CAPE ELIZABETH — Unable to find the “right match” among 23 applicants, the School Board has given up its search for a permanent superintendent for the second time in two years.

Interim Superintendent Howard Colter, who retired last June from the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, has agreed to stay through the 2017-18 school year while the board considers new strategies to find a permanent replacement.

The board hired Colter for what was supposed to be one year when its first search to replace Superintendent Meredith Nadeau proved fruitless last spring. The second search, which began in January and included a deadline extension for applicants and increased recruitment, ended this month without success.

“We had some very qualified candidates,” said Elizabeth Scifres, board chairwoman. “It just wasn’t a match. It wasn’t that they weren’t qualified or they weren’t experienced.”

Cape Elizabeth is considered one of the best school districts in Maine, with a high school that’s ranked No. 2 in the state by U.S. News & World Report. It’s also one of the wealthiest communities in Maine, with a median household income of $101,068, about twice the state and national averages.

Nadeau, who had been superintendent for five years, left in June 2016 to become superintendent of the elementary and junior-senior high schools in Newmarket, New Hampshire.

In the first search to find her replacement, the board named two finalists, but both candidates withdrew from consideration.

In the second search, a screening committee made up of parents, teachers, board members and others reviewed and ranked the applicants, Scifres said in an email newsletter to the school community. An interview committee met with five candidates in early March, then the board met with three candidates for a second round of intensive interviews.

“At this point, despite thorough and exhaustive efforts from a variety of stakeholders, we have not yet found the best match for our community,” Scifres wrote. “The role of superintendent, however, demands a certain balance of experience, leadership, and synergy that is custom to the needs of each school district. It is not a one-size-fits-all job.”

Rather than force a choice, the board agreed not to choose a superintendent from the second group of applicants, Scifres said, and Colter’s willingness to stay for another year has given the board the leeway to try again.

“There’s a sense of urgency to find the right match,” Scifres said. “There isn’t a sense of urgency to force it.”

Scifres said the board is grateful that Colter has agreed to stay for another year, calling his work during the last several months “nothing short of exemplary.”

As for when the board might launch a third search, Scifres said its focus now is on passing a 2017-18 school budget with a possible $800,000 reduction in state funding.

She said the board will meet in the coming weeks to consider alternative strategies to find a permanent superintendent. The position oversees the education of 1,611 students in three schools – elementary, middle and high – and a $24.3 million annual budget.

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