SAD 75 taps assistant superintendent as interim schools chief

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TOPSHAM — Rather than hire a permanent replacement, the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors selected Assistant Superintendent Dan Chuhta to replace Superintendent of Schools Brad Smith on an interim basis after Smith retires.

“Considering the tight timeline of our hiring process, the board has decided to appoint an interim superintendent to avoid any rushed decisions,” Chairwoman Holly Kopp told a June 14 meeting at Mt. Ararat Middle School.

Smith, superintendent since 2011 and assistant superintendent the year before that, announced his retirement in March, effective June 30. Chuhta has been the assistant since 2012.

“Not only is Mr. Chuhta familiar with and extremely invested in our district, he’ll provide great stability and leadership,” Kopp said.

“I appreciate this opportunity,” Chuhta told the board. “… It’s humbling, and an honor for me, too.”

The board unanimously tapped him for the role, with member Joanne Rogers abstaining. She declined the next day to explain why.

Prior to joining SAD 75, Chuhta was curriculum coordinator in the Portland Public Schools for science, technology, engineering and math (2010-2012). He had also served as a data system training coordinator with the Maine Department of Education (2009-2010), and was a data and assessment coordinator for Regional School Unit 57 in Waterboro (2005-2009), where he had also worked as an eighth-grade science teacher (2000-2005).

Chuhta, 41, lives in Portland with his wife and two children. He was nominated for the 2018 Maine Assistant Superintendent of the Year, and his salary will be $127,000.

The vacancy drew 15 applicants, four of whom were interviewed. The board opted to go with an interim appointment, Kopp said June 15, and plans to resum the hiring process for a permanent school chief early next year, with more time to choose a candidate from what is hoped to be a wider pool of applicants.

The superintendent role is one Chuhta has eyed, he said after his appointment.

“I love the district,” he said. “There are other districts and other opportunities, but I knew this district and feel committed to it. It was a great opportunity for me, so I thought I’d go for it.”

Chuhta also said he has “learned a lot from Brad, so it’s been a great transition to be able to pick up where Brad has left off, the district in a good place, and to be able to grow it in the coming year.”

The next year will be particularly eventful as construction proceeds on a new Mt. Ararat High School, due to be completed in 2020. A groundbreaking ceremony was held June 7 on what is now a sports field, to the south of the existing school.

“It’s great to see ground being dug up, and that’s only going to get more and more existing as we see things change over there,” Chuhta said. “We’ve had lots of conversations, and lots of community opportunities for input, but now we’re going to start to see the fruits of all of that labor in the building.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors on June 14 appointed Assistant Superintendent Dan Chuhta to a one-year position as interim school superintendent, effective July 1.

Dan Chuhta, School Administrative District 75’s assistant superintendent, left, shakes hands with retiring Superintendent Brad Smith during an employee recognition ceremony at Mt. Ararat Middle School June 14. Chuhta will succeed Smith on an interim basis July 1.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.