After a decade as principal at Gorham High School, John Drisko is leaving at the end of the school year for a new challenge as administrator and teacher at a private prep school.

Drisko will begin his new duty as head of the Upper School, Grades 9-12, at North Yarmouth Academy on July 1.

“It’s a tremendous loss for us and a tremendous opportunity for a deserved person,” Gorham Superintendent Ted Sharp said Tuesday. “I’m thrilled for him.”

Sharp is both an alumnus and trustee at North Yarmouth Academy, an independent day school with competitive admission. Tuition is $20,400.

Drisko, 50, became a social studies teacher in 1993 at Gorham and was named principal in 1998. Drisko announced his resignation Thursday to the Gorham faculty.

He said he made the decision after discussing the opportunity at length with his wife, Cynthia Boothby, who is a Gorham native.

“It’s going to be hard to leave this community. It’s been wonderful for me,” he said.

The couple lives in Windham and won’t be relocating. They have two daughters in college.

Jim Hager, chairman of the Gorham School Committee, said Tuesday Drisko is respectful, passionate and has a good rapport with the students. Hager said the North Yarmouth Academy position is an opportunity for Drisko.

“He’s been an outstanding leader and administrator for the school district,” Hager said. “I wish him every success.”

Kristi Belesca, director of community development and communications at North Yarmouth Academy, said Drisko was selected from a pool of 60 candidates. Drisko was one of four finalists invited to campus for interviews. He replaces Julia Chin, Yarmouth, who is leaving North Yarmouth Academy after 19 years.

In a prepared statement, Peter Mertz, headmaster at the private school, said: “We are looking forward to working with John and all the energy and experience he will bring to the position.”

North Yarmouth Academy has an enrollment of 330, with 220 in the upper school. Gorham High School has grown from 550 to 880 students during Drisko’s tenure, which he said is one of the most significant changes, along with the federally mandated No Child Left Behind.

In addition to administrative duties, Drisko expects to be involved in teaching and learning at North Yarmouth Academy.

“Hopefully, I’ll be teaching a class. It’ll be a new challenge,” Drisko said.

At Gorham High School, Drisko was frequently in the hallways and recognized a multitude of students personally. “I try to know names,” he said. “It’s important to keep up chatter in the infield,” said Drisko, a Red Sox fan, using baseball lingo.

Charlie Tryder, assistant principal and a former teacher at the school, said Drisko possessed the rare combination of overseeing administration while still concerned about the individual student.

“We’re happy for him,” Tryder said, but added, “We’re sad to see him go. He’ll be sorely, sorely missed.”

Hager said Drisko instituted a humanities program at Gorham three years ago. Hager said the program encouraged students, who weren’t college bound, to seek further education and help with a career path.

“He’s done great things with few tools,” Hager said.

Drisko said about 85 percent of Gorham students continue their education after graduating high school. Drisko said Gorham was identified as one of 14 high performance high schools in Maine in a University of Southern Maine study in 2007.

“I was quite pleased with that,” Drisko said.

He attributed the honor to Gorham teachers. “It’s a tremendous faculty,” Drisko said.

He also had compliments for the Gorham community. “The people here are fantastic – students, staff, faculty and parents,” Drisko said.

In a 25-year career in education, Drisko has taught in New Jersey, Falmouth and was an assistant principal at South Portland High School. He also had a position at Boston University.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Brown University and a master’s in educational leadership at the University of Southern Maine.

The Gorham school district has begun its search for Drisko’s replacement, placing ads in newspapers over the weekend.

Prep school lures principal from Gorham High

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