Portland School Board to interview superintendent candidates next week

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PORTLAND — They come from as far away as California, but several of the candidates interested in becoming the next superintendent of schools are home grown.

BWP & Associates, the national search firm hired by the School Board, interviewed 13 candidates for the position, and five came from Maine. Two are from Massachusetts, and BWP interviewed one candidate each from Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

BWP then whittled the list down to six semifinalists for the School Board and student representatives to consider. Demographics on the six finalists were not released. In an executive session following their March 29 meeting, board members were presented with the candidates’ resumes and cover letters.

The board will hold a first round of private interviews with the six candidates on the evenings of April 11, 12 and 13. BWP Managing Director Debra Hill advised the board to plan on interviewing each candidate for about an hour and a half. The board will then select two or three finalists for the position.

BWP also suggested hosting each finalist for a day in Portland to engage the community and see some of the schools in the second round of interviews. The finalists will also be asked to make presentations to the board.

Hill told the board that of the six semifinalists, five would be able to meet face to face. The sixth would likely be interviewed via video. She recommended the board hold no more than two interviews a night, and that all board members be present for the interviews.

During a March 29 School Board workshop, Hill said the firm interviewed nine men and four women for the position. Of those, four have doctoral degrees and nine have master’s degrees.

All told, 43 people with varying occupations and education levels applied for the open school chief position, according to data from BWP. Most of the applicants were from New England. Fifteen came from Maine, seven are from Massachusetts and three are from New Hampshire. Vermont and Connecticut each had one applicant.

Hill on Monday said having 15 applicants from within the state is not an unusually high number. She said it is an advantage to some degree, since there wouldn’t be certification issues for Maine candidates.

“You usually like to have a decent number of candidates from your area,” Hill said. “They know the politics (of the area) and don’t have a high learning curve.”

Other candidates were from California, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois and Washington, D.C. There was one candidate from Kentucky, where former Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk went to work. Caulk resigned last June to take over in the 40,000-student Fayette County Public School system in Lexington.

The School Board unanimously selected Jeanne Crocker to serve as interim superintendent for one year following Caulk’s resignation. The board hopes to have a new superintendent in place by July 1.

The total pool of candidates include nine current superintendents, three interim superintendents, six assistant, associate or deputy superintendents, and several principals or chief academic officers.

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

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.