WATERVILLE — Board of Education Chairperson Joan Phillips-Sandy said this week that after receiving input from parents and others, she had decided the best strategy is to search for a Waterville school superintendent instead of an assistant superintendent — and as soon as possible.

“I still believe that an assistant superintendent is good for this district,” she said. “However, I am perfectly happy to let that be the next superintendent’s call.”

Phillips-Sandy told the board, parents and educators who attended Monday night’s school board meeting she will start putting together a search committee to include no more than three board members, at least one parent or guardian, a community member, school faculty members and an administrator.

She said she discussed the search with Steve Bailey, executive director of the Maine School Management Association and executive director of the Maine School Boards Association. They discussed how if it does not produce a strong candidate, it would be reopened.

“We don’t settle,” Phillips-Sandy said. “I’m not willing to settle.”

She said she will head up the committee and board member Greg Bazakas will be a member. Board members Maryanne Bernier and Pat Helm have also expressed interest in serving on the panel.


Superintendent Eric Haley, who has been in the job 21 years, has said he plans to retire this year. He recommended to the board recently an assistant superintendent be hired whom he and others could mentor so the person could move into the superintendent’s job when Haley, 67, retires.

Last week, however, several parents asked the Board of Education to gather more input from parents, teachers, business people and others on what type of person should be hired as the city’s superintendent, with some saying the focus should be on hiring a superintendent, not an assistant superintendent.

The Board of Education makes the final decision on such hires.

Bazakas said Monday the board must decide what kind of search committee should be in place, how members should be recruited and what the community and district need in a superintendent.

Bazakas and Bernier again stressed the need for community input. Board member Pam Trinward said the superintendent’s position can be advertised immediately, and people are welcome to provide input at board meetings.

Phillips-Sandy said that to some extent a superintendent’s job description is determined by state statute. Bazakas asked if she would consider forming the search committee by soliciting letters of interest from those wanting to be on the committee. Phillips-Sandy said she would look at letters, but added, “Here’s the thing. A camel is a horse designed by a committee. I need our committee to be a horse, not a camel.”


Few candidates tend to apply for open superintendent positions, according to Haley and Bailey.

At last week’s meeting, Bailey said six or seven candidates typically apply for an available superintendent job. The average tenure nationally for a school superintendent used to be five years, according to Bailey. It is now 2.8 years.

Waterville for many years employed an assistant superintendent, the last being Peter Thiboutot, now superintendent of Winslow schools. Thiboutot was assistant superintendent for Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which included Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro.

That structure, whose superintendent was Haley, was dissolved in 2018 after nine years, and Winslow hired Thiboutot as superintendent. Waterville went back to being Waterville Public Schools, with Haley continuing as superintendent, and no assistant.

Waterville parent Carrie LeVan thanked the board Monday for taking the public’s input into consideration and asked the board to contact community partners, such as the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce or Colby College, to see if they would help fund a superintendent search.

LeVan said the success of the city’s school district is critical to businesses and colleges in their own recruitment processes.

“I think that there is some incentive for them to help provide some of those resources if you ask,” she said.

In other matters, following an executive session the board voted 7-0 to approve the superintendent’s contract for $148,444, plus whatever is negotiated in the next administrator’s contract. Bazakas made the motion. Trinward seconded it.

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