Principal search names a finalist

SOUTHWEST HARBOR – The search for a new principal at the Pemetic Elementary School appears to be over. The School Committee next week is to consider hiring a former Pemetic student to head the town’s K-8 school.

Rhonda Fortin of Cumberland Center is the top choice out of the 12 applicants for the job by both school system Superintendent Marc Gousse and the 11-member search committee.

Final approval of Fortin is expected to come at an April 12 meeting of the Southwest Harbor School Committee.

Fortin is one of two assistant principals at the Westbrook Middle School, which has 800 students in grades five through eight. She has been in that position since 2013. Her 22-year career in education included stints as math teacher and math department chairman at Westbrook High School. In 2006, the Westbrook school department named her its teacher of the year.

Fortin would replace Cathy Lewis, who began working as interim principal in July 2015 and agreed to stay on through the 2016-2017 school year.

According to Gousse, the search committee interviewed three of the 12 candidates.

“Rhonda was the only individual to advance to round two with unanimous support of the search committee,” he said.

The School Committee met with Fortin in executive session Tuesday at Harbor House in Southwest Harbor.

“They wanted an opportunity to informally meet and greet,” Gousse said.

That interaction prompted committee members to schedule the meeting next week to consider formal approval of Fortin.

Fortin grew up in Southwest Harbor, attended Pemetic and graduated from Mount Desert Island High School in 1982. She then attended the University of Maine in Orono, graduating in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. She received a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of New Hampshire in 2007, a certificate in advanced studies in education leadership from the University of Southern Maine in 2012 and a mathematics leadership certificate from the University of Maine at Farmington in 2014.

Gousse, before coming to the Mount Desert Island Regional School System in July 2016, was superintendent for the Westbrook School Department. He said he is “very familiar” with Fortin but did not advocate for her during the search process.

“I gave this a very wide berth,” he said. “I didn’t recruit her.”

Fortin said by phone Wednesday that she is excited to be returning to her hometown, something she and her husband had planned to do when their two sons finished college. One son is still in school, but when the Pemetic job opened, those plans changed.

“I’m very excited about the prospect of being back in Southwest Harbor and working with the staff and the community,” she said.

As assistant principal at Westbrook, she is in charge of two grades, which she follows through their time at the school. This year, those students are in the fifth and seventh grades.

Fortin said she hopes to continue the educational leadership and school atmosphere set by Lewis during her tenure.

“We’ve been in touch with one another,” Fortin said. “We’re working together to make it a smooth transition.”

If the School Committee approves of hiring Fortin next week, she would begin the job on July 1.


Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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