The Brunswick School Board appointed former Kate Furbish Elementary School Vice Principal Annie Young to the interim principal role Wednesday evening, a move that Superintendent Phil Potenziano said would help insulate the district from staffing shortages currently challenging other Maine school systems.

“Ms. Young’s commitment and really her dedication to the students, the faculty and the families of Kate Furbish and the greater Brunswick community is unwavering,” Potenziano said. “We’re really fortunate to have her as an interim principal for the 22-23 school year, and I think she’ll hit the ground running.”

Potenziano said Young, who has over 20 years of education experience, including five in the district, was the best candidate to lead Brunswick’s pre-K through second grade school after the departure of former principal Steve Ciembroniewicz in July. Yet he also said a shortage of school administrators across Maine and the United States had motivated him to try to fill the position internally.

“Nationwide, they’re certainly seeing a reduction in the workforce, particularly in school administration, from superintendency to principalship,” he said. “If you look at any of the school systems down south of us, many of them have recently either gone through an administrative turnover or they’re in the process of searching.”

Portland Public Schools is currently among a number of districts struggling to fill administrative roles, according to a report from the Portland Press Herald. At least 11 Portland administrators have announced plans to leave the district in the current school year.

“The ‘help wanted’ signs in nearly every storefront are emblematic of the current labor market, and education is no different,” Eric Waddle, Kittery superintendent and president of the Maine School Superintendents Association, wrote in a statement. “MSSA is currently surveying Maine superintendents to gauge the level of vacancies.”


The difficulty finding administrators is the product of a larger nationwide educator shortage, according to Penny Bishop, dean of the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development.

“I get calls and emails regularly from administrators across the state looking for teachers,” Bishop said. “It is a huge issue. I would even say it’s reached crisis proportions.”

The number of teachers completing educator preparation programs in Maine declined by 53% between 2010 and 2018, according to a 2019 report from the nonprofit Center for American Progress.

The pandemic sparked a wave of early retirements and teacher burnout, leaving districts to scramble for teachers, administrators and support staff, despite bumps to minimum teacher salaries, Bishop said.

Some teacher’s aides, usually known in Maine as educational technicians, have earned emergency or conditional teaching certification to help fill teaching vacancies, according to Bishop. But this has left a new need for ed techs at a time when support staff are most needed.

“It was a critical role before the pandemic,” Bishop said. “When you consider the mental and behavioral health issues of students today, it’s simply not possible for one teacher to meet all of those needs at a high level.”

Brunswick School Department currently has 31 job openings listed on its online portal, including six ed tech roles. While filling vacancies has been more challenging than in years past, Potenziano said the district has already made several hires and expects to finalize more in the coming weeks, thanks in part to the competitive salaries included in the district’s new teacher contracts.

Young, who said the narrow age range of Kate Furbish’s students make it an attractive destination for educators interested in young children, agreed the school is in a strong position to avoid the worst of the teacher shortage.

“A lot of people want to teach in Brunswick,” she said. “If you love young students, this is a place where you want to be.”

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