Penna named SAD 6 superintendent

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Paul Penna named SAD 6 superintendent Monday.

Paul Penna named SAD 6 superintendent Monday.

Paul Penna

Raising hands high, the SAD 6 School Board unanimously supports Paul Penna for superintendent.

In the background on right at head of table is Assistant Superintendent Michael Roy.

BUXTON — The MSAD 6 School Board Monday unanimously named Paul Penna to lead the district.

Penna, the previous Bonny Eagle High School principal, was appointed the school district’s superintendent 12-0 (Rebecca Bowley absent). Penna’s appointment becomes effective Tuesday, March 21.

An elated Penna, speaking from the public podium, thanked the School Board for the opportunity. “I’m incredibly humbled,” Penna said. “My passion has always been with students.”

Penna was elevated from interim superintendent. “We are pleased to have Paul Penna continuing in the position of superintendent of MSAD 6 schools,” Lester Harmon of Hollis, chairman of the board said in a press release.

The appointment of Penna drew applause from the public gallery of mostly teachers and administrators.

School Board member Todd Delaney of Standish said Penna has passion and dedication. A student representative on the board, Trevor Hustus, a high school senior, said Penna is kind and travels through the district on a daily basis.

The five SAD 6 towns are Buxton, Frye Island, Hollis, Limington and Standish. The school district has operated with interim superintendents since Frank Sherburne resigned last spring over a controversial nepotism allegation that stemmed from the school district hiring Sherburne’s son as an educational technician at Buxton Center Elementary School.

The School Board’s decision for an internal search to fill the permanent superintendent’s position included hiring a consulting firm. The SAD 6 search produced only one applicant – Penna.

Harmon said at Monday’s School Board meeting the district had multiple, qualified and certified educators. Harmon cited a timeline for the search.

“The board chose to follow through with the process to best serve this community and our district,” Harmon said. “This decision came knowing they did not have to have a process at all.”

But the process led to Phil Pomerleau of Standish resigning from the SAD 6 School Board.

Harmon announced Pomerleau’s resignation in Monday’s School Board meeting. “Stemming from this there have been a lot of questions and inquiries pertaining to the superintendent search in our district,” Harmon said.

Pomerleau, a former Standish town councilor,  said in an interview Tuesday that he supported Penna. “I faulted the process as led by veteran School Board members,” he said.

Pomerleau’s resignation letter said the public was deceived with a search process when, he appeared to assert, the School Board wanted Penna all along.

After Sherburne left as superintendent last spring, Assistant Superintendent Michael “Mick” Roy was named interim superintendent. In a contract dated June 6, 2016, Roy’s salary as interim superintendent was $122,000, the same salary that Sherburne had received. The contract was for the period May 17 through July 31 last year.

As assistant superintendent, Roy previously earned $102,000.

Following a search, the School Board on Aug. 1, 2016, gave Penna a contract as interim superintendent with a salary of $128,000. The American Journal reported on Aug. 4, 2016, that Penna was selected from a field of nine applicants. It’s unknown who applied.

At the same time, Roy, returning to the assistant superintendent role, was granted a contract with an annual salary for the school year 2016-2017 of $122,000, up $20,000 from his previous amount as the assistant.

After Monday’s School Board meeting, the American Journal asked Harmon whether the pay increase was a means to discourage Roy from filing an application for the permanent position. “No, no,” Harmon answered.

Harmon said the assistant superintendent’s position hadn’t seen a raise in three years. He said that Roy had worn two hats simultaneously as interim and assistant superintendent. The raise was a thank you to Roy, Harmon said.

The $122,000 salary compares to $105,300 a year for the assistant superintendent position in Westbrook and $115,000 in Gorham.

In addition to leadership salary hikes at SAD 6, consulting fees in searches also cost money. The district signed a contract on July 13 with DDM Ed. Leadership to provide services in a search for an interim superintendent. The base fee was $2,100.

With Penna in place as interim superintendent, SAD 6 later conducted a survey to learn qualifications that members of the public would want in a superintendent. The school district also hired Maine School Management Association to assist it with the search for a superintendent.

Harmon this week, at the American Journal’s request, provided three invoices reflecting that SAD 6 has been billed $2,250 by Maine School Management Association. The association also reported another $175.52 on the books and the individual consultant’s time would be added, equaling a total of around $3,000 to $3,500 for its services.

Saying good bye to Sherburne and filling his superintendent’s position has proven expensive. When Sherburne resigned, the School Board gave him a $40,000 severance package.

The School Board named a Search Committee on Feb. 8 with a list of 16 members including six School Board members, a former member, and two students. The deadline to submit superintendent applications was Feb. 8.

In a special meeting Monday, the School Board and three other members from the Search Committee entered executive session to discuss a personnel matter.

A vote on naming Penna came late during the regular meeting that followed. Delaney thanked Roy as a guiding force.

When Monday’s regular meeting adjourned, the School Board immediately had wording of a press release plus a quote from Penna.

“Paul was recommended to the School Board unanimously by the selection committee, and the board in turn selected him unanimously,” the press release said.

Penna’s quote in the press release says, “I look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that we provide all students a quality educational experience that prepares them for a changing world economy.”

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com