WESTBROOK — Kelli Deveaux hopes she’s teaching her students a valuable lesson as she steps down as principal of Westbrook High School to take a job at the Maine Department of Education: Dare to follow your dreams.
“I have a deep commitment to Westbrook and everything that is going on in this school with the teachers and the students. I don’t want my walking away to be perceived as me abandoning them, but rather modeling chasing a dream and taking a risk and a chance,” Deveaux said.
Making the decision to become the director of communications and public relations for the Maine Department of Education was not easy even though for her it is a dream job, she said. She announced her resignation last week.
She will “desperately miss” the day-to-day interactions with students, she said. Saying goodbye to the seniors, she noted, will be particularly difficult.
“We have amazing kids, so it was hard to tell them I won’t be sitting up there on stage with them at graduation,” she said.
She will also miss working with her colleagues.
“I think we have done a really good job helping students reach their personal, academic and social aspirations and genuinely finding success and their own voice,” she said.
What she will be doing in her new position is still evolving, she said, but her responsibilities will include overseeing the internal and external communication of the department and supporting legislative testimony that deals with schools and education.
“With the position, I have the potential and the opportunity to work on a much bigger level, writing and talking about education and the great teachers we have in the state of Maine,” she said.
Superintendent Peter Lancia said Deveaux will be difficult to replace.
“She dealt with some difficult situations and led our schools through tough times and did so with grace, compassion and dignity,” Lancia said. “In good times and in bad, she has made an impact,” he said,
Deveaux paid close attention to the social and emotional well being of students, he said.
“This is a huge loss for our community,” he said.
School Committee Chairman Suzanne Joyce said she is torn about Deveaux’s resignation.
“Part of me is so excited for her because of the opportunity, what’s going on in the state and with Gov. Janet Mills, but it is a huge loss for us,” Joyce said last week upon hearing of Deveaux’s resignation. “She knew curriculum and that’s what our school needed. She is so talented and bright and has incredible energy.”
Jared Ruthman, president of the Westbrook Education Association, said the association is disappointed to see Deveaux leave, yet understands her reasoning and wishes her the best.
“Kelli has been a strong leader in our building and has been a steadfast supporter of our staff and students,” he said. “She’s been a tireless worker who’s led us amid a difficult period of change and she’s constantly partnered with the Westbrook Education Association to advocate for policies and practices that put our students first.”
Lancia told the American Journal late last week he is working with Deveaux on a transition plan, which he was preparing to announce to the School Committee at its Feb. 13 meeting, which was canceled due to snow. The plan, he said, is likely to have an interim principal through June 30 and have a permanent replacement start July 1.
He expects strong interest in the position.
Deveaux said the plan is to continue in her principal role through mid-March, which will allow her to tie up loose ends and help the interim principal transition into the role.
Deveaux worked with Education Commissioner Pender Makin for a dozen years in the Windham/Raymond school system. Prior to coming to Westbrook to replace Jon Ross as principal in 2016, Deveaux worked 14 years as assistant principal at Windham High School. She also worked seven years as an English teacher in South Portland.
Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] or on Twitter @mkelleynews
Kelli Deveaux has resigned as high school principal to take a job with the Maine Department of Education. She will be staying in her current role potentially through mid-March to help with the transition.