WINDHAM – Although longtime Windham resident Toby Pennels, 54, has moved to Casco and stepped down from the Regional School Unit 14 School Board, the Windham native doesn’t plan to drop all of his civic commitments in the Lakes Region.

Pennels, a past president of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, will chair the Rotary’s 2014 ice-fishing derby, for instance. The retired Army colonel who served two tours in Iraq also plans to complete his second, one-year term as president of the Windham Veteran’s Association.

Pennels and his wife, Brenda, who still own their home at 20 Ward Road in Windham, have decided to move to a property with more land. On Oct. 1, they purchased a home on Mayberry Hill, after looking at properties from Augusta to Fryeburg. Pennels stepped down from the School Board in early November, concluding an 11-year tenure, and moved into his new home in Casco this past weekend.

If the couple could have located a suitably spacious property in Windham, they would have purchased it, Pennels said.

“If that had presented itself we would have jumped on it, but it didn’t,” he said. “We found a spot that we really liked, and we decided to do it.”

A 1977 graduate of Windham High School, Pennels reflected proudly on his many years on the board. He applauded the work of Superintendent Sandy Prince, whom he characterized as “totally dedicated to our district,” and noted that Newsweek had recently ranked Windham High School as one of the top 2,000 high schools in America.

Pennels also pointed to the rising number of Windham High School students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Whereas in 2008, 59 students enrolled in AP classes, in 2012, 123 students enrolled in AP classes. Prince said that Pennels had drawn attention to the AP enrollment rate in the first place.

“Toby was a kernel, or the seed, to that,” Prince said. “He mentioned that he would like to see more students in AP classes, and I really do attribute that more kids are taking AP because of his comment and insights on that. … It was an opportunity for us to turn that around.”

Pennels – who managed contract negotiations with the Sebago East Shore Education Association, the union that represents teachers in Windham and Raymond – particularly applauded teachers’ response to the severe “financial constraints” imposed after the 2008 financial crisis.

“The whole budgetary process and the willingness of our staff to deal with that, as aggravating as it can be, was just an incredible experience for me,” Pennels said.

Pennels owns and operates Penn Investment Services out of his home office. Kate Brix, another longtime board member from Windham, said that she appreciated Pennels’ agility with finances.

“I will certainly miss his financial expertise when it comes to the budget,” Brix said. “He was our recent leader for negotiating contracts and was very skillful with that.”

Mike Duffy, the business coordinator for RSU 14, was elected to the school board in 2002, as well, and has since departed.

“Toby and I came on the School Board at the same time,” Duffy said. “He’s a very dedicated member of the School Board, always very prepared, always looking out for the best interests of the students and the taxpayers. Just a great guy, and we’re gonna miss him here in Windham.”

Pennels’ three children are all graduates of Windham High. Now that his youngest has moved onto Bentley College, he said, it may be time to turn the page.

“I’m extremely proud of our school district … and where I think the school system has moved and transitioned in the 13 years of my involvement,” Pennels said. “I do think I contributed to it, and I’m proud of that.”

Toby Pennels

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