South Portland confident about pool of school chief candidates

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The School Board has begun its search for the successor to Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Godin, who will leave the post June 30, 2015. 

Job advertisements have been placed in The Boston Globe, Bangor Daily News and Maine Sunday Telegram, board chairman Richard Matthews said, and on websites, such as The ads will run through Jan. 16.

The board has also commissioned the help of the Maine School Management Association for the hiring process. 

Once the application period closes, an appointed application review committee will review the submitted applications Jan. 20-23. The review committee will be comprised of four board members and Assistant Superintendent Kathryn Germani, Matthews said. Their primary duty is to organize the applications and “get them squared away” for further scrutiny, he said.

A second panel, amalgamated of members of the review committee, along with two parents; two students; the South Portland Administrators Association president; South Portland Teachers Association president; South Portland High School Principal Ryan Caron; a teacher from one elementary school, one middle school, and the high school, and Andrew Wallace, director of technology, will serve as the primary vetting committee.

Other components to the interview and selection process are not yet set, but will likely include hosting a public open house for the finalists. The final interview process will likely coincide with budget deliberations and take place in early April, Matthews said.  

In the meantime, as candidates submit their applications, the board is working to make available an online survey, accessible through the district website, where residents will be able to list their preferred attributes of the new hire. 

“I think that would be a great idea, for people to give their opinions of what they’re looking for,” Matthews said. “I really think the South Portland community has always been one to be involved in these types of situations.” 

Godin, who announced her resignation last month, said she believes community members will want a superintendent who can, among other characteristics, lead the district with “the ability to listen and recognize differing needs across the community.”

Further and more importantly, she said, the new superintendent will need to know how to balance those needs from school to school.

A handful of other districts in southern Maine are also conducting superintendent searches, including Gorham, Kennebunk, and Regional School Unit 5 in Freeport. Matthews said he does not believe these searches will hamper South Portland’s chance of attracting worthy candidates.  

“I’m pretty confident that South Portland is an attractive place for people … . It is a great school system, it really is, and a great community,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life and I’ll tell you right now, I just think it’s an awesome place to live.”

Adding to its attractiveness as a school district is its history of superintendent longevity, Matthews said, noting that Godin is in her ninth year in the position, after serving as assistant superintendent for three years. 

“South Portland is a very inviting place and I think that once the (new) superintendent gets here, I think they will really enjoy the position; history kind of shows that,” Matthews said. “I don’t think South Portland will have any problem attracting candidates.”

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

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.