WATERVILLE — The Waterville Board of Education voted 6-0 on Monday night to hire the Maine School Management Association to help with the search for a school superintendent to succeed Eric Haley, who plans to retire this year.

Board member Spencer Krigbaum made a motion to spend up to $5,000 to start the process, which, all total, could cost up to $18,000, depending on the extent of MSMA services the board decides to use. Pamela Trinward seconded his motion.

Steve Bailey, executive director of the Maine School Management Association, addresses the Waterville Board of Education on Monday night, including an explanation of services the Augusta-based organization offers to help with superintendent searches. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

The vote came after almost 90 minutes of board discussion and a presentation by Steve Bailey, executive director of Augusta-based MSMA. The presentation included a menu of services the association offers.

Krigbaum noted in his motion that part of the $5,000 could be used for a search committee workshop that would include confidentiality training for those involved in the hiring process; virtual listening sessions to attract participation by a wide range of people; a public survey; development of online and print advertisements and online job posting; a premium job advertisement that would include components to attract diverse applicants; correspondence with candidates; application material development; and creation of a search webpage.

Board of Education Chair Joan Phillips-Sandy, who is to head up the search committee, announced she had chosen members for that 13-member panel.

“We have a committee and I am very excited about that committee that we have,” she said. “I had a lot of sleepless nights trying to get this right.”


Board of Education members Greg Bazakas and Patricia Helm are to serve on the committee, and Phillips-Sandy has also chosen Jennifer Allen, coordinator of curriculum, titles (funding) and professional development for Waterville Public Schools; Luke Brooks-Shesler, the parent of two children at George J. Mitchell School and a member of Waterville Elementary Schools Parent Teacher Organization; Steven Diaz, chief medical officer for MaineGeneral Health and medical director for Waterville Public Schools; Ciara Hargrove, a teacher and choral director for Waterville Senior High School and Waterville Junior High School; Tabatha King, Waterville schools special education director; Christina LaChance, an educational technician II at the high school; Cathy Lovendahl, a teacher at Albert S. Hall School; Paula Pooler, the schools’ finance director; Waterville Junior High School Principal Don Roux; and Deb Strout, Waterville schools’ family engagement coordinator.

Bailey, also executive director of the Maine School Boards Association, outlined services MSMA offers to help with superintendent searches, including advertising, processing applications, administrative and clerical support, consultation and guidance, development of interview questions and training for those involved in the hiring process.

The Board of Education can add more services as the search process continues, thus increasing the cost to use MSMA. Bazakas said the Board of Education and search committee should not underestimate the amount of work in hiring a superintendent and said the association’s costs are not high.

“I know it’s a lot of money,” he said, “but I think we can find that money in our budget, and I think it’s money well spent.”

Haley, 67, has been the superintendent of schools in Waterville for 21 years, and recommended a few weeks ago the board hire an assistant superintendent whom he and others could mentor so the assistant could move into the superintendent’s job upon Haley’s retirement.

But several parents asked the board to gather more input from parents, teachers, businesspeople 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. Phillips-Sandy said that after hearing the input, she decided the best route would be to search for a superintendent, although she still thinks having an assistant superintendent would benefit the district.

At the Feb. 7  Board of Education 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 AOS 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 superintendent.

Following an executive session Feb. 14, the board voted 7-0 to approve the superintendent’s contract for $148,444, plus what is negotiated in the next administrator’s contract.

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