CARIBOU, Maine — A Caribou High School graduate who is principal of Limestone Community School has been selected to be the new superintendent of RSU 39, which serves Caribou, Limestone and Stockholm.
Susan White was approved by the school board during Wednesday night’s meeting. She will finish out the school year at Limestone Community School, and then during July will begin a transition period in the superintendent’s office working alongside superintendent Frank McElwain, before taking over on Aug. 1.
“It’s huge,” she said of her selection. “Obviously, to be chosen is an honor, and to be asked to lead the school district in the community that I grew up in — and I’m a product of our school system — it’s giving back to the community that has given me so much. We have great teachers, great kids and great families, and Caribou is a wonderful place to be.”
White admitted she will miss the day-to-day interaction with students.
“I love the buzz of a school, the noise, the goings-on,” she said. “That will be one of the hardest things to leave.”
But after 22 years in education, she also is prepared to take on the new job.
“It certainly is an exciting time in education, for a lot of good reasons and a lot where we have some challenges to overcome,” she said. “There are always the budgetary issues, and also, we have a declining enrollment, and we need to work within those parameters.”
White’s love for education seems a natural fit, considering her family history. Her father, Bob White, who is retired, taught for 26 years at the very school where she serves as principal. She noted Caribou’s Little League field is named after him.
“And my mother, also retired, was the vice president at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield; my brother is the athletic administrator in Presque Isle for SAD 1; and my aunt is currently the assistant superintendent for curriculum in Houlton. So I come from a long line of educators,” she said.
A 1987 graduate of Caribou High School, White graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in elementary education in 1992, and she received her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Maine at Orono in 2003. In December, she will complete her certificate of advanced study in educational leadership, also from UMO.
Her entire career as an educator has been spent in the local school system. She began teaching fourth-grade at Hilltop Elementary in Caribou, and for 10 years taught Title I math and grades 4 and 5. From her fifth-grade post at Caribou Middle School, she became the school’s assistant principal for three years, and then for seven years was principal.
“Last summer, I was ready for a change and spoke with Mr. McElwain about it,” she said. “It worked out that Leland Caron, who was the principal at Limestone, and I were both ready to try something new, and Mr. McElwain and the school board obliged.” The two administrators “flip-flopped,” Caron going to Caribou Middle School and she to Limestone Community School.
During her 10-year teaching career, White also coached varsity softball at Caribou High School. “I was fortunate to be able to touch every school in the RSU,” she noted.
For her, one of the most rewarding aspects of education is seeing students embrace learning.
“Watching them grow and improve — when that light bulb goes on, and they get it, and they get excited about learning — that’s fun,” she said.
“It’s all about kids for me,” she added. “At the end of the day, it’s what’s best for them and providing them with the best education that we can.”