CALAIS, Maine — Keith Laser, superintendent of Calais schools, is headed to Lincoln to lead Regional School Unit 67, which serves Lincoln, Chester and Mattawamkeag.
Laser, 60, who has been on the job in Calais less than a year, said he was offered the position on the evening of Wednesday, April 2. He signed a contract the next day and also notified Calais school officials.
Laser’s contract with RSU 67 calls for him to serve as superintendent the rest of this year and two more years, he said. He was in a two-year contract with Calais schools.
Laser will begin his new duties April 28 but will continue to be employed with Calais schools until then, he said.
“It was a great opportunity,” Laser said Monday of the offer tendered to him by RSU 67 officials.
Rebecca Hanscom, chairwoman of the RSU 67 school board, could not immediately be reached for comment.
RSU 67 has been without a superintendent since Denise Hamlin resigned the post a year ago this month. Raymond Freve has been serving as interim superintendent.
Calais officials have been working on the proposed budget for the next school year and face similar belt-tightening measures that they did a year ago, Laser has indicated. A liaison committee made up of members of the City Council and the School Committee also is involved in the budget talks, he said.
Asked Tuesday if his decision to look for job opportunities elsewhere had anything to do with the grim outlook for the next Calais school budget, Laser laughed and said, “I can’t answer that.”
Laser was appointed Calais superintendent in late October, when the City Council and school officials still were trying to agree on a budget for the 2013-14 school year, which had already begun.
RSU 67 faces financial problems of its own. Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC idled 200 employees — half its workforce — in December after an explosion the previous month and the loss of a tissue-making contract. Company officials are negotiating with town officials over a tax abatement request, and Lincoln is wrestling with trimming its 2014-15 fiscal year budget by as much as $600,000.
RSU 67 school officials are prioritizing needs for the next fiscal year and expect to formally start the school budget process this month.
Prior to working in Calais, Laser worked as assistant superintendent for Auburn schools for a little more than two years. Most of his duties related to human resources, supervision and evaluation, contract negotiations and policy issues, he has said.
Prior to joining the Auburn school department, Laser was principal of Holy Name High School, a private school in Reading, Pa., for nearly eight years. He also was principal of two elementary schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland and served as executive director of Everest Academy in Clarkston, Mich., from 2001 to 2002.
Laser is a retired Navy commander and aviator, exiting the service in 1996 after 20 years. His specialty was anti-submarine warfare, and he also served as a helicopter flight instructor.
Laser earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy. He received a master’s degree in school administration from Loyola University in Baltimore and a doctorate of education degree in school leadership from Nova Southeastern University, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He holds additional degrees from the Naval War College and Salve Regina University, both located in Newport, R.I.