FAIRFIELD — The school board for School Administrative District 49 didn’t have to go far in its search for an interim superintendent and high school principal  to fill the vacancies left by the recent departure of Superintendent Reza Namin and Lawrence High School principal Mark Campbell. The new superintendent has worked 21 years in the district and the new principal came from just down the road at Messalonskee High School.

Dan Bowers, new principal at Lawrence High School, poses for a portrait Wednesday at Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Roberta Hersom, who served as assistant superintendent for the past two years, has been chosen as interim superintendent for the duration of the 2019-2020 school year. Dan Bowers, who has spent the last 11 years as an assistant principal at Messalonskee, will be taking over the principal’s office.

Before her tenure as assistant superintendent, Hersom worked as a teacher at Lawrence High School for nine years and served as principal of Lawrence Junior High School for 10 years. After 21 years of experience with the district she said she felt ready to move up as the interim superintendent.

“I appreciate the opportunities I have had here in the district,” Hersom said in an email exchange. “I have learned so much from these experiences. I understand the school system as an organization and most importantly, as a community.”

Hersom takes the place of Dr. Reza Namin, whose resignation took effect on Aug. 2. He served as superintendent for just one year.

Namin’s time at SAD 49 was marked with controversy starting with his divisive restructuring plans that cost the district $417,665 in administrative buyouts. Former Lawrence High School Principal Mark Campbell was the recipient of $199,825 of that buyout after his position was eliminated. He resigned in April.

Despite the tumultuous school year, Hersom has confidence the district will recover in the upcoming school year.

“Our challenges are also our opportunities,” Hersom said. “I have great confidence in our staff, and I believe that each one of us has (an) opportunity to positively contribute to our students’ success. Our collective work, while a tremendous responsibility, is incredibly rewarding.”

School Board Chairman Shawn Knox said in an email that Hersom was chosen for the position as interim superintendent for many reasons.

“Mrs. Hersom is a proven leader in our district and brings 26 years of experience in public education,” Knox said. “The board found it to be essential for the health of MSAD 49 to find a leader for interim superintendent who demonstrates strength, compassion, loyalty, vision, innovation and a collaborative approach while leading with the utmost integrity. Along with her experience of 21 years at MSAD 49, Roberta Hersom exemplifies these qualities and provides an invaluable understanding of our district’s culture and values.”

Robert Hersom was recently named interim superintendent of School Administrative District 49 in Fairfield. Hersom previously served as assistant superintendent. Contributed photo

Dan Bowers, the new principal at Lawrence High School, has been in public administration for more than 18 years.

Bowers served as assistant principal at Messalonskee High School for the past 11 years and said his passion for working with kids started when he was a young man himself.

“I used to work as a counselor at a boys camp in New Hampshire, and I just loved working with the kids,” Bowers said in an interview Wednesday.

Bowers said he has no set agenda in place to repair any fallout from the past year but will take the time to observe what the school needs in order to progress.

“I’m coming in with an open mind,” Bowers said. “I don’t have a set agenda … a cure-all … I’m just here to create stability and focus on the kids. I’m going to observe, listen and learn. Then see what we need.”

Knox said the board chose Bowers for the position because his background and experience in public education lined up with the characteristics they were searching for.

“The board found it important to find a high school principal that is a proven leader, has the willingness to be committed to students, has a clear vision of students’ educational needs, while exemplifying integrity, character and professionalism,” Knox said. “The MSAD 49 School District Board of Directors is looking forward to supporting Dan and is honored to have an individual of his caliber in this position.”

In addition to the controversy that surrounded the former superintendent’s restructuring plan and contention between him and members of the board in the last year, three school board members from Fairfield resigned and two proposed budgets have failed at referendum.

The Fairfield Town Council will address three candidates who seek to fill the town’s seats on the school board Wednesday night.

The most recent budget will face its first test at the district-wide budget meeting Aug. 29. If approved at that meeting, voters will have the opportunity to decide its fate at referendum on Sept. 12.

SAD 49 serves the towns of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

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