South Portland board approves Kunin as next school chief

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Ken Kunin was approved Monday night as the next superintendent of schools, at an annual salary of $127,000.

The School Board unanimously approved hiring Kunin to succeed Superintendent Suzanne Godin, who is stepping down June 30 after nearly 10 years in the post. 

The board approved a two-year contract with Kunin, from Aug. 1 to June 30, 2017. Normally the contract would begin July 1, but Chairman Richard Matthews said Kunin and his family have to move back to the U.S. from Rome, where his current contract doesn’t expire until June 30.

“Moving his whole family (and) household items is going to take quite awhile,” Matthews said.

Kunin has been secondary school principal at the American Overseas School of Rome since 2011. He and his wife, Beth Stickney, and their daughter, Simi, plan to move back into their house in Portland in July.

Kunin was principal at Deering High School in Portland from 2005-2010. He was principal at Reiche Community School in Portland from 1998-2005, and has also served as senior research consultant at the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine.

Kunin, in an email Wednesday from Italy, said he is “very excited” to be coming to South Portland.

“It is certainly a tremendous honor to be chosen to be superintendent of South Portland’s eight wonderful schools (and early childhood and adult education programs), in a community committed to providing an excellent education for all students,” he said.

“The more I discovered about the schools, the programs and the commitment of the whole community, the more excited I became,” Kunin said. “I am most excited to continue this learning in my first few months, so that I can best be of service to the schools and the community.”

To prepare for the transition, Kunin said he has been “following the planning in South Portland for the 2015-16 school year very carefully, as well as tracking what is happening in Augusta and Washington that can impact the South Portland schools.”  

“The highest performing school districts have capable and stable leadership, which South Portland has certainly had under Suzanne Godin,” Kunin continued. “I hope that I can earn the privilege of leading the South Portland schools beyond my initial two years.”

Matthews said the general negotiations “went very well, (and) we welcome Mr. Kunin aboard, and I look forward to having him move the district forward.”

Facilities assessment

A Middle School Facilities Committee was also formed Monday night as a means to assess “the physical plan, capacity needs and educational programming” of Mahoney and Memorial middle schools.

“Part of your strategic plan calls for the schools and community to share responsibility for creating and maintaining a rich and expansive environment for student learning,” Godin told the board. 

The ultimate goal of the facilities committee is “to develop a plan for renovation (and) construction and to put that forward to the Board of Education.”

The committee will consist of nine parents or teachers, two other community members, and two students.

Those interested in serving on the panel should contact Dottie Tetreau-Delmolino in the superintendent’s office at 871-0555, or, by May 1. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.