PORTLAND – The three finalists for the Portland school superintendent’s job are now working as assistant or deputy superintendents in much larger school districts.

Two are men, two are African-Americans and only one lives in the Northeast.

While the identity of the female candidate will be revealed at a public forum Tuesday, the identities of the men are being withheld at their request by the school board.

“Two were concerned about coming out in public yet,” said Sarah Thompson, a school board member who heads up the three-person committee overseeing the hiring process.

The three finalists emerged from 159 applications for the job being vacated by Superintendent Jim Morse, who is moving to a post at the Oyster River School District in southern New Hampshire after three years in Portland. The field was narrowed to seven by PROACT Search, a national recruiting firm being paid $24,750 plus expenses to help Portland find candidates.

The school board interviewed the seven in an online video call. Although the goal was to come up with two finalists, the board widened the field to three because all three were so strong, Thompson said.

“I truly believe the community will be thrilled with any of them,” Thompson said.

Morse came to Portland in 2009 after a financial crisis triggered the resignation of a superintendent and business manager. He was paid about $131,000 a year to head the state’s largest district, which includes 7,000 students, 4,700 adult learners, 17 schools and a $93 million annual budget.

Portland is smaller than any of the districts where the three candidates work, Thompson said. One works in a district with 37 schools, she said.

The public may meet with the female candidate at 7:55 p.m. Tuesday in room 250 of Casco Bay High School, 196 Allen Ave., where she will answer questions for one hour. She will also tour three different schools and Portland, and meet with the school board and others involved in the hiring process, including a 12-person stakeholder panel and a six-person senior staff panel.

One of the male candidates will undergo a similar process today, except for the public forum, and the other on May 22.

Several of those involved with the hiring will visit the finalists’ school districts.

There will be a public forum with the final candidate, Thompson said.

The school board has not specified a salary range for the superintendent. The new superintendent will be revealed around the third week of June, Thompson said, unless no favorite emerges.

“We have pledged to start the process over, although we definitely hope not to do that. We want someone who will take Portland to the next level,” Thompson said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]