April 22, 2013

Principal turnover creates ripple effect for Maine schools

For every vacancy filled, another might occur as schools compete for capable administrators.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Two of four southern Maine high schools that lost their principals in recent months have found replacements.

Now, two other area high schools -- Sacopee Valley and York -- will have to find new administrators to replace those hired away by South Portland and Biddeford.

More districts could be left scrambling depending on who is hired to fill the other two openings, at Scarborough High School and Bonny Eagle High School in Standish.

"When that second opening occurs, then individuals apply for that, so then you begin to have this ripple effect," George Marnik, a University of Maine educational leadership lecturer, said in an interview last month about principal turnover.

The hunt for high school principals follows a rash of resignations earlier this year that some say reflects the increasing pressure of the job, which typically pays between $90,000 and $100,000 in southern Maine.

Biddeford Superintendent Jeremy Ray said his district did not waste any time in beginning the search for a new principal because he knew the district would have to compete with others.

Earlier this month, the Biddeford school board hired Jeremie Sirois as its next high school principal. Sirois is now the assistant principal at York High School. He will replace Britton Wolfe, who said he resigned for personal reasons.

And the South Portland school board hired Ryan Caron to replace James Holland, who stepped down as high school principal after two years on the job without explanation. Caron, who will be paid $99,000 in South Portland, is now the principal of Sacopee Valley High School and his move leaves a leadership vacancy at the regional high school in Hiram.

Scarborough High School, whose principal of two years, Dean Auriemma, resigned in February, has received about 15 applications and hopes to hire someone by early May, said Superintendent George Entwistle. It's not clear what Scarborough is offering for a salary.

Bonny Eagle High School, whose principal resigned earlier this month after the School Administrative District 6 board voted not to renew her contract, is advertising for a replacement at a salary of $93,786.

At the same time, the SAD 6 board is considering an administrative restructuring at the high school, according to its agenda for a meeting on Monday. Neither the superintendent nor the school board chairman returned calls last week seeking an explanation of the proposal.

Competition for talent isn't the only complicating factor for the districts in search of new leadership. Recent studies and locals administrators say being a principal is more demanding than ever.

Three out of four K-12 principals surveyed said their job "has become too complex," according to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.

And in Maine, the average principal was responsible for 69 more students, had 53 more staff members and worked 12 more hours a week in 2011 than in 2005, according to a University of Maine study that came out last fall.

Bonny Eagle's advertisement for a new principal doesn't have a deadline, but says the position "will be filled when a successful candidate has been found." The former principal, Beth Schultz, resigned after Superintendent Frank Sherburne said she lacked the necessary leadership skills.

In South Portland, Superintendent Suzanne Godin said the district's top priority was finding "someone with a vision for what education needs to look like."

Godin said Caron was chosen out of the 26 applicants for his proven ability to build relationships with students, his success with dropout prevention and his vision for the future of education. But possibly the strongest part of his application, she said, "was the sadness and disappointment that (Sacopee Valley) shared about his decision to leave."

Sacopee Valley is accepting applications for a new principal through May 3.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at



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