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Bousquet hired as interim principal at Penquis Valley

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer
    MILO — With the recently hired principal resigning to take a position elsewhere, after being the assistant principal for two years, the SAD 41 school board voted to hire Jeremy Bousquet as interim principal of the Penquis Valley School for the 2014-15 academic year, during a meeting on July 14.
    After a lengthy discussion involving several parents on their concerns with the principal position and with the school, the vote was made to hire Bousquet with three voting “yes”, two “no” and the three other directors in attendance opting to abstain.
    Superintendent Michael Wright said Micah Grant had recently submitted his resignation as Penquis Valley principal and he felt with Bousquet “the best person was already in the system and would make an excellent candidate for what I think is the best for this school at this particular time.” He added that Bousquet will be working on an interim basis, with a decision for beyond 2015 to made in the future.

    Bousquet has been at Penquis Valley for the last eight years, serving as a teacher, coach, extra-curricular adviser and more. Wright said Bousquet recently received his master’s degree in educational leadership, and “In my opinion he is the best candidate to bring forward to you tonight.”
    “There’s a lot of issues, I hear your concerns and I’m knowledgeable about your concerns,” Bousquet said after the school board’s vote. “I look forward to serving this school moving forward. These students and this faculty is my life.
    “I have initiative. I have been in this district and I want to work for you people and for these kids.”
    Wright said just over a week before Grant submitted his resignation, which the SAD 41 directors formally accepted on the evening of July 14. In the spring they hired Grant as principal after he served as the assistant principal.
    “I can assure you this wasn’t an easy decision,” Grant said. He explained he lives an hour away from Penquis Valley and is about to become a father for the first time, and an administrative job opening up at a school — where he once taught — about three miles from his home is why he is leaving SAD 41.
    The meeting began with Theresa McMannus, joined by her husband Lee, speaking on several concerns related to their daughter’s experiences in grade 6 at Penquis Valley during the recently completed school year. “From a parental standpoint I am going to say it was a fiasco,” McMannus said.
    “When school started the schedules were a disaster,” she said, saying this problem was not resolved until the third semester. This past year was the first for sixth-graders to attend Penquis Valley, after being at the SAD 41 elementary schools previously, and McMannus said another concern stemmed from inadequate locker space, with some students having to continually carry around all of their books and school supplies.
    “Cleary the middle school was not ready to start school when it did,” she said. McMannus said she had concerns with the curriculum and behavior of students as well as the communication with announcements being made after students who walk had already exited at the end of the day.
    She gave an example of a soccer banquet being announced after her daughter had already left for the day. “She lettered and wasn’t there to be get it,” McMannus said.
    “We have already shared these concerns with Mr. Grant,” she said. McMannus said as parents they would like the board to know they “really feel we are looking at the potential for another fiasco next year.
    “I want the school board to assure us 100 percent that your nomination for principal knows how to manage schedules and how to build Common Core standards.” She said the principal also needs to be able to handle the other concerns and issues facing the middle school at Penquis Valley.
    “We all talked here about scheduling being an issue at beginning of the year that carried into the year,” Wright said, adding he was also aware of the problems with middle school lockers.
    “I heard your concerns and a lot of these are being addressed,” Grant said, as he will work with Bousquet and others to help get the school ready prior to the start of classes.
    Wright said experience isn’t at the top of the list of attributes for a principal, with initiative and drive being more important. “I would not bring a nominee here tonight if I was not sure if he was the best candidate to bring forward to this position,” he said, adding the assistant principal job was the first in administration for Grant when he was hired two years prior.
    Alyson Ade, who was joined by her husband Bob and has five children in the school system or will be entering SAD 41, said she has concerns over a principal with no previous leadership experience taking over at a school which received an F in the Department of Education’s Maine School Performance Grading System. She said the present circumstances are not the time for on-the-job training, and suggested the position be opened to find the right candidate.
    Later in the meeting Athletic Director and recently retired teacher Tony Hamlin said Bousquet is “not the first principal or administrator you have hired without experience, my question is what’s the difference?” Hamlin said Bousquet has worked under and learned from experienced leadership during his time at Penquis Valley, and has spent a considerable amount of time with the students.
    “We are making the best decision we can,” School Board Chair Don Crossman said, saying district officials can later decide to go in a different direction if needed. “I sincerely believe we heard you and I appreciate your comments.”

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