Principal search reopens

MOUNT DESERT — It’s back to square one in the search for Mount Desert Elementary School’s next principal.

The lone finalist for the job withdrew from consideration March 2, just hours before the School Committee was to hold a special meeting to vote on her appointment.

Howard Colter, superintendent of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, said the position is being re-advertised. April 1 is the deadline for submitting applications.

Colter said that of the 13 people who applied for the principal’s job, the search committee interviewed six. After conducting second interviews with three candidates, the search committee recommended that one of them be hired.

Apparently, none of the other applicants were deemed right for the job.

“That pool was not terribly terrific,” School Committee member John Brown said.

He asked if it is common for the front-runner for a principal’s job to withdraw at the eleventh hour. Colter said it was somewhat unusual.

“But the process is really a two-way interview, and I think the applicant felt that the more she saw and heard, she decided it might not be a good match,” Colter said. “I actually admire that.”

Scott McFarland, who is in his 14th year as principal at Mount Desert Elementary, is retiring June 30.

Given the delay in finding someone to succeed him, Brown asked if the school committee should consider looking for someone to serve as interim principal.

“Judging by the applicants we got [the first time], I’m kind of skeptical we’re going to shake loose many new ones,” Brown said.

Colter said the pool of potential interim principals is not very deep.

“Primarily, it’s made up of retired administrators who may still have an interest in leading schools, and there aren’t that many,” he said.

Speaking from personal experience, he said, “People who do interim work know that it’s a last-minute appointment.”

School Committee Chairman Carolyn Pryor said she thinks there is still time to hire a permanent principal.

“When we set up the original schedule, we [accounted for] the possibility that if we had to do a search twice, we would still be within the time when [a candidate] would be comfortable signing a contract,” she said.

Noting that none of the original applicants for the principal’s job were from outside of Maine, she suggested that the position be advertised more widely.

Committee member Charlie Wray agreed that it should be posted on more national educational websites. He said the job should be attractive to people both in state and out of state.

“This is Mount Desert Island. We will get some external people,” he said.

Colter said he would be forming a new principal search committee. The original committee included, in addition to himself, two members of the elementary school committee and several teachers and community members, including parents.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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