South Portland High School principal mum about resignation

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Parents and school staff said they were shocked by the  resignation submitted Feb. 8 by high school Principal James Holland.

Holland was hired before the 2011 school year, and expressed excitement at the time about leading the school while it was being renovated and expanded.

He did not return phone calls this week seeking comment about his decision to resign June 30.

At Monday’s School Board meeting, high school office manager Sheryl Kieran asked board members to reject Holland’s resignation.

“There has never been a hint from Jim of anything less than being thrilled to be principal of South Portland High (School),” Kieran said.

Walnut Street resident Kelly Martin, who has two children in the school, said she came to the meeting seeking answers about why Holland is leaving.

“I thought I would come here and hear what this craziness is,” Martin said, adding she told her children to stay off Twitter because she thought they had confused Holland’s resignation with that of Scarborough High School Principal Dean Auriemma, who resigned Feb. 1.

“I guess this is unexpected for everybody else as well,” Martin concluded.

Martin said her children were enjoying school, even during disruptions caused by construction. She praised Holland for his steadiness and enthusiasm.

“I thought on the leadership end we didn’t have any questions,” Martin said.

Holland came to South Portland from Livermore Falls High School, where he was principal for one year. Prior to that, he was assistant principal at Cony High School in Augusta for six years and taught science there for 18 years.

Holland replaced Jeanne Crocker, who was the school principal for 13 years before she left to become an assistant executive director with the Maine Principals’ Association.

Kieran said she did not know what might have led to Holland’s resignation, but said he stepped in very well after Crocker.

“What has never been in question is Jim’s sincerity decency, and commitment to do what is best for our students,” she said. “Come to the high school and experience the atmosphere under Jim’s leadership. Things are good.”

Ralph Newell has been teaching science at the high school since 1967, and said he learned at a faculty meeting that Holland was resigning. He, too, is perplexed, he said.

“I liked the guy, I think he was a good guy,” Newell said.

Kieran urged the board to show more support for Holland, and work to help as it might for students needing enhanced services.

“Ask (yourselves) how well we have supported and invested in Jim Holland’s success, which is our community’s success,” she said.

Board member James Gilboy’s attempt to discuss the resignation in more detail in the meeting was turned aside because it was not on the new business portion of the agenda.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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South Portland High School Principal James Holland outside the school in an August 2011 photo. Holland submitted his resignation on Friday, Feb. 8.

School Board OKs volleyball team

SOUTH PORTLAND — High school girls will be able to compete in volleyball next fall, but only if boosters can raise an estimated $10,000 needed to fund a team.

The opportunity to add the sport was approved Monday night during a 55-minute School Board meeting. By a unanimous vote, the board approved elevating the sport from club level to one sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association.

“We are not going to be adding volleyball to our costs this year, it is not in our projections at all,” School Superintendent Suzanne Godin said.

Athletic Director Todd Livingston said matches will likely be held in the Community Center because Beal Gymnasium will be closed at the end of next month for renovation and expansion and is not expected to reopen for at least six months.

The board also approved an updated emergency operations plan detailing specific roles at city schools for staff and outlining specific preparedness exercises, ranging from table-top simulations to full-scale drills involving other municipal departments.

Board members approved eliminating six policies on administrative issues, including a job description for the superintendent.

— David Harry

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.