Fri, Oct 24, 2014 ●
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Harpswell charter school hires first-year staff

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Harpswell charter school hires first-year staff

HARPSWELL — A charter school slated to open this fall had more than 100 applications for its five first-year teaching positions.

John D'Anieri, headmaster of Harpswell Coastal Academy, said the five teachers hired will help usher in the area's first charter school students when HCA opens to 60 sixth- and ninth-graders in September.

"I am very pleased with the educators who will be joining me at HCA in year one," D'Anieri said. "We have secured a talented mix of individuals who bring experience, energy and diverse offerings to the table."

Carrie McColgan-Branson will serve as HCA's assistant headmaster and co-teach language arts and humanities with D'Anieri.

Before joining HCA, McColgan-Branson was the executive assistant to the headmaster of Waynflete School in Portland, where she often worked on  communications, school policy and operational issues, D'Anieri  said. She was also the school's sustainability coordinator.

McColgan-Branson, who had previously worked with D'Anieri at Expeditionary Learning in Massachusetts, said she applied for the Harpswell job because it seemed like a "unique opportunity."

"It's a bit of a leap of faith and it's an adventure," she said. "The design of the school has a big potential to be impactful on the students."

McColgan-Branson has a master's degree in education administration from Antioch College, but is the only one of the initial hires who isn't certified in Maine. She is, however, eligible for principal certification.

The state doesn't require charter schools to hire certified teachers or administrators.

If they aren't certified, teachers must either reach certification within three years of being hired or "have an advanced degree, professional certification or unique expertise or experience in the curricular area in which they teach," according to the Maine Department of Education.

McColgan-Branson and D'Anieri said these guidelines allow charter schools more flexibility and diversity in hiring, especially for a school like HCA with its focus on a place- and project-based education.

"We believe there's a lot of value in folks who have professional experience outside of the formal education field," D'Anieri said.

He said the school's other four teachers are all certified in Maine.

Special educator Trevor Slater is one of them. Prior to joining HCA he worked as a leader in alternative and therapeutic education at the REAL School in Falmouth, where he helped manage the Individualized Education Programs of around seven students a year.

"I'm a big believer in school choice and providing kids with different styles of education," Slater said. "I'm also a big believer in project-based education and education with a social purpose. It was really a combination of helping the charter school movement and wanting the opportunity to be a special educator in that environment (that made me want to join)."

Also joining the HCA team are media studies teacher Angelina Simmons, who previously worked at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham; science teacher Micah Depper, who recently completed his master's degree in Environmental Studies, and math teacher Byron Malcom, who taught at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham for the last five years.

D'Anieri said the staff is expected to grow every year, and will reach a capacity of 24-27 full-time equivalent positions by the time HCA serves grades 6-12.

HCA is expected to reach 280 students by the 2017-2018 school year.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.