May 21, 2018
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Former MDI schools chief hired as interim superintendent

Liz Chapman | BDN
Liz Chapman | BDN
Howard Colter
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, Maine — Meet the new superintendent. Same as the old superintendent.

The man whom outgoing schools Superintendent Rob Liebow replaced eight years ago is returning to Mount Desert Island on an interim basis.

Howard Colter was the superintendent for the now-defunct Union 98 from 1992 to 2004. He left to take a superintendent position in New Hampshire, but he and his wife kept their house in the Mount Desert village of Hall Quarry.

Colter, 66, said Tuesday afternoon that he had been planning to retire this year from his job in Barrington, N.H., and to seek out interim superintendent jobs in Maine, but he did not anticipate he would find one on MDI. When Liebow was hired last month to become the school superintendent in Rockport, Mass., he said, everything fell into place.

“This is my last year in New Hampshire, and all along my plans have been to return to Mount Desert Island,” Colter said. “It’s very fortuitous for me.”

Colter will serve as interim superintendent of the island’s school system for a year, during which time local school officials hope to hire a permanent replacement for Liebow.

Trenton resident Judy Sproule, chairman of the island district’s school board, said last week that Colter returning to his old post is a case of “serendipity.” His successful background and his familiarity with the area and its schools made him a natural choice for the interim position, she said.

“He’s someone who put students first and raised the bar,” Sproule said. “[The Colters] were moving back anyway.”

Colter acknowledged that with Maine’s relatively recent school consolidation effort, many school systems in Maine have changed drastically in the past few years, but the one on MDI has not.

The only big difference between the old Union 98 configuration and the new one under AOS 91, he said, is that Trenton is now part of the district.

“I feel very comfortable and familiar with the communities” in AOS 91, he said.

Colter said he is healthy and enjoys working as a superintendent and considers himself blessed to be able to continue working. He said he and his wife have returned to MDI about once a month throughout his tenure as a superintendent in New Hampshire.

He said that, when his interim year on MDI is over, he plans to continue filling in as an interim schools chief in Maine for several more years. In the meantime, he looks forward to seeing familiar faces from his previous stint on the island and to settling back in his old home.

“I’m very excited to be able to work another year with them all,” Colter said of people in the MDI school system he will recognize. “This will be our home for the rest of our lives.”

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