Lancia picked to head Westbrook schools

Peter Lancia, who has worked in Westbrook schools for 26 years, is the Westbrook School Committee’s choice for new superintendent of schools.

Committee Chairman Jim Violette said Lancia was chosen from a field of four candidates by a 15-member interview committee and the School Committee. He was one of two final candidates.

Pending contract negotiations, the committee will vote on Lancia’s appointment at its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 17, just a few weeks prior to the start of the 2016-17 school year.

He will replace Marc Gousse, who left the district for Mount Desert Island Regional School District after four years as Westbrook’s superintendent. Gousse was paid about $129,000.

Lancia started his career as a teacher at Saccarappa Elementary School in 1990. In 2002, he was named the Maine Teacher of the Year, and the same year was made principal of Congin Elementary School.

In 2010, Lancia took on the job of the school department’s director of teaching and learning, which has since been renamed assistant superintendent.

“He has risen through the ranks,” said Violette, also calling Lancia a “really good, solid educator.”

The superintendent interview committee included parents, administrators, teachers and support staff. They whittled down four initial candidates to the final two for the School Committee to consider. The committee conducted the final interviews last Thursday.

“After the interviews, the committee deliberated and Peter was the nominee,” Violette said, adding that it was a tough decision. “We had two great candidates.”

Through Lancia’s time in Westbrook, he has seen district growth, as well as big shifts in both local and national educational policies. Just last year as curriculum director, he ushered in a new era of proficiency-based learning standards for Westbrook, ahead of the curve of state requirements.

In June, Lancia, 49, was named Maine‚Äôs 2016 Curriculum Leader of the Year by the Maine Curriculum Leaders’ Association. He lives in Portland with his wife and three children.

Lancia said Wednesday that if named superintendent, he would bring his focus on teaching and learning to the superintendency. He said when Gousse told him he was looking at the Bar Harbor job, he began to consider pursuing the position.

“It’s my whole background,” he said about teaching and learning, adding that he also learned a lot from working with Gousse. He said he saw the superintendent position as a “new challenge” and a way that he could continue to make a difference in the department.

“I didn’t just get into this line of work because it’s a good job and I like the schedule. I got into this work to make a difference,” he said. “I really started to think about what kind of impact I could make as superintendent, and I think I have a lot to offer.”

School Committee member Veronica Bates said this week that both final candidates were “stellar,” but that Lancia’s experience as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent “has given him a unique perspective in how this district should run.”

“He is strongly committed to Westbrook and seeing the district excel,” she said. “I expect we will see a lot of positive change with Dr. Peter Lancia at the helm.”

Lancia said profiency-based learning will continue be a big focus for the department, as schools nationwide are in transition.

“I think our communities are looking to our leaders to help navigate that change,” he said, adding that as superintendent he would focus on community outreach.

A vote to appoint Lancia on Aug. 17 will mean a quick turnaround for the district. Violette said teachers and staff will arrive Aug. 29 and the first day of school is Aug. 31. Open houses for each elementary school are also being held Aug. 29.

Lancia said the last few months have been a whirlwind for the department, with key position shifts at high school principal and superintendent, and the continued school expansion discussion. Kelli Deveaux was named the new principal of Westbrook High School in July.

But, Lancia said, he’ll be ready for the upcoming school year regardless of the changes and whether he’s named superintendent.

“This community has been very good to me,” he said.

Peter Lancia