CAPE ELIZABETH — The part-time special education director for Acton schools and the Fiddlehead Charter School in Gray has been hired as the School Department’s full-time director of special services. 

Delbert Peavey signed a one-year probationary contract for just over $102,000, Superintendent of Schools Donna Wolfrom said. 

His hiring follows the department’s decision not to extend the contract of the previous special education director, and comes on the heels of a lawsuit that accuses the School Department of neglecting the special needs of a former student.

Peavey’s start date is to be determined, since he’s still under contract with Fiddlehead and Acton, but in a July 23 interview he said he expects to start in at least a part-time capacity by late August. 

“The two part-time jobs are two very small schools. That has worked out relatively well,” Peavey said. “The only reason I didn’t continue with the part-time positions is that one of them does not provide access to Maine state retirement, which is something that’s important to me. … I was looking for one, full-time position, which would work and support my retirement.”

Further, Peavey added that he’s heard great things about Cape Elizabeth schools, and specifically the administration and Special Education Department. 

“Cape Elizabeth has a great reputation as far as providing services to their students and meeting the students needs,” he said. 

Peavey, who lives in Raymond with his wife, Elizabeth, has also been a special-ed director for School Administrative District 11 in Gardiner and assistant director in SAD 52 (Turner), after working as a therapist in the Lewiston School Department. 

He holds a a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of New England and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Southern Maine.

“As far as special education administration, I see that position as being (responsible for) supporting students needs (and) advocating for students,” Peavey said, noting that he hopes to bring a “student-centered philosophy” to the district. 

Forming positive relationships with staff and administrators is going to be one of his first priorities, he said.

Some staff members criticized administration for a high turnover in leadership after the contract of former Special Education Director Jessica Clark was not renewed.

Clark’s two-year probationary contract, which she signed in July 2016, allowed the School Department to evaluate whether she was a suitable fit before offering permanent employment. After learning her contract was not extended, Clark on March 1 submitted her resignation, effective June 30.

Clark said she was never given a reason for the School Department’s decision.

Peavey said he could not speak about what happened to his predecessor, but said it will be “really important” for him to build strong relationships with everyone in the School Department, from students and parents to staff and administrators. 

He said he looks forward to working with Wolfrom, who was hired for the 2018-2019 school year late last year.  

“She was a big part of me accepting the position,” Peavey said. “We had some great conversations and our philosophies really do align.”

Wolfrom said on July 23 that, while the number of applicants interviewed for the position is confidential, the department had “quite a few” candidates.

“(Peavey) stood out with his commitment to building relationships with students, parents, and staff; his dedication to providing students with appropriate supports, and with his knowledge of state and federal special education laws and regulations,” she said. “We are looking forward to having him join us as soon as possible.”

School Board Chairwoman Susana Measelle Hubbs gave a nod to Peavey’s experience in various realms of special education. 

“(He) brings a strong balance between serving as a director of special services and several years spent working directly with students and all education staff,” Measelle Hubbs said. “This balance of experience has provided Mr. Peavey with a unique ability to provide sensitivity and perspective that encompasses not only what is best for students receiving services, but what will provide the best learning and teaching environment for all.”

In addition to the discontent that followed Clark’s release this year, the School Department is being sued in U.S. District Court by the parents of a former student who claim the schools didn’t properly respond to their daughter’s psychological disabilities.

That student was voluntarily removed from Cape Elizabeth High School after grade 11 and completed her education at two private institutions.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.