The co-principal model will continue at Deering High School after acting principals Alyson Dame and Abdullahi Ahmed were hired on a permanent basis. Portland Press Herald file photo

PORTLAND — After a nationwide search for a new principal at Deering High School, the Board of Education decided the right leadership and was already in house.

Alyson Dame and Abdullahi Ahmed Courtesy / Portland Public Schools

The board last week approved Superintendent Xavier Botana’s recommendation to hire acting co-principals Abdullahi Ahmed and Alyson Dame on a permanent basis.

James Moses, who retired as a Deering assistant principal after six years in 2015, will return to the school for his second year as acting assistant principal.

“At most schools there is a single principal, but the partnership of Dr. Ahmed and Ms. Dame worked very well for Deering. They complement each other with their strong, distinct leadership style and collaborate effectively,” board Chairman Roberto Rodriguez said just prior to the April 7 vote.

Ahmed and Dame have served as co-principals since August 2019 when then-Principal Greg Palmer was hired as superintendent for Brewer schools. Both had been assistant principals at Deering.

Dame, who prior coming to Portland was an assistant principal in Brooklyn, New York, said this past year has been transformative for her.

“I am proud of what we did together, and I think we are poised to do even more going forward,” she said.

Ahmed, who has a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Maine, joined Portland Public Schools in 2001. He taught physics and chemistry at Portland High School, science at Lyman Moore Middle School and physical science and Arabic at  Deering before becoming an assistant principal there.

“We are committed to using Portland Promise (the school district’s strategic plan) to achieve better student outcomes, make our school better, build on our strengths and face challenges together,” Ahmed said.

Rodriguez said retaining Ahmed and Dame will provide stability to the school during a time of “unprecedented changes” everyone in the district is facing due COVID-19.

“I am very happy that one thing at Deering that isn’t changing its the school’s leadership. Over the past year, the school as been in very capable hands,” Rodriguez said.

Ahmed and Dame were chosen from a field of 21 candidates from six states, Botana said. They were interviewed individually, he said, but both were open to operating in a co-principal role. The interview committee, which was made up of 23 staff, students and teachers from the school,  he said, “was given the option to choose a single candidate or continue (the co-principal) model as part of their recommendation.”

The committee’s recommendation was to continue the co-principal model.

While he would be open to it in the right circumstance, Botana said he is not looking to replicate the co-principal model in other schools.

“This very much was a marriage of the circumstance and having the right people,” he said.

“Together they reflect what we strive for in all our schools in that together they are more than the sum of their individual part. They have excelled in what we call collective efficacy,” Botana said.

School Board member Abusana “Micky” Bondo applauded the hires, calling it “a great choice.”

Rodriguez said it was a milestone moment because Ahmed is thought to be the first black principal in the state of Maine.

“A nationwide search confirmed we already had the right people for the job at Deering,” Rodriguez said.

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