Principal, tech leader leaving Cape Elizabeth

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CAPE ELIZABETH — From his office in Pond Cove Elementary School, Tom Eismeier has seen almost a generation of students arrive, grow and thrive.

From a basement in Town Hall, Gary Lanoie has reached the clouds.

Eismeier, who became principal at Pond Cove Elementary School 17 years ago, will retire Sept. 30. His contract was extended for three months to allow him to consult and serve as the search for his replacement progresses.

Lanoie, who has served as technology coordinator for the Cape Elizabeth School Department and helped bring town government into the digital age, will be leaving June 30 to become the first executive director of the nonprofit Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine, commonly called ACTEM.

“These were new things and nice to have, now they are critical,” Lanoie said about the servers, computers, iPads and other devices that are part of everyday life in school and government.

“There are encounters every day that keep me younger than I am,” said Eismeier, 67, of his tenure. But he plans to move on to retirement to spend more time with family and continue his new interest in canoeing.

“I’ve discovered how heavy they can be,” he joked about canoes Wednesday, less than 24 hours after his retirement was officially announced at a School Board meeting.

School Superintendent Meredith Nadeau said Lanoie and Eismeier instilled confidence in students and staff while encouraging innovation and leadership.

“Gary has been a teacher all the way through, he is very good at figuring out individual learning styles,” she said. He is supportive and makes you do all the work in a supportive way. It’s part of exploring and learning, and there is no question he is extremely skilled.”

Eismeier is adept at accessibility while pushing the learning forward, Nadeau said.

“There is such stability in the school. People work collaborative and creatively. He give people room to try new things, and people are confident and comfortable going to him,” she said.

Lanoie is already familiar with ACTEM. He has been involved with the organization for more than a decade, serving as president from 2003-2006. ACTEM has more than 130 institutional members and 800 individual members, and acts as a consortium to provide discounted software licensing fees for school districts while also hosting conferences and workshops.

Lanoie’s tenure in local schools is twice that of Eismeier’s: he began teaching industrial arts in 1974 and headed the department at Cape Elizabeth High School before becoming technology coordinator in 1997.

An interest in desktop publishing set Lanoie, 60, on the path to becoming technology coordinator, he said. But when it seemed the district was not coordinating its efforts to embrace the coming digital era in the mid-1990s, he helped write a report creating a strategy, including hiring a coordinator for the district.

He did not get the job at first, but was appointed a year later, almost as former Gov. Angus King introduced the idea of providing laptop computers for middle school students.

“I was not 100 percent sold on it at first, but it made a huge difference in our classrooms,” Lanoie said.

About 15 years later, Lanoie sees a future beyond laptops and servers in school and local government. Cape Elizabeth High School students now use iPads, bought to replace laptops this spring.

In the basement of Town Hall, local servers are being replaced by distant ones maintained by Google, the “cloud” technology that reduces demands on Lanoie and his three staffers.

The future will bring more refinements. Eismeier noted elementary school students now have cell phones, although school policy requires them to keep them in lockers during the day.

Lanoie noted the phones are so advanced “you are carrying a computer in your pocket now.”

Eismeier’s journey to Pond Cove was roundabout. He was born in New Jersey, taught in south Chicago and Brooklyn, then moved on to teaching and administrative positions in Vermont before he was hired by former Superintendent Constance Goldman.

“What principals really appreciate is parental involvement in a good way and quality teaching,” Eismeier said.

“The role of a principal is to support good teaching. I’ve seen a lot of people step up and be leaders,” Eismeier said while admitting he “never liked the hierarchy” in being a principal.

Eismeier was awarded the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation 2008 Brownell Award for the best use of a foundation grant. Last year, fourth-grade teacher Ingrid Stressenger become a semifinalist for the annual Maine Teacher of the Year award.

Eismeier also had kind words for Lanoie and the technology coordinator’s ability to integrate technology and learning.

“He understands technology as a tool, and he loves teaching adults, too,” Eismeier said.

He credited Lanoie with seeing the potential of whiteboards, multimedia devices with Internet capabilities that can project classroom lessons for students to view. The whiteboards are now part of daily learning at Pond Cove.

The school also has a pilot program using an iPad in kindergarten and first grade.

Learning is also better served in smaller groups within classes, Eismeier said, while praising teachers and staff for always being open to innovation.

Teaching has been enhanced by technology, but Eismeier said he is also pleased he and staff stressed outdoor education and play as well.

Working with the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, school staff used Robinson Woods for tours and school projects.

There was always time for play and enjoying childhood, Eismeier said.

“I had to take them outside and teach them to play four-square,” he said. “They are innocent in many ways. Kids are kids.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

From the initial report on how to apply technology in schools to the iPads distributed to high school students and faculty two months ago, Gary Lanoie has helped steward Cape Elizabeth schools and local government into the digital age.

Pond Cove Elementary School Principal Tom Eismeier this week said he will retire after 17 years at the Cape Elizabeth school.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.