TOPSHAM — Dan Chuhta announced Wednesday that he would be leaving Maine School Administrative District 75 to become Maine’s deputy commissioner of education.

 MSAD 75 Interim-Superintendent Dan Chuhta has accepted the role of Maine Department of Education deputy commissioner. (Chris Quattrucci/The Times Record)

The announcement comes less than a month after Gov. Janet Mills tapped Brunswick Assistant Superintendent Pender Makin for the Department of Education commissioner post.

“The opportunity to serve and support the students, educators, and families in the entire state is one that I could not pass up,” Chuhta said in a letter. “I am hopeful that in ways yet unknown to me, I’ll be able to continue to contribute to the M.S.A.D. No. 75 community.”

MSAD 75 includes Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham.

Chuhta was in his first year as interim superintendent, taking over the leadership role after Superintendent Brad Smith’s retirement in June. Chuhta served as assistant superintendent for six years in MSAD 75 prior to being appointed to the interim role. He was a curriculum coordinator for science, technology, engineering, and math for Portland Public Schools prior to joining MSAD 75.

Within the past year, Chuhta has played a role in bringing pre-kindergarten classes to MSAD 75. He worked on the district’s pre-K task force, studying the benefits and how other districts had implemented the program. MSAD 75 introduced pre-K for the first time this year, taking in 32 students split into two classrooms.

Chuhta filled the role of interim superintendent when the Board of Directors decided in June a search for a permanent replacement needed more time. After meeting with administrators over the summer, Chuhta came into the new school year with a focus.

“As I’ve been thinking about how to communicate my priorities with my colleagues in the district, the board and the community, I’ve thought of three things,” Chuhta said at the start of the school year. “Helping students be safe, helping students be well, and helping students continue to learn.”

Student safety resonated as a priority with many in the school community. Schools in the district were targeted by five separate threats in a three-week span during the 2017-18 school year. Chuhta came in with an existing relationship with law enforcement as the former assistant superintendent. He also sought to implement a mental health task force with his goal of helping students be well in mind.

“I think we saw a different side of him as a superintendent this year,” said Board Chairwoman Kim Totten. “He’s really responsive and he really cares about the district. If he doesn’t know the answer to a question he’ll find it for you as soon as possible.”

She said she hopes a replacement will be found in advance of Chuhta’s final day on Feb. 15.

Specifics of a search for Chuhta’s replacement are unclear as the Board just received the resignation letter Tuesday. Ideally, for Totten, the new interim superintendent would have some days overlap with Chuhta before his departure.

“Since we have just begun the search for a new Superintendent, the Board will need to appoint another interim to serve our district until the process is completed,” said a Board of Directors statement Wednesday. “While this is not ideal, we have confidence in our district office and building administrators to work together in order to keep us moving forward during this transition.”

The district will maintain a timeline set prior to Chuhta’s resignation to find a new superintendent. The deadline to submit applications is Feb. 15.  An interview will committee will review the applications and conduct initial interviews before bringing two candidates before the school board. The goal is for the Board to vote on a new superintendent at a March 28 meeting if a candidate emerges.

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