South Portland school chief search zeroes in on former Portland principal

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A former Portland high school principal is likely to be the city’s next superintendent of schools.

Kenneth Kunin would succeed Superintendent Suzanne Godin, who announced her resignation last November after eight years in the position. Her last day will be June 30.

Kunin has gone through two rounds of interviews with the School Board and a search committee. He will be vetted once more March 12 after he spends the day touring the district and meeting with the members of the public.

Initially the plan was to send two finalists through the final stages of the interview process, School Board Chairman Richard Matthews said Wednesday, but Kunin’s references and professional diversity separated him from the other candidates.

The district’s demographics are changing and becoming more diverse, which makes someone who has worked extensively with non-English speaking students desirable, Matthews said.  

“His (professional) diversity is amazing; he’s worked with students across the world,” Matthews said, noting Kunin’s current position as secondary principal at the American Overseas School of Rome, where nearly 400 students attend from 50 countries.

“Our (English Language Learner) population is changing and I think that, given his abilities, he can continue to lead us in the right direction,” Matthews said. 

With more than 35 years of educational experience, Kunin has taught students at every level, from preschool to graduate school, including special-ed students, from all continents except Antarctica.

“This experience helps me to understand the challenges faced by our schools,” and how necessary it is to prepare “students for a truly global future,” Kunin, who is in Italy, said in an email Wednesday.  

Kunin moved to Maine in 1998 with his wife to become principal at Reiche Community School in Portland. In 2005 he became principal at Deering High School, where he stayed until 2010. He has also served as senior research consultant at the Center for Education Policy Applied Research and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine. Kunin has been at the American Overseas School of Rome since 2011. 

“The South Portland schools have a long and proud history of success, combined with the vision for meeting today’s challenges of educating all students for an ever-changing world,” Kunin said. “Given my skills and experience, I felt that I could be of service as the journey continued.”

Kunin will be escorted March 12 by School Board members as he visits City Hall, the transportation department, Skillen Elementary School, Mahoney Middle School and South Portland High School. Kunin will also meet with the public and members of the Parent Teacher Association at the high school. 

The board will then meet in executive session at 6:30 p.m. “to continue deliberations,” Matthews said. “We’re hoping to approve a person by April 13.”

Kunin, who has a home in Portland, studied at Brown University, where he received a degree in English literature. He earned a master’s degree in special education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from USM.

He is a member of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the American Association of School Administrators, the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development and the European Council of International Schools.  

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. 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.