Superintendent Ted Sharp is bound for China to lead a private school in Beijing.

Theodore “Ted” Sharp, retiring after 11 years as Gorham’s school superintendent, will be half a world away next month, but he won’t be leaving the field of education.

Sharp, 73, has been hired to run a private school in China’s capital, Beijing.

This spring, he accepted the position with the title “head of school” at Bejing City International School, and he flies out July 14 to tackle his new duties for two years. He’ll oversee a staff of about 200.

Gorham is losing three top-level educators who are retiring this month with a total of 117 years of experience.

Sharp will be replaced by Heather Perry, who moves over from Regional School Unit 3 in Unity beginning July 6

Retiring Great Falls Elementary School Principal Jane Esty will be succeeded by her assistant, Rebecca Fortier; and retiring Narragansett Elementary School Principal Polly Brann will be replaced by Cynthia Remick, principal of Hall Elementary School in Portland.

“The hardest part of leaving is leaving the people,” Sharp said in his office at Gorham Municipal Center on Tuesday, his last day of duty in Gorham. “I love it here, Gorham is a wonderful town.”

Sharp lauded the school staff and Gorham School Committee people. He had announced his retirement as Gorham superintendent last August and he was soon contacted by search firms, extending offers that included the one in China. He and his wife, Sharon, talked about the offer, “and we said, why not?”

Sharp was formally offered the position a week following his interview in Beijing in March. Since then, he stays in contact with school officials there by Skype and email.

In Gorham, Sharp’s salary this year was $140,000 but, in Beijing, he’ll earn double that figure. He and his wife will live a 10-minute walk from the school’s campus.

Sharp has visited China several times. But his wife, a retired teacher, has never been there, he said, although they both have traveled overseas extensively.

Amenities the Beijing school will provide the Sharps include a fully furnished, four-bedroom townhouse; a maid-cook; and a Chrysler with leather upholstery and a chauffeur at his disposal.

Sharp has met his driver, a man he referred to as Mr. Liu, and said he doesn’t speak English. But Sharp’s secretary at the school speaks English fluently and has a master’s degree.

The Sharps, who live in Cumberland Foreside, have three children and four grandchildren. They plan to return from China to Maine for vacations.

“They fly us first class a couple times a year,” Sharp said about the perks granted by the school.

Sharp said the school’s enrollment is 1,200 students, with 60 percent of the student body Chinese. Ages range from toddler to students in Grade 12. The tuition at the day school equates to $52,000 in U.S. dollars and many of the families have two or three children in the school.

“China is booming,” Sharp said.

The school is located in the embassy and financial district in Beijing. Many of his students will be children of diplomats.

He described the campus as beautiful, with three libraries, two turf fields and an Olympic pool.

The children and staff are “western dressed,” Sharp said, and the school has a dress code, but doesn’t require jackets and ties. Sharp will likely don his trademark, a bow tie.

Sharp said 35 nationalities are represented at the English speaking school with 15 nationalities on the faculty. He’s the sole American.

The school’s curriculum is authorized by International Baccalaureate, a foundation that provides international educational programs. Most all graduates of the school will attend colleges and universities in either the United States or United Kingdom.

The typical school day for students at the Beijing school is similar to one in Gorham. Classes at the Beijing school will begin the fourth week in August.

The school’s board of trustees has members from China, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States. Sharp told about responsibilities as head of school.

“You have final word on everything,” Sharp said, “and your final word better be good.”

Sharp takes a boatload of international experience as an educator to his new job. He once was a headmaster at the American School of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and has taught in multiple countries as a professor in the international master’s degree program at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

The well-connected Sharp also traveled when he worked for William Bennett, U.S. Secretary of Education in the President Reagan administration.

As the Gorham superintendent, Sharp traveled to China in 2006 and 2011 to establish an exchange program linking education there and Gorham. His guidance instituted a Chinese language course at Gorham High School and fostered Chinese cultural programs in other Gorham schools.

Gorham High School has a sister school in Beijing, but it’s not the one Sharp will lead.

In Gorham, Sharp guided the district through the tough financial climate that began in 2008.

“Positions were cut, but people didn’t get cut,” Sharp said. “Nobody was sent packing.”

During his tenure in Gorham, the new Great Falls Elementary School opened in 2011, shutting down the antiquated White Rock School. Sharp engineered the district’s transition to three elementary schools with kindergarten through fifth grade. All-day kindergarten also became a reality.

He also promoted a cohesive relationship with administrators and staff among the town’s scattered five schools. He pointed with pride to the code of conduct in the Gorham system.

“Kids are proud of it,” Sharp said. “It’s about all of us living that.”

