Lauren Arnold headshot

Lauren Arnold will start July 1 as Gardiner Area High School principal. Arnold will replace Chad Kempton who served in the role for about 20 years. Submitted photo

GARDINER — The school board has hired Lauren Arnold to replace longtime beloved Principal Chad Kempton, who will resign from his role at the end of this school year. 

Arnold, 32, was hired unanimously by the Maine School Administrative District 11 board of directors Tuesday night in an emergency meeting. She will start in the role on July 1 and will be paid an annual salary of $114,584. 

Kempton’s resignation came as a surprise to many when it was announced at the March 3 school board meeting. He served as Gardiner Area High School principal for about 20 years and has been working in the district for 25 years.  

In his resignation letter to Superintendent Pat Hopkins, Kempton said he wanted to “thank the board for the opportunities (I) have been provided through the past 25 years.” 

Almost tearful at the meeting, Hopkins said Kempton’s replacement would have “big shoes to fill.” 

She recalled a time in her first couple of years in the district, when she would walk through the hall with Kempton at the high school, and students would stop her and tell her that Kempton is the reason they chose to go through with graduating. 


“For students to recognize that and bring that to my attention, shows who he is and what he is. Replacing him will be hard to do,” Hopkins said at the board meeting. 

Arnold is currently assistant superintendent and director of the Western Maine Remote Academy, which is a virtual program for eligible students in grades K-8 that started in 2021 and is offered through the Western Maine Regional Service Center. The online-only learning program is closing operations at the end of this school year, she said. 

Arnold acknowledged filling Kempton’s role and said that she wants to “hold the traditions and things that are important to the community at heart.” She said the staff in MSAD 11 is experienced and she admires the “strong leadership” of Hopkins and the director of curriculum and instruction, Angela Hardy.  

“I’m not looking (to) come in and make big changes, I want to support and start to learn and get to know the staff and how they operate,” Arnold said. “It’s important to learn what’s important to schools and traditions as a community.” 

Gardiner Area High School Principal Chad Kempton, left, fist-bumps valedictorian Brett Palmer after introducing him to speak during the high school graduation ceremony June 11, 2022, at the Augusta Civic Center. Kempton is resigning from the role at the end of this school year. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Among some of her other goals as principal, Arnold cited helping students be prepared for their future beyond high school in the workforce. She also said she wants to pay attention to students’ evolving needs in the areas of learning gaps from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Times are changing and it’s important to listen to the kids and see what they need and have student-led discussions on what their experience is and what the resources are (that) they need to be successful and how we can help them,” she said.  

Arnold received her bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Maine and her master’s degree in school leadership from St. Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish. She taught high school French at Erskine Academy in South China and coached girls’ soccer and boys’ and girls’ tennis until 2019. She then served various administrative roles before her current role at the Western Maine Remote Academy. 

She lives in Palermo with her husband and 2-year-old son.

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