Donna Wolfrom, 69, seen here in 2017 file photo, is retiring this year after three years as Cape Elizabeth superintendent. She worked for school districts in Maine for more than 30 years. File photo

Donna Wolfrom has been the superintendent for Cape Elizabeth schools for three years, but prior to that she worked for districts in Maine for 30 more.

Now, she has announced her retirement and said she has no specific plans. That’s by design, since she said she has spent so much of her career planning.

“I almost want to not plan,” she said, laughing. “I’m going to spend some time not planning.”

A New Jersey native, Wolfrom, 69, said she was teaching as early as high school, when she taught Sunday school and piano lessons.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” she said.

Wolfrom graduated from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania with a degree in English and elementary education. She would later earn a master’s degree in literature at the University of Southern Maine and a doctorate in educational leadership at the University of Maine. She first came to Maine in 1988 and spent the next 20 years working for SAD 55 in Sacopee Valley. She was a teacher, literacy specialist, curriculum director and assistant superintendent.

She also worked as an assistant superintendent in Bangor and was superintendent at RSU 38 in Readfield in 2017 when she first heard Cape Elizabeth was looking for a superintendent. The previous superintendent, Meredith Nadeau, had resigned in 2016 to take a job in New Hampshire, and the district’s interim superintendent, retired Mount Desert Island Superintendent Howard Colter, had reached out to Wolfrom to ask if she was interested in the job.

“I always felt like in a career, when a door opens, you walk through it,” she said.

It helped that the district already employed Nate Carpenter at Cape Elizabeth High School. She remembered him from her days at SAD 55, where he had worked as a teacher and a coach.

“He was very enthusiastic about the district,” she said.

Wolfrom began as superintendent in 2018, and while her tenure has been a short one, much of it has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. She said the challenge of maintaining instruction during the restrictions has been as much of a struggle for her and Cape Elizabeth as it has for any other district, but she credits the rallying of the staff and administration to work together to address the problem as being essential to getting the district and its students through the crisis.

“We have truly worked as a team to get through this,” she said.

School Board Chairperson Heather Altenburg agreed, but said Wolfrom is being too humble. The district worked as one, she said, because of Wolfrom’s leadership.

“She was a steady anchor, holding us as we moved forward,” she said.

Altenburg said Wolfrom made an effort to communicate and collaborate with other administrators in a way that she hadn’t seen previously.

“She really connected everybody that much more,” Altenburg said.

Even the annual budget process, Altenburg said, was easier thanks to Wolfrom’s organization. She said she still remembers the first time she saw a budget Wolfrom had put together.

“I was like, ‘OK, this makes so much more sense,'” Altenburg said.

Wolfrom will be finishing the current school year on June 30 and wants to spend time with her family. She has grandchildren in Montana and Vermont, a son in Montana and a daughter in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She currently lives in an apartment in Cape Elizabeth, but is looking forward to spending time at a home she owns on Annabessacook Lake in Monmouth.

The district announced earlier this month that Assistant Gorham Superintendent Christopher Record will be succeeding Wolfrom. He begins on July 1.

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