Only 3 show up at forum to tell Rockland-area school board search team what they want in next superintendent

Posted April 18, 2014, at 11:12 a.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Members of the Rockland-area school board search panel far outnumbered the three residents who turned out Thursday night to express their views on the quality of the next top administrator.

The deadline for candidates to submit applications is May 20. Six people have requested and been sent application packets as of Thursday, said search committee Chairwoman Carol Bachofner.

“The candidate pool is not as small as we thought it would be,” she said.

Regional School Unit 13 has employed Michael Wilhelm as its interim superintendent through May 31. Board Chairman Steve Roberts said there have been conversations with Wilhelm but no agreement reached yet on whether he will stay longer.

Bachofner acknowledged at the meeting that the board was under a time restraint but that it would not rush the process.

Maine School Management Association will review applications to make sure they are complete and will run background checks on the applicants for the district. The information on the candidates will then be forwarded to the search committee, which will select candidates to interview and then forward recommendations on finalists to the full board.

The search committee consists of Roberts, board members Bachofner, Sally Carleton, George Emery, and Marla McGeady; teachers Jeanne Ackor, Kristin Gould, Beth Heidemann, and Kathleen Harrison; Oceanside High School West Principal Lawrence Schooley; Rockland District Middle School Principal Kathryn Hollicker; student Payton Billingsley; and citizens William Clayton, Sharon Spaulding, Victoria Willauer, Margaret Cuccinello, and Anna Mason.

Spaulding said it would be important to select someone who will stay and stop the revolving door of superintendents that RSU 13 has experienced. The new superintendent should be someone interested in curriculum, she said.

Wilhelm has been interim superintendent since February when Lew Collins resigned following months of turmoil.

Hollicker said the district’s new leader should be someone who builds consensus among parties and who will be resolute in seeing through projects.

Committee members indicated that experience was not as important as vision and drive.

Board members said they would prefer that the next superintendent live within the RSU 13 area but stopped short of saying it would be required. Bachofner pointed out that with the economy still making it difficult to sell homes, a residency requirement would make greater the challenge of finding a new superintendent. But, she added, that she supported the candidate being someone who would move to the community.

“I would like someone who is a recognizable person in the community,” she said.

Spaulding agreed that the next superintendent should live in the district to “share in the pain of the other taxpayers.”

Clayton, a former Rockland mayor, agreed. He said he could not recall the last time he saw a superintendent at a ballgame or play. He also said the board should not hesitate to hire someone young, saying he had to overcome that when he ran for council and then was elected mayor.

Roberts agreed that experience was not the top priority.

“A person with drive and vision can trump experience,” he said.

The board arranged for child care and provided pizza for people who attended. The hearing began at 6:30 p.m. and ended shortly before 8 p.m. Despite those incentives, only three people other than search committee members attended Thursday’s meeting.

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