Superintendent Candidate Informational Letter

posted Jan 7, 2016, 6:35 AM by Joshua Young

Mount Desert Island Regional School System

P.O. Box 60 Mount Desert, Maine 04660

207-288-5049 / 5040

Fax 207-288-5071

Howard Colter, Superintendent Julie Meltzer, Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Melissa Beckwith, Director of Special Services Kelley Sanborn, Director of Special Education

Dear Candidate,

This letter provides key information regarding the position of Superintendent in the MDI Regional School System so that you may ascertain if this position is a good fit for your strengths and experience.

About us: MDIRSS is an excellent school system located in a beautiful area of coastal Maine. We have a community that is very proud of the educational opportunities we provide and the performance of our students in and out of the classroom. Just as importantly, we are constantly striving to improve our K-12 educational programming. We are fortunate to have our schools served by committed high performing professionals. Their work is supported by caring and engaged school board members.  

MDIRSS is considered the premier school district for this region of Maine. The annual budget for MDIRSS - AOS 91 (this includes budgets for all 10 schools and for the central office) was just under $30,000,000 for the 2014-2015 school year. K-12 student enrollment in MDIRSS schools was 1529 last year. The total number of FTE employees is ~300 which includes approximately 200 teachers. Class size ranges from 1:3 to 1:26 depending on setting and school. [Note: One outer island school is currently closed.]

Costs are compounded to some degree by the structure of the district, which is a cooperative of nine small independent school districts. This includes a central high school which is managed as a consolidated single school district, and includes only some of the eight feeder schools. Student achievement is well above the state average but averaging of results masks discrepancies across schools and variability across students. The vast majority of high school graduates go onto further education, including many who attend highly competitive colleges. As is true throughout Maine, per student costs for small outer island schools is high.

Please see our district web page at and the accompanying brochure for more information about the MDI Regional School System.

Necessary strengths and experience: The successful candidate will have outstanding written and verbal communication skills, collaboration skills, and meeting facilitation skills and will be able to develop high quality relationships across the district. It is the responsibility of the Superintendent to be in ongoing and significant communication with all stakeholders. Because of the construct of the MDI regional school system, the superintendent regularly interacts with nine individual school boards, including an AOS Board that oversees district-wide responsibilities and staff. The Superintendent must be able to maintain a high level of credibility, integrity and transparency with all stakeholder groups: school boards, administrators, staff, teachers, community members, community partners and parents. As the primary spokesperson for the district, the Superintendent must be able to be simultaneously inclusive and well-grounded when making decisions and take responsibility for charting direction, next steps, and policy implications.

A major role of the superintendent is to support resolution of the legal and fiduciary challenges faced by school boards and school and district administrators. This includes oversight of contracts for significant capital projects and facilitation of staff, teacher and administrator contract negotiations. The successful candidate will be knowledgeable about school law, including special education law, and school finance and have experience with budget and policy development.

The position requires knowledge of current educational research and trends and significant collaboration with all key personnel.The Superintendent is ultimately responsible for all aspects of implementation of a quality educational program that exemplifies the district vision and mission and addresses the educational needs of all of our students.   

Facts of the position: This is a full time position requiring many evening meetings and regular travel by ferry to outer island schools and school board meetings. The superintendent has an executive assistant and oversees a staff of 15 people in the central office, located in one wing of MDI High School. The Executive Team is comprised of the superintendent, the director of curriculum, the director of special education, the director of student services and the business manager. The superintendent is also charged with overseeing, coaching and supporting the members of the A-Team, which is comprised of everyone on the Executive Team (except the business manager), seven principals, three assistant principals and the high school Athletic Director. Regular meetings are held with both groups. The superintendent also needs to be available for individual consultation on an as-needed basis; be involved with individual school and district budget development and defense; and carry out annual evaluations of principals and members of the Executive Team.

Educational challenges: MDIRSS K-8 school sizes vary significantly on MDI, with the mainland K-8 schools ranging from 105-396 students and outer island schools ranging from 3-38 students. The parent population is equally diverse with many professional parents working at the The Jackson Lab, MDI Biological Lab, Acadia National Park and College of the Atlantic. There is a demand for top-notch science programming, course options and opportunities for our children. There are also many families who struggle economically given the seasonal nature of employment in this area. As has been the case nationally, our district has experienced an increase in students with mental health issues and in the number of families who are requiring additional support to meet basic needs.

The transition to standards-based education requires that we guarantee opportunity to learn across all of our schools. Accomplishing this transition successfully will demand extensive examination of how we can best use personnel, time and space to meet student needs as well as how best to provide targeted embedded professional development to teachers. Simultaneous implementation of state-mandated new assessments, new teacher and principal evaluation systems and new proficiency-based diplomas is complex and strenuous.

MDI has become more and more seasonal as housing stock becomes more expensive. Individual towns view the schools as the lifeblood of their communities yet aging infrastructure and decreasing enrollment trends, along with a growing majority of taxpayers without school age children, mean that some school board members are looking for cost savings and improved program offerings through cross-school cooperation and other options. However, cost savings is limited due to each school being an independent district. Challenges include a lack of common bargaining agreements, difficulty in sharing and reassignment of personnel due to current contract terms, and independent transportation systems.

Compensation: For highly qualified candidates, the salary range is $110-130,000, depending on experience. The successful candidate for the position will be offered a multi-year contract and a competitive benefits package as well as support for relocation, if applicable.

Communication: Communication regarding the search should be with the chair of the Search Committee. I can best be reached

If you feel that your strengths match what we are seeking in an educational leader, please be in touch.

Best Wishes, wrayelec Signature.jpg

Charles G. Wray, Chair AOS-91 & Superintendent Search Committee for MDIRSS - AOS 91