Gorham Town Manager David Cole said Wednesday that he and Sharp had a “very constructive” and close working relationship.

“I thought he did a great job for the town of Gorham,” Cole said, and wished Sharp the best.

When not working, Sharp enjoys travel, Sebago Lake, and walking with his wife.

“I love to read biographies and history,” he said.

But education is his calling and the upcoming school year marks Sharp’s 51st. He said in a half century, he missed only six days and never had a sick day in his 11 years at Gorham.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said.

Principal Jane Esty: ‘Education was my destiny’

Jane Esty retires next week after 34 years, all in Gorham, as an educator.

Esty, a Gorham resident, has served as principal at the Great Falls Elementary School since it opened in 2011. Final goodbyes marked the last week for her.

Handcrafted by students, a greeting was attached to a sign on the road leading into the school on June 19, the last day. It read, “Forever Mrs. Esty,” and featured hearts.

At a retirement party the night before, Esty said, she was “overwhelmed” with kind words and well wishes.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Esty said in her office at the school. “So many memories.”

The kindergarten kids gave her a list of things she could do in retirement. The list included collecting bottle caps, driving a limo, and training to be a Ninja. “I might follow up that one,” Esty laughed.

While she’s retiring, Esty plans to continue her contribution to education, perhaps in the area of professional development.

Esty has twin, adult daughters age 29 who graduated from Gorham High School, and both are professional performing artists. She looks forward to attending their performances. Sara Esty is in the musical “An American in Paris” on Broadway and plays the lead role next month. Leigh-Ann Esty is a soloist with the Miami City Ballet.

With retirement just days away, Esty faces the chore of cleaning out her office. It contains years of files, even ones saved from when she was a classroom teacher.

Her career began in 1980 as a student teacher at the former Charlotte Millet School in Gorham Village. She said it was a quintessential elementary school with a caring staff.

“It confirmed for me that education was my destiny,” she said.

Superintendent Woody Saunders hired Esty as a fourth-grade teacher at Narragansett School when it opened in 1981 with Norman Weed as principal.

During her career, Gorham had eight superintendents.

“I have very high standards, and wouldn’t have stayed if it wasn’t a great place to be,” she said.

Esty also taught at the former Little Falls School and became an assistant principal in 1999 at Village School. Then in 2011, she was chosen to open the new Great Falls School, where some of the parents were once Esty’s students.

She praised parents, staff and teachers at Great Falls School.

“I share ownership with every person who shows up every day to make a difference for kids,” she said.

She described Great Falls as a giant family.

“It’s a balance of fun, safety and rigorous learning,” Esty said. “It’s an extraordinary community.”

Principal Polly Brann: ‘I think I have plenty to do’

Narragansett Elementary School Principal Polly Brann is stepping down after 32 years of shaping lives of students.

Brann, when asked what she’ll miss most, said the people – “little people and big people.”

She was named principal at Narragansett Elementary School in 2010 and she played an instrumental role as the school district reconfigured its system into three schools housing grades kindergarten through 5.

Brann was bid farewell with a party attended by “lots of families” at the school on June 11. She said one little boy handed her a deck of cards, as he remembered the time when his father didn’t show to pick him up at school.

“You played cards with me,” the youngster recalled.

Her 230 students produced a creative, keepsake album with touching messages. A sampling read, “I will miss you because you are the best principal ever” and “I will miss you because you always stopped bad things from happening.”

In retirement, Brann plans to stay busy volunteering.

“I would like to give back to my town of Freeport,” she said.

Family activities also promise to pack her schedule. She has five children and nine grandchildren, the youngest age 5, and Brann’s mother is 96 and still active.

Her hobbies include gardening and reading. She said her husband, Steve Brann, is a builder and an avid fisherman.

“He fishes and I read,” she said.

Brann is even interested in enrolling in classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

“I think I have plenty to do,” she said as she pulled up the institute’s curriculum on a computer in her office at Narragansett School.

In her long career in education, she spent 29 years in the Gorham district with 27 years at Narragansett School. She was hired in Gorham in 1986 and spent two years teaching at Shaw Junior High School before moving to Narragansett School as a special education teacher.

She was named assistant principal at Narragansett School in 2006 and simultaneously served as assistant principal at both Narragansett and the former White Rock School 2009-2010. She became principal at both schools in 2010.

Brann said kids are smarter now and have a lot more support.

Teaching is more demanding these days, Brann said, pointing out all the individual assessments of students and health issues that a school has to deal with.

“It is absolutely more challenging,” Brann said. “Teachers are exhausted this time of year.”

Ted SharpJane EstyPolly Brann


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