Positioning

Facing high turnover in its top position, Hallowell-area school district to pursue 'more in-depth' hiring process for new superintendent – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel





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After five superintendents stepped down over three years, officials from Regional School Unit 2 hope that conducting a longer search will yield a candidate who wants to stay.
HALLOWELL — Following a large amount of turnover in the Hallowell-based school district’s top administrative role, the school board will pursue a long-term search for a new superintendent rather than rush to fill the job as quickly as possible.
The Regional School Unit 2 board of directors voted unanimously Thursday to work alongside the Maine School Management Association to find an interim superintendent for the rest of the school year while they work to craft a thoughtful job application for the permanent position. The goal is to post the application publicly by January.
The current superintendent, Matt Gilbert, resigned at the end of July after being hired for the role in April. Gilbert, who was previously the assistant superintendent, took on the job after former Superintendent Tonya Arnold resigned in February following a two-month medical leave of absence.
Matthew Gilbert, the superintendent in Hallowell-based Regional School Unit 2, announced his resignation after less than a month on the job. The school board is looking to hire a long-term replacement who could start July 1. Zoom screenshot
Gilbert’s departure marks the fifth superintendent to leave the district since 2019.
The RSU 2 personnel committee, which is a sub-committee of the school board, met Wednesday night to come up with a proposal for the board on Thursday.
They presented two options: the board could, for the time being, hire an interim superintendent and start the process of hiring a replacement for Gilbert immediately; or they could hire an interim superintendent for the year and take the search process slowly.  

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At the personnel committee meeting, member Jon Hamann said he wanted to start the search right away, as did a few administrators who voiced they did not want to lose the momentum the district has after 100 community members recently gathered over a weekend to discuss the goals and outlook for the future of the district.
Director Dawn Gallagher echoed those concerns at the board meeting Thursday and wondered if waiting until spring to put out the application for superintendent would lessen the quality of applicants the district could receive.
“If we wait until March (or early spring) — we have done that before and haven’t been as successful,” she said to the board. “I’m just suggesting the sooner we get it out there that we are looking for someone — I can only go by 14 years of experience (on the board) and six superintendents. What we have done has not totally worked.”
Ultimately, the board unanimously decided to work alongside Steve Bailey, the director of Maine School Management Association, to conduct a larger, more thoughtful search and make the superintendent application available in January instead of March or April. The idea is that a more thoughtful search will allow the board, community members and faculty to be involved in the search. Community members had previously requested to have “a voice” in the matter.
The Maine School Management Association is a nonprofit federation of local school boards and superintendents.
New board member Amanda McDonald, who was sworn in Thursday in place of Jay Brown, joined the rest of the board in supporting this decision. Jon Hamann and Chris Asch were absent for the vote.

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“The (Maine School Management Association) proposes in the new few months, to meet with an ad hoc committee or host a board workshop to set up the steps all the way from a focus group, what we are looking for in the community, to look at the job description (for superintendent) which has not been reviewed since 2009 and (start outreach) earlier in spring,” said Board Chair Donna Seppy, describing how the nonprofit will help the district.
Even if the board decided to publish an application right away for superintendent, Seppy explained that a superintendent usually has to give notice 100 days in advance if they plan to leave a position. That would mean a potential candidate could not start until at least after the winter holidays.
Doing the longer search process would allow a candidate to finish out the school year in their current district and start with RSU 2 on July 1, on par with a “typical” hiring date for a superintendent.
Gilbert agreed that posting an application in January rather than March or April would be a good plan.
“The earlier you are in line, more candidates will be available,” he said.
Seppy presented a tentative timeline of the hiring process for an interim superintendent, with the goal of starting interviews between Aug. 22-26, reference checks on Sept. 6 and contract negotiations on Sept. 12. She added that Bailey, of the Maine School Management Association, agreed to come to a board of directors meeting to discuss the interim options and how to start the process of hiring a temporary replacement.
It’s unclear at this time who will take Gilbert’s place as interim superintendent, but the nonprofit has a list of retired superintendents who have previously agreed to fill interim positions as needed. Assistant Superintendent of RSU 2, Kristie Clark, who was appointed to her position in July, said she is not interested in being the interim.
The next RSU 2 regular business meeting is set for Sept. 1 at 6 p.m., with in-person and Zoom options available.
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