NYC educator tapped as principal of Portland's island schools
PORTLAND — The School Department has hired a 43-year-old teacher from New York City as the new principal of the Peaks Island and Cliff Island elementary schools.
On Oct. 8, Timothy Devaney, who was born in New Hampshire and raised in Connecticut, will replace Assistant Superintendent Jill Blackwood, who has been filling in since the beginning of the school year.
Devaney said he was drawn to the job in part because he attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick.
"I realized what a great opportunity this was – it's such a lovely part of the world," Devaney said. "Island schools are such a tradition in Maine."
Devaney said he was impressed by the passion shown for the school by some Peaks Island parents he has already met.
"It's such an interesting community," he said. "I came to admire the intensity and the interest of the parents."
Devaney, who holds master's degrees from Hofstra University and the Teachers College of Columbia University, will also inherit some level of teaching duties at Peaks Island, although details haven't finalized. He currently teaches Spanish to sixth- through eighth-graders at Manhattan's De La Salle Academy, but is also proficient in French, Italian, German and Thai. He has also taught history and worked at a specialized academy for gifted children from working-class homes.
Peaks Island Elementary School has been short-staffed since the start of the school year, when the principal resigned unexpectedly and two teachers took positions at mainland schools. In addition to Devaney, the district rounded out the school staff by hiring Julia Brenner to teach kindergarten and Maureen Cott to teach first and second grades.
With the new principal, the island is poised to begin planning the future of its school, which is considered an important part of the fabric of year-round island life.
Superintendent of Schools James C. Morse Sr. met with the Peaks Island community prior to the school year to discuss the type of principal they wanted and the direction they wanted to take the school, the sustainability of which is constantly in question. The vast majority of people at that meeting supported Morse's idea of making the Peaks school more attractive to mainland families by changing to a more innovative school model.
Two of those models included teaching core subjects through the arts or adopting an expeditionary model of learning already being used by East End Community School, Lyseth Elementary School, King Middle School and Casco Bay High School. Given the nature of the island school, Morse said a focus on coastal studies and marine biology would be an ideal focus area.
Devaney, who is married and expecting a child, said he has had preliminary discussions with Morse about the school's future and is excited to begin. He has 20 years of teaching experience, including experience with outward bound programing in Maine, New York and Texas.
"There are a lot of ideas out there and I think a lot of them work," he said. "I'm excited about whatever direction Peaks Island wants to take the school."