WATERVILLE — Longtime educator Justin Keleher of Bowdoin has been named the special education director for the Waterville Public Schools.

Justin Keleher of Bowdoin has been named the special education director for the Waterville Public Schools. Contributed photo

Schools Superintendent Peter Hallen announced the hire to staff members Wednesday morning, following the Waterville Board of Education’s unanimous vote to approve Keleher, who is scheduled to begin in the position Monday.

“Justin has built the reputation as an empathetic, purposeful leader with a strong, working knowledge of special education law and expertise in budget management,” Hallen wrote Wednesday in a letter to school staff members. “His propensity to wear NY Yankees garb aside, I’m excited to welcome him to our team!”

Keleher said he looks forward to his new role.

“I am very appreciative and excited to begin working with the Waterville Community,” he wrote in an email. “I am looking forward to building positive relationships with staff, students and families.”

Keleher fills a position held for more than three years by Tabatha King, who has worked in special education for more than 20 years. She has taken a position of  dean of students at Albert S. Hall School in Waterville. In that position, Hallen said, she will focus on working with student behaviors to help minimize disruptions and support teachers and families. Hallen said King’s work for the school system has been outstanding.


“Our careers in Waterville started almost at the same time, and I doubt there is anyone from whom I’ve learned more about the importance of empathy and advocacy for the children and families in our community that need it most,” Hallen wrote in the letter to staff members.

Keleher has worked in special education for 17 years, the last 11 as a special education administrator. For the past seven years, he has been director of special services for Regional School Unit No. 1, based in Bath. Most recently, Keleher worked for the Lewiston Public Schools and Maine Child Development Services, Hallen said.

Keleher began his career as a special education teacher and behavioral specialist at The Spurwink School, at Brunswick Junior High School and in RSU 1, according to Hallen.

Keleher earned a bachelor’s degree in history, focusing in U.S. politics, at the State University of New York at Potsdam, and a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Maine. He is enrolled as a doctoral candidate in the University of the Cumberlands Educational Leadership Program and holds a certificate of advanced graduate studies from the University of New England.

He is certified through the Maine Department of Education as special education administrator, with a renewal date in 2029.

Ellen Whitcomb, a former special education director for the Waterville Public Schools, is expected to work with Keleher during the transition period. They will cover administrative duties while Keleher spends time at city schools, getting to know the students, staff members and programs, Hallen said.

A search committee began working in mid-December to find a new special education director for the city’s public schools.

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