A Topsham middle school principal who has been helping his district through a grading system transition has been picked to be Regional School Unit 2’s new superintendent.

Bill Zima, who has led Mt. Ararat Middle School since 2011, will start his new job on Aug. 10. The school board confirmed his appointment unanimously Thursday. He replaces Virgel Hammonds, who left the Hallowell-based district at June’s end for a job at a national education foundation.

Zima is no stranger to the district, which also serves students in Monmouth, Richmond, Farmingdale and Dresden. He said he spent time in Hall-Dale Elementary School classrooms meeting with administrators who formed the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning, a group that supports proficiency-based education, ahead of its formation in 2011.

“It’s really exciting to kind of come full circle to be superintendent and work with the people who were doing that work,” said Zima, 49, of Portland.

His main task will be advancing a grading model that RSU 2 helped pioneer in Maine. It has transitioned fully to a proficiency-based system, which replaces traditional letter grades with standards in each subject area representing skills and concepts. On each standard, students typically get a grade of 1 to 4, with a 3 indicating proficiency.

RSU 2 board vice chairwoman Dawn Gallagher, of Hallowell, said 17 people applied for the job and seven were interviewed. Chairman Bill Matthews, of Dresden, called Zima “very articulate and very energetic.”


“He’s deeply committed to proficiency-based curriculum, which is one of our main goals and achievements at this point in RSU 2,” Matthews said.

The state of Maine wants all students graduating in 2017 to have a proficiency-based diploma. Mt. Ararat’s district, RSU 75, has begun the transition, but it’s further behind. Last year, it got an extension from the Maine Department of Education that pushed its deadline to July 2020.

Before his Mt. Ararat job, Zima was assistant principal at Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro, which moved to a standards-based report card in 2009. Before that, he was a science teacher. When he took the Mt. Ararat job, he said, middle school students already were getting standards-based report cards, but his job was to refine those standards ahead of a districtwide expansion.

“What’s nice about coming to RSU 2 is I don’t have to go to a district and get to that same point,” Zima said. “They’ve gotten to that point.”

Matthews said that finding a candidate with experience in a standards-based system was the board’s top priority, and he said Zima was considered the best candidate to lead the district’s effort to improve its model by personalizing curriculum to students’ interests and needs.

“In order for kids to want to expend that energy to want to go to that next step, that’s what it has to be about,” Zima said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652


Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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