Questions surround South Portland High School principal’s surprise resignation

South Portland High School Principal James Holland stands outside the school in August 2011. Holland submitted his resignation on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013.
South Portland High School Principal James Holland stands outside the school in August 2011. Holland submitted his resignation on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013.
Posted Feb. 14, 2013, at 1:25 p.m.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — 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.

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