Paul Penna retired this week from his post as superintendent of SAD 6 schools. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Bonny Eagle Superintendent Paul Penna retired this week, wrapping up a 37-year career in education that included six busy years leading SAD 6.

During his tenure, Penna was everywhere, with his days typically beginning at 5 a.m. He regularly visited elementary classrooms in the far-flung district that includes Buxton, Frye Island, Hollis, Limington and Standish. He rode school buses. On stormy days in the winter, he would head out on country roads himself to see if conditions warranted school cancellation.

He also stopped by cafeterias to serve lunch to students and once was scolded by the kitchen manager because his scoops of macaroni and cheese were too big, he said.

“I’m going to enjoy retirement,” the 66-year-old Penna said last Friday at district headquarters in Buxton.

Clay Gleason, moving up from principal at Hollis Elementary School, succeeds Penna as superintendent as of Friday, July 1.

The district has 3,600 students in eight schools and 750 employees. Its 40 school buses travel 5,000 miles daily – “it’s like a metro department,” Penna said.


School Board Chairperson Nathan Carlow, who attended Bonny Eagle High School when Penna was principal there, gives Penna an A+ for his years as superintendent.

“He was a truly transformational leader, and he never lost sight of our mission to help every child reach their full potential,” Carlow said.

Penna picked up the reins after the previous superintendent resigned in 2016 amid a public outcry over a nepotism allegation.

After serving as interim superintendent, he was named superintendent in March 2017.

“Mr. Penna became superintendent during a challenging time for our district, and through clear and transparent communication he was very successful at rebuilding the trust that was lost,” Carlow said.

Former SAD 6 Board Chairperson Trevor Hustus, also a former BEHS graduate while Penna was principal, agrees.


“Under his leadership, our district has navigated some truly tumultuous times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hustus said. “No matter what was thrown at him, Paul never lost sight of what truly matters: the kids.”

When Penna was named interim superintendent, Hustus said he told the board that “Paul was the most dedicated educator I’ve ever met with a vision to provide all students with the best education possible.”

“He has certainly lived up to these words,” Hustus said, “and I am grateful for the countless hours he has spent in service of our community.”

Penna said his biggest challenge was creating pride in the district.

His attire often included something green and white, the school colors.

“I was proud of being a superintendent,” Penna said. “If you want to be seen as a leader, you have to act like a leader. You have to earn respect.”


Carlow said Penna listened to student concerns and seriously considered their feedback before making big decisions.

“His dynamism and approachability earned him the trust, respect and admiration of the student body,” Carlow said.

During his retirement, Penna will keep busy. He enjoys hiking, biking and has a gym in his Windham home. He’ll also keep an eye out for opportunity.

He recently turned down an offer to go to Vietnam to counsel students planning to attend colleges in the United States. That was inviting, he said, but with his family in mind, it was too far away. He and his wife have two children and two grandchildren.

Penna said he will miss a lot of people in the Bonny Eagle district and he said his career was a great experience.

“You gotta love what you do,” he said.

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