Candidate for RSU 13 position withdraws name

Posted Feb. 03, 2009, at 9:57 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The superintendent of SAD 50 has withdrawn her name from the running for the top administrative post of the new Regional School Unit 13, citing personal reasons.

RSU 13 will consolidate SAD 50 and SAD 5 and comprise the communities of Rockland, Owls Head, South Thomaston, Thomaston, St. George and Cushing. It will take effect July 1.

Judith Harvey, a 25-year veteran of the educational system who has been at the head of the Thomaston, St. George and Cushing schools for seven years, said she decided over the weekend that the new position just isn’t for her.

“Becoming the superintendent of RSU 13 would not be a good fit for me,” Harvey wrote Monday night in a letter sent to Ruth Anne Hohfeld, the board chairman of the new regional school unit.

Harvey, 61, declined to give more reasons for her decision, but did say that her time in SAD 50 has been “one of the very best experiences of my professional life.”

She said that she has no plans right now but that she hopes to find another position in education in a different district.

As of Tuesday, there is just one candidate for the superintendent’s position in RSU 13 — Judy Lucarelli, who now is superintendent of SAD 5 in Rockland, South Thomaston and Owls Head.

This may not mean that choosing the new RSU head will be easier, Hohfeld said Tuesday.

“I believe limited choice makes it more challenging,” she said.

In the first RSU 13 board meeting last week, members said they would choose a new superintendent in February, but Hohfeld said Harvey’s withdrawal may change the timetable.

“This is something new,” she said.

Hohfeld will meet Thursday with an educational consultant who specializes in consolidation, and the board will meet Monday to discuss its options, she said.

Despite some inherent challenges and the new twist on the matter of RSU 13’s next superintendent, officials say the consolidation is moving forward with optimism.

Statewide, a number of proposals for regional school units were voted down by some or all participating communities in 18 separate referendums in late January with some school superintendents and town officials opposing consolidation. In November and earlier in January, nine of 22 plans were turned down by voters.

But the decision made sense in the midcoast towns that voted to form RSU 13, Hohfeld and Lucarelli said.

Consolidation will save those towns money and is an easier transition because the two SADs have similar demographics, and the planning committee worked 16 months to figure out a scheme that would work, according to Lucarelli.

“They came up with a great plan that allows for sufficient time for transition to the new school system over the next two years,” she said. “The purpose of the law was to save money in administrative costs, but in our case there’s opportunity for this to be a benefit to our kids, and we’re very excited about it.”

Hohfeld, who now is doing double duty as a member of the SAD 5 school board, said the transition will be challenging.

“We have two districts merged together that have each functioned in their own way,” she said. “They both have their positive and their negative attributes — and we are going to have to create all new policies. We’re going to have to all get to know each other.”

Hohfeld said the members of the new RSU 13 board “will not be bored” in the coming months, but that there are many positives about the consolidation.

“There is a lot to be gained,” she said. “We are very lucky. We are two very similar districts.”

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