Portland picks former South Portland High School principal as interim superintendent

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PORTLAND — After another private meeting, the School Board on Tuesday unanimously named Jeanne Crocker the interim replacement for departing Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk.

Board members Holly Seeliger, Jon Eder and Stephanie Hatzenbuehler were absent from the meeting.

Crocker, 60, who is now the School Department’s director of school management, will become the interim superintendent on Aug. 1. She will hold the post for a year as the board searches for a permanent superintendent.

Crocker will receive the same nearly $139,000 annual salary Caulk would have been paid.

School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said she is “thrilled” to have Crocker as the interim replacement.

“It’s a good opportunity for the district to keep on track,” she said.

“I honestly can’t think of a better person for this position,” board member Marnie Morrione said, adding that Crocker is “extremely professional” and has worked under Caulk for a year and a half.

“I feel we can move right along with the work we’ve been doing and not miss a beat,” Morrione said.

Crocker thanked the board for their support, and said she will continue to maintain the work started by Caulk.

The Scarborough resident began working for Portland Public Schools in 2014. Prior to that, she served as the assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association from 2011-2014. Additionally, she was an adjunct professor in supervision and evaluation of school personnel at the University of Southern Maine from 2012-2013.

She spent 28 years at South Portland High School, where she was principal for 13 years. She was also a teacher at Windham High School and Waterville High School.

Caulk was officially named the new superintendent of the 40,000-student Fayette County Public Schools System in Lexington, Kentucky, on June 27. Caulk has said he plans to be in Lexington by Aug. 12.

Caulk, 43, was hired by Portland in 2012, following stints as assistant superintendent of schools in Philadelphia and in East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana. He had said he did not seek the Kentucky post, and was not considering any other jobs when the Fayette County opportunity was presented to him.

He had a provision in his contract requiring him to give the board six months’ notice if he intended to leave his post. The board agreed not to hold him to that, and has accepted his resignation.

Caulk came to Portland Public Schools following a rocky period in the district’s history. A budget crisis lead to the sitting superintendent, Mary Jo O’Connor, resigning in 2007; James Morse replaced her, and left after three years.

Caulk’s tenure was marked with ambitious goals, as he frequently spoke of his desire to make Portland “the best small urban school district in the country by 2017.” He had said he believes he is leaving the district in a good place and in position to continue on its current path.

He has cited increased student success, improved organizational effectiveness, and a revamped budget process as major achievements.

Not all of Caulk’s ambitions were success. Last fall he was forced to scrap a plan to create an online school for the district following opposition from Mayor Michael Brennan and members of the School Board. The intent was to compete with virtual charter schools.

Before Crocker was appointed, Thompson had frequently said the interim replacement would not just be a seat-warmer, but would be someone who would do the work and keep the momentum going.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Sidebar Elements

Jeanne Crocker on Tuesday was named Portland’s interim superintendent of schools, effective Aug. 1.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.