Westbrook’s assistant school superintendent is poised to become the next head of the district.

Peter Lancia, who has worked in Westbrook for 26 years as a teacher, elementary school principal and curriculum director, was the top choice of the superintendent search group, said Jim Violette, chairman of the Westbrook School Committee.

If hired, Lancia would succeed Marc Gousse, who left Westbrook this summer to become superintendent of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System. Gousse was principal of Westbrook High School for 10 years and became the superintendent in 2011. His final salary in Westbrook was $128,775. Lancia’s current salary is about $105,000.

“Regardless of my position, I’ve always in my heart and in my mind and, I think, in my actions remained a teacher, really focusing on the work we’re doing with kids,” Lancia said Thursday. “That’s why I really want to do this job. I want to make sure we focus on teaching and learning. I want to make sure we focus on providing the best for every single student in our care.”

Violette declined to say how many people applied for the job, but five current superintendents were in that pool. A search committee of parents, teachers, students and others then interviewed five candidates from across New England, and the School Committee spoke with two finalists last week. Violette would not name any of the other candidates.

“It was a difficult decision,” he said. “We deliberated between an hour and an hour-and-a-half.”

Lancia began his career in Westbrook more than two decades ago as a second-grade teacher. He was Maine’s Teacher of the Year in 2002, and the award motivated him to pursue larger roles.

“It gave me a broader vision of what education was about and encouraged me to look for other ways to make an impact beyond just my classroom,” he said.

After 12 years as a teacher, Lancia became the principal at Congin School. In 2010, he became the director of teaching and learning for the district, and in 2015, the assistant superintendent. This summer, he was named Curriculum Leader of the Year.

Lancia, 49, lives in Portland with his wife and three children. He is also an adjunct faculty member in literacy education at the University of Southern Maine.

Violette said Lancia does not have much experience in the district’s financial management, but the assistant superintendent stood out for his skills in developing curriculum and his knowledge of proficiency-based learning.

The Westbrook School Department has more than 2,500 students in six schools and a budget of about $35 million. The next superintendent also could oversee a massive school expansion project at Saccarappa School and Westbrook Middle School, the fate of which will likely be decided by ballot in November. Although the committee is still waiting on a final estimate for that project, Violette said it could cost $27 million to $28 million.

“We are having a huge explosion in terms of residential development, which is increasing our school population,” Violette said. “That’s going to be a massive challenge for our new superintendent.”

In addition to Gousse, Westbrook High principal Jon Ross left the district this summer to become a combined superintendent and principal in Acton. In July, the School Committee unanimously voted to appoint Kelli A. Deveaux to the job; she previously worked as an assistant principal at Windham High School. Her two-year contract comes with a $104,000 salary.

Contract negotiations with Lancia are ongoing, but the School Committee will likely vote on his appointment at its meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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