Tim Matheney will be the next superintendent of South Portland Public Schools, replacing Ken Kunin, who is retiring in June. Matheney’s contract begins July 1. Courtesy photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — Timothy Matheney, founder and president of the Spire Leadership Group in Philadelphia, will start as superintendent of South Portland Public Schools on July 1.

Matheney is replacing Superintendent Ken Kunin, who announced last fall that he is retiring in June.

The board of education unanimously approved Matheney to the position on April 1, welcoming him to the South Portland school community.

According to a written statement from the school district, “(Matheney) started his education career in 1989 as a high school social studies teacher and department chair at St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio. From 2004 to 2012, Matheney served as principal of one of New Jersey’s largest schools – South Brunswick High School – with nearly 3,000 students. During his tenure, the school was designated a National School of Character and named to Newsweek’s list of Best American High Schools.

“From 2012-2015, Matheney held two senior leadership posts for the New Jersey Department of Education. He oversaw 14 at-risk districts as chief intervention officer and served as the chief architect of New Jersey’s educator evaluation system that is still in use today.”

Matheney founded the educational consulting organization Spire Leadership Group in 2017, according to the company’s website.

During the school board meeting on April 1, Matheney said he is excited to begin working with the schools in July.

“I’m deeply humbled by the trust you are placing in me to lead this great school district,” Matheney said. “I’m looking forward to working with the board, the educators in South Portland, the students and the support staff who make great things happen on a daily basis.

“I particularly want to thank Superintendent Kunin and the teachers of South Portland who have persevered with great determination during arguably the most trying time for education in our nation’s history.”

Matheney is ready to work on a number of the district’s priorities, he said, including the middle school construction project as well as identifying and addressing the impact of the pandemic on students.

“Our students will have a variety of needs, whether it’s academic support, mental health resources, or just readjusting as we return full in-person learning,” he said. “I am deeply committed to working with our great staff to ensure that our students’ needs are met.”

Equity is one of his main focuses, Matheney said.

“For the three decades of my career, from my initial days as a high school teacher to my current work to expand educational opportunities in Philadelphia for some of our nation’s poorest school children, equity has long shaped my priorities,” Matheney said. “Admittedly, I have had a different array of life experiences from many students in South Portland, whether they were born in Angola, the Congo, Colombia, or the coast of Maine.”

A deep respect for others regardless of differences in life experiences and a belief that schools must serve as welcoming places for students to unlock and expand their potentials are two of his key values, he said.

“I look forward to building on all the efforts of South Portland educators thus far to ensure that our schools are a second home to our students, as it was for me when I was growing up,” Matheney said. “I feel it’s important to note that the last 12 months have been deeply challenging not only because of the pandemic, but also because of our urgent collective dialogue since last May over inclusion and racial justice in our country.

“This national reflection, much of it led by young people, is but one stop on a long overdue but significant journey as a nation. Please know that I am committed to that journey as your superintendent. Yes, we will continue to talk with each other and learn together but we will also act.”

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