Search for new Portland school chief yields nearly 160 applicants

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PORTLAND — The search for a new school superintendent is moving forward as School Board members begin the process of selecting semi-finalists from a pool of more than 150 applicants.

School Board members are expected to meet in executive session for about three hours Tuesday night to review applications from people who want to replace outgoing Superintendent James C. Morse Sr.

Morse announced in October he will retire June 30. He will start the following day as superintendent of the Oyster River School District, with 2,100 students, in Durham, Lee and Madbury, N.H.

School Board member Sarah Thompson, chairwoman of the Superintendent Search Committee, said Tuesday is the first opportunity for board members to look at applicant information compiled by ProAct Search, the company hired by the board to assist in the search process.

“From there, things will pick up pretty quick,” Thompson said.

The board’s goal, she said, is to narrow the field of candidates to six to eight semi-finalists, who would then be interviewed by a panel of local stakeholders.The number of people who will interview the candidates will be determined by the School Board.

Those involved with interviews likely will include an immigrant or refugee, parents, residents without children in the schools, representatives from a nonprofit group, the University of Southern Maine, city of Portland and from each of the school district’s four unions, Thompson said.

The board was expected to discuss the number of people on the interview panel at a workshop following Tuesday’s executive session.

Thompson said the tentative schedule for the search includes finalist interviews May 14-15, visits to candidates’ school districts the week of May 21, and a May 29 review of information by the School Board.

Thompson said negotiations with top candidates could begin in early June with an expected announcement of the School Board’s top choice by the middle of that month.

“I’m hoping we’ll be in contract with somebody before the end of June with the hope they’ll start July 1,” she said.

An interim superintendent will be put in place if the new superintendent is not available to start July 1.

Thompson said she was impressed with the size of the applicant pool, a sentiment echoed by School Board Chairwoman Kate Snyder.

“I’m encouraged that so many people thought it was an interesting enough opportunity to fill out the packet,” Snyder said.

A total of 159 candidates submitted applications during the nationwide search. A summary of the first 147 applicants provided to the board by ProAct showed 75 percent are men.

The majority of applicants – 34 percent – are superintendents, while 12 percent are assistant superintendents, 14 percent are administrators, 10 percent are principals and 7 percent are working in the private sector.

Twenty percent of applicants have five to 10 years of experience and 26 percent have past or current ties to Maine.

According to ProAct, 55 percent of applicants are Caucasian, 23 percent are African American, 12 percent are American Indian, 6 percent are Hispanic and 3 percent did not disclose their race.

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.