PORTLAND — In case Ira Waltz didn’t know that tradition is important at Deering High School, the small brass plaque on the big oak desk in the principal’s office makes it clear.

“The Desk of the First Principal D.H.S. 1874,” the plaque reads, indicating the year that Portland’s second high school was founded.

“I value that history,” Waltz said Tuesday, his first day as principal of Deering High. “I want to celebrate where we’ve been, where we are today and where we’re going.”

Waltz, who was assistant superintendent of Wells-Ogunquit schools for the past eight years, started his new job this week with a skeleton crew of custodians and secretaries.

He spent most of the first day settling into his new office, rustling up a laptop, having lunch with Superintendent Jim Morse and beginning to scope out the challenges that lie ahead.

Waltz is replacing Ken Kunin, who resigned after five years as principal. Waltz credited Kunin with leaving Deering High in “a great place” and easing his transition into the job.

The two men have followed each other before, when Kunin replaced Waltz as principal of Portland’s Reiche Community School in the late 1990s.

Waltz, who lives in Portland, worked in the city’s schools for several years during the ’90s, including a stint as an assistant principal at Deering High in 1996-97. About 10 percent of that year’s teaching staff is still at the school, he said.

Waltz was teaching principal at Peaks Island Elementary School from 1993 to 1996 and was interim principal at Reiche in 1997-98. He then held several administrative positions in Scarborough schools, including interim assistant superintendent, before becoming assistant superintendent of Wells-Ogunquit schools in 2002.

As Deering High’s principal, Waltz said, he will press for “continuous improvement.”

“Good is never good enough for me, especially when you’re talking about children’s educations,” Waltz said. “I’ll be looking for what we’re good at and what we can do better. I’ll be looking for pockets of excellence that can be extended throughout the school.”

Waltz said he has a passion for professional development, so he’ll pay particular attention to that.

“I love working with teachers, using test data to understand where students are succeeding or struggling, and doing what I can to improve instruction,” said Waltz, whose annual salary is $105,260.

Waltz said he wants to increase collaboration with the city’s other high schools — Portland, Casco Bay and Portland Arts and Technology — so they can better share their best attributes.

Morse, who became superintendent a year ago, has already started moving in that direction, requiring the high schools to adjust their schedules so they can share staff members and students during a few periods each day.

Waltz said he also plans to emphasize the importance of higher education for all students. He grew up in Newcastle, one of five sons of Frank and Kathy Waltz, who still live there. His father was a woodsman who also managed the fishways at the hydroelectric dam in Damariscotta Mills.

Waltz said education was important to his parents, who made sure their boys graduated from high school. He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and social sciences from the University of Maine at Farmington, a master’s degree in special education from Southern Connecticut State University and a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire.

“I know how education can change your life,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]