2017-01-20 / Columns

Superintendent’s Spotlight

Navigating change is part of the process
By Katie Hawes Special to the Post

More than two decades ago, I began my teaching career at Mildred L. Day School. A couple of years later, I moved on to attend graduate school and further advance my career.

At the time, I did not know I would return full circle to this little school in Arundel. Over the past three years, I have been involved in all aspects of the building project and seen a beautiful, state of the art, school emerge.

On Dec. 9 the demolition of our old school in Arundel began. I had the honor of standing beside former colleagues while watching the building come down; watching my first classroom collapse into rubble.

Everyone at Mildred L. Day understands and appreciates the need for a new school. They love the bright clean classrooms, the new gymnasium and the fully renovated library. They know they are ready for the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math lab and other amenities that match the high quality education they provide. Yet, they remember the school their children and grandchildren attended. The school many of them have spent more waking hours in then their own homes. The school-community spaghetti suppers, PTA Halloween parties and town meetings. The school that provided them, their children and their grandchildren, with a solid foundation for success.

As I watched the transformation in front of me, I was struck by the importance of remembering that with every new beginning there is an end. Allowing one another to grieve the end is an important aspect of navigating change. It is one that should be attended to at least as much as we attend to the celebration of a new beginning.

In 2014, I re-entered the district as an assistant superintendent to Dr. Kevin Crowley during his interim year as superintendent. I remember meeting Dr. Crowley at Panera Bread for a coffee and muffin unsure whether I wanted to accept the district’s offer. I left the Panera as his new partner, a decision I am pleased to have made. Two years ago, he returned as the beloved principal of Mildred L. Day School.

On Jan. 3, Dr. Crowley announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2017. Upon moving to Maine, Dr. Crowley spent seven years as principal of Sea Road School. The staff and students adored him. In 2009- 2010, when Arundel joined RSU 21, Dr. Crowley was appointed to lead Mildred L. Day School. While Sea Road School mourned his departure, they celebrated the arrival of their new principal, Steve Marquis.

Dr. Crowley has been a turnaround principal for Mildred L. Day School. Upon joining the RSU, Mildred L. Day teachers received as much as a 20 percent increase in pay, allowing for competitive recruitment and retention. Extensive professional development, curriculum resources, and strong leadership were provided.

Teachers engaged in curriculum-based discussions with teachers in the larger RSU. As a result of this turnaround leadership, a school that was in the bottom 40 percent on the state assessment topped the list this year in mathematics and came in second in Maine in English language arts.

As I accept his resignation, I am struck by a similar bittersweet feeling. Much like the demolition of our beloved school, this is a change. We need to allow one another to grieve the end of Dr. Crowley’s tenure and celebrate the success that he has helped to provide to thousands of our students. It is also a beginning; an opportunity to search for the next principal of Mildred L. Day School.

A very comprehensive search process has begun and applications are already arriving. A school and community survey will be developed to identify the desired attributes of the next principal. The survey will be available on our website from Jan. 20 to Feb. 3.

Our interview team will use that information when screening applications and selecting candidates. A full day will be spent interviewing those selected. Finalist(s) will then be invited to visit Mildred L. Day School on March 6 to meet with groups of teachers, parents, students, and community members.

All of this information will be used to select the candidate that is ultimately presented to the school board of directors for approval and offered a contract to begin on July 1. I have no doubt that the next leader will continue the trajectory of excellence and success.

Dr. Katie Hawes is superintendent of schools for Regional School Unit 21.

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