Portland school chief announces retirement

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PORTLAND — After three years running the School Department, Superintendent of Schools James C. Morse Sr. on Thursday announced his retirement.

Morse choked up during a press conference at the department’s central office as he described leading the schools’ recovery from a financial crisis and refocusing the department on students.

“I thought I was coming in and fixing a broken finance department,” Morse said. “What I discovered was the School Board, the city, knew only the tip of the iceberg.”

Morse said there were many other aspects of the schools that were broken as well, and that the next superintendent will have a much easier time than he did.

“When you’re making the kind of transformation we needed, you come to a point when you have to pass the baton,” he said.

He added that a transitional superintendent hired during a crisis, who is required to make difficult decisions – particularly in regard to staffing changes – is often not the same person who becomes the maintenance superintendent after the crisis is over.

Morse said he will retire at the end of his contract, June 30, 2012. He has served enough time to qualify for Maine State Retirement benefits.

He said Thursday that he did not know where he would go, but that he was “too young to retire-retire.”

School Board Chairwoman Kate Snyder said the board would meet in executive session on Oct. 25 to discuss the process for hiring Morse’s replacement, and that she hoped they would have a firm plan in place by mid-November.

Snyder said the district is in a better place thanks to Morse’s leadership.

“You don’t need to be in the room with Jim for more than a minute or two to know his focus is on the students,” she said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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James C. Morse Sr.