EDWARD MCDONOUGH, RSU 5’s future superintendent, is shown during Wednesday’s board meeting in Freeport.

EDWARD MCDONOUGH, RSU 5’s future superintendent, is shown during Wednesday’s board meeting in Freeport.

FREEPORT

Regional School Unit 5 has named its new superintendent. Edward McDonough was unanimously chosen Wednesday by the RSU board.

McDonough is currently the superintendent of schools for the Portsmouth, N.H., school department, a role he has had since 2009. He will finish the school year there before coming to the RSU.

Previously, he served for 17 years in the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District, where he worked as a teacher and coach before becoming Wells High School principal. He later became assistant superintendent and then superintendent at the CSD.

McDonough said he was a good fit for the district, noting the student population particularly at Freeport High School.

“I think a high school of 500 is perfect. I’m currently working in Portsmouth where it’s 1,100. I think the scale is perfect for me,” said McDonough in an interview after the board’s decision.

He added: “I think it’s a good district. The program that goes on at the high school, where they value the arts, the athletics, the academics — it aligns well with what’s important to me.”

McDonough is coming to an RSU that is trying to find a sense of unity after Freeport residents in November voted narrowly against withdrawing from the unit it shares with Durham and Pownal.

McDonough told reporters he could “affect some positive change” in his role. He said he would spend his initial time in the district listening to various stakeholders to get a feel for the needs of the unit.

“It was a long process, looking back now,” said RSU 5 Board Chairman Nelson Larkins. “We had a ton of candidates. We had excellent candidates. He rose right to the top.”

A superintendent search committee had reviewed 26 applications. Out of six candidates interviewed by that committee, four were reviewed by the RSU board earlier this month in closed session. Names of the candidates were not divulged owing to confidentiality, because there were candidates still working for other employers.

Although they were part of the search committee’s timeline, site visits by the candidates weren’t conducted in order to expedite the process. However, McDonough said he doesn’t feel like he’s coming into the RSU sight unseen, and will be making frequent visits to the RSU’s schools.

“As things progress, I’m going to slowly transition in,” said McDonough.

Larkins said on Tuesday that he had been in contract negotiations with the finalist since Feb. 5.

On Wednesday, Larkins also praised the work of the search committee and their consultant, Ronald Barker, former executive director of the Maine School Superintendents’ Association.

“We are extremely grateful to the committee for its diligent work and valuable contributions,” Larkins said, reading from a prepared statement. “Ed McDonough is an outstanding educator and experienced administrator. We are confident that his leadership will move RSU 5 forward to even higher levels of achievement.”

McDonough, who signed his contract with the RSU on Wednesday directly after the board’s vote, will assume his duties in August. He succeeds Michael Lafortune and William Michaud who have been co-superintendents since July 2014, after Shannon Welsh, who served for five years as the RSU’s first superintendent, resigned.

Michaud congratulated the board on its choice.

A New Hampshire native, McDonough holds degrees from Suffolk University and the University of Maine and a Juris Doctor from Franklin Pierce Law Center.

He said he will continue to commute from his home in Wells at least in the near future.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. I’m excited about it,” McDonough said. “I’ve been a superintendent of schools for 13 years, so I have a good sense of what the job entails. For me, it’s all relational. It’s about meeting new people, understanding what the needs and opportunities are, and working together with folks to move a district forward.”

As reported in the Portsmouth Herald on Wednesday evening, McDonough in a press release said he had “mixed emotions” regarding leaving his current job.

“I leave behind a high performing district dedicated to ensuring the growth of every student. I am proud of the good work we have achieved together and I am confident the district will continue to improve under the leadership of the school board,” McDonough was quoted.

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