Search for new HBS principal renewed

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BRUNSWICK — After the search committee to find a new principal for Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School declined to nominate either of its final applicants for the position, the assistant superintendent announced plans Wednesday to renew the search in January.

The school department is also seeking applications for an interim principal to take over for John Paige, who agreed in August to serve as interim principal, but only through the fall semester. Assistant Superintendent Pender Makin, who chaired the search committee, made both announcements at Wednesday’s School Board meeting.

The Board also voted to add a geothermal heating system to the proposed new elementary school, which will add $700,000 to the price tag, but will mean classrooms can be used year-round. 

The new principal will be hired for a July 2017 start date, and Makin said she hopes the committee will have their pick by March.

Superintendent Paul Perzanoski will appoint a new interim principal as soon as possible, and no later than Dec. 22. The interim will take over for the rest of the 2016-17 school year.

When the department formed the search committee in August, it planned to hire a new principal by October. But mixed responses to the committee’s two finalists after a public forum Sept. 12 caused the committee to start over.

After a grueling interview process, the committee had narrowed down the pool of 15 applicants to Tonya Arnold, principal of the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will Hinckley, and Patricia Crowley-Rockwell, assistant principal of King Middle School in Portland.

Arnold and Crowley-Rockwell were then invited to meet separately with parents, faculty and staff Sept. 12, to introduce themselves and field questions. Attendees were asked to provide feedback about the two applicants, which the committee reviewed Sept. 15.

At the Sept. 14 School Board meeting, Makin said the feedback forms would be likely be the deciding factor, which was the case.

“We wanted to be true to what we said,” she said Wednesday, referring to her earlier promise that the committee would choose the candidate with the full backing of the community. She has previously praised the search process as being “the most wide-open, crowd-sourced, integrity-filled” she’s known.

Had the committee favored one (or both) candidate(s), they would have then nominated their choice to interview with Perzanoski, who would then make a nomination to the Board. 

Members of the search committee will remain mostly the same, except for the substitution of one or two members, according to Makin. She said they are likely to reconvene once in December, and then more regularly in January in order to have a finalist by March.

Openings for both principal and interim principal are posted on the department’s website, and descriptions are available upon request. 

Chairman Billy Thompson worried about the department’s ability to find somebody willing to serve as interim principal for less than a full school year. But Perzanoski didn’t seem concerned, and hinted at instances where a candidate might be drawn out of retirement. 

Geothermal heating 

As architects from Portland-based firm PDT  finalize designs for a new elementary school, the Board decided unanimously to heat the building with a geothermal system instead of natural gas.

Based on figures from PDT’s Lyndon Keck, the system will cost an additional $700,000 but is an investment that will eventually pay for itself in 19 years. With geothermal heating, Keck estimated the cost of the new school to be over $27 million, according to projections from a Sept. 21 meeting.

Vice Chairwoman Joy Prescott mentioned that the 19-year figure might be conservative, and that the Board should look into the rate of return on the geothermal system installed in 2011 at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School.

Using subterranean pumps, geothermal heating systems use air from the earth, not the outside air, to regulate indoor temperature, according to information provided by the US Department of Energy.

The system is not only more environmentally friendly than natural gas, but it regulates the temperature for all seasons, meaning the department can occupy the building during the summer. A natural gas system would only deliver air conditioning to select administrative offices, according to Keck at a Sept. 21 facilities meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Makin said HBS “was constantly used” over the summer for a host of academic programs and camps.

The department is not currently in need of more space, but board member Rich Ellis voiced his support for geothermal because it would give the district options in the future. He noted that the system could not be installed later down the line, and that the Board’s decision Wednesday would enable or limit the use of the building for decades to come.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or