lead Pleasant Hill. 

Kukenberger said Steele has a strong background in early childhood education and will be instrumental in exploring opportunities to expand a pre-K program.

“We are really looking forward to a positive start to the new year. We have all the right ingredients – a  clear vision of values, goals and expectations,” Kukenberger said. 

Steele earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education from the University of Georgia and most recently finished a certificate of advanced study in educational leadership from the University of Southern Maine. She has worked in education for 18 years, the first half of her career as a teacher, and the latter in administration.

She said she knew early on she wanted to pursue a career in education.

“I absolutely love working with kids, that’s my number one,” she said.

Steele said she is passionate about strong public education systems, and working with both students and teachers is what she enjoys most about her new role. 

When asked what attracted her, Steele said Scarborough has talented teachers and leaders who take care of their students, and called it an ideal community. 

In the short term, Steele said her plan is to focus on acclimating herself and new staff to the school. She said there will be a lot of communication with parents and staff about how to move forward together. 

Steele said strong schools are the result of an engaged community, and she plans to build relationships between the school and community partners. She said she is interested in community service projects and increasing the volunteer base in the community. 

For all students to enjoy learning, Steele said she believes students must feel safe and included at school, with support available for all students. 

“I’m really excited about the year,” she said. “I want to communicate to the community my commitment.”

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka. 

Jesseca Steele is the new principal at Pleasant Hill School in Scarborough.