Portland School Board prepares to start superintendent search

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PORTLAND — When Jeanne Crocker was named interim superintendent of schools on July 7, she joined the ranks of a long list of city school chiefs.

Crocker is temporarily taking over for Emmanuel Caulk, who was recently named superintendent of the 40,000-student Fayette County Public Schools System in Lexington, Kentucky. Crocker will hold the position for one year while the School Board searches for a permanent replacement. Her contract began on Aug. 1.

School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said the board will likely be ready to begin the search for Caulk’s replacement by the end of August or early September. She said it will hold a workshop this month to “talk about the next steps,” and will consider search firms from across the country.

“Once the board decides its approach, we have a time-line we need to develop, and from there we’ll form a small work committee of three or four board members,” Thompson said. That committee will develop a plan based on directions from the board as a whole.

“The hope is that by the second meeting in August we have direction to give to smaller committee to start getting the ball rolling,” Thompson said. “We know we have a deadline of June 30, 2016, because that’s when school year ends fiscally and Jeanne’s contract is through.”

The process is similar to what took place when the board conducted a national search that led to Caulk being hired in 2012, after James Morse retired.

Morse served from 2009 until June 30, 2012, and is credited with rebuilding the district’s financial stability after a crisis in 2007. Deering High School Principal Ira Waltz served as interim superintendent in the month-and-a-half gap between Morse’s departure and Caulk’s hiring.

Mary Jo O’Connor was superintendent from 2001 until 2007. She resigned, in part because of the School Department’s $2.5 million budget deficit. School Finance Director Richard Paulson also resigned.

Jeannie Whynot-Vickers, a long-time Portland Public School employee, served as an interim replacement following O’Connor’s resignation until Morse was hired.

Prior to O’Connor’s six years at the helm, Mary Jane McCalmon was superintendent. McCalmon, now an education consultant, served from 1995 until 2001. She replaced Tom Edwards, who served from 1990 until 1995. Edwards went on to serve as the Freeport High School principal from 1996 until 2006. He is now an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Maine.

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

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Jeanne Crocker was named interim superintendent of schools in Portland on July 7. The School Board will soon begin the search for a permanent school chief.

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.