Portland School Department picks former School Board chairman for high-level job

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PORTLAND — A familiar face will be stepping into one of the Portland School Department’s top jobs.

Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. is expected to receive School Board support to appoint former School Board Chairman Peter Eglinton as chief operating officer this week.

Eglinton would replace Mark Terison, who left the schools in July. The job was created in September 2010.

Eglinton, 48, most recently served as the chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, a group of volunteers who put together a framework for a comprehensive plan for the school. Once the full plan is approved, it will be up to the chief operating officer to oversee its implementation.

“I see (this job) as a logical continuation of that work,” Eglinton said Monday. “There’s a lot of work that’s not yet done. It’s very exciting work, work that will involve staff, parents, students and community members across the district.”

Morse said about a dozen people applied for the position when it was posted in October. While Morse does not have to seek School Board approval to replace administrators, he said because this is such a high level position, he wanted to seek board approval anyway. If approved, Eglinton’s salary will be $115,000 per year, prorated for this year to $57,000.

“He truly is an extraordinary candidate,” Morse said.

Morse said he did not know Eglinton before Morse became superintendent in 2008. He said Eglinton has been a vital part of the Portland Public Schools in a variety of volunteer positions.

“The schools are lucky to have someone of his caliber,” he said.

Before moving to Maine in 2001, Eglinton worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget on environmental and water quality regulations. Most recently, he has been a senior associate at Abt Associates, a consulting firm, where he telecommuted daily and traveled several times a month to the company’s Bethesda, Md., office.

Eglinton said his experience with environmental regulation translates well into working with schools.

“I have been supporting high-level decision makers for many years now,” he said.

He said he plans to focus on connecting the central office with the general public, School Board and school staff, and inviting those who might not otherwise be involved in various processes into the mix.

Eglinton said he got involved with the city schools through the Nathan-Clifford Parent Teacher Organization. He entered the race for the School Board in 2006, but dropped out before the election. He was then elected in an uncontested race to fill a vacant seat in 2007, two weeks before an approximately $2 million budget deficit came to light and the resulting financial crisis forced out several high-level school officials, including the superintendent and finance director.

“I jumped in fairly quickly to become chairman of the Finance Committee,” Eglinton said.

He was re-elected to that seat the same year, and later served as School Board chairman.

He was part of the team that hired Morse, and said he is looking forward to being involved with hiring Morse’s replacement when the superintendent leaves the district in June.

Eglinton said he plans to take much of the work that has already been done by the School Department, including a recently released technology report, the multi-year budget plan and other overarching plans, and put together the detailed work plans to address the recommendations in those reports.

“I want to work to ensure those documents that we spent money on don’t end up sitting on a shelf, and engage those who have the knowledge and skills to develop a realistic plan,” he said.

Eglinton lives in Portland with his wife and two daughters. One daughter is an eighth-grader at King Middle School; the other is a fourth-grader at Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

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

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