School superintendents honored at banquet in Bangor

Twenty-one Maine school superintendents and a representative to the state legislature were honored last evening at the 105th Annual Commissioner’s Conference, sponsored by the Maine Department of Education and Maine School Superintendents Association. The recognition banquet was held at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Several retiring superintendents were recognized along with superintendents exceeding 15, 25, and 30 years of service and outstanding leadership. In addition, the 2016 Commissioner’s Award was presented to Dr. Fern Desjardins, superintendent of schools for RSU 33/MSAD 33 in the St. John Valley area.

In presenting the award, Deputy Commissioner of Education Bill Beardsley said, “This award recognizes someone who has been a teacher, principal, and superintendent in the same school. It is someone who was the first in the family to graduate from college, then went on to earn a master’s and doctoral degree with a dissertation related to quantitative analysis of the academic and economic viability of rural schools.”

Beardsley continued, “This is a principal whose fragile elementary school came to achieve Blue Ribbon designation from the U.S. Department of Education. This is a superintendent who experienced regional economic setbacks and contracting enrollments, yet, while exercising necessary budget constraints, added strength to the CTE program, increased the percentage of high school graduates who went on to post-secondary education, and achieved Grade A for district schools on the 2014 State Report Card.”

In response to the surprise announcement, Desjardins said, “I am overwhelmed with this honor; working in rural Maine is very rewarding because you get involved in all aspects of education. You wear many hats with curriculum, transportation, maintenance of facilities, and you have to be willing to give your time, but you see the fruits of your work.”

Desjardins is a native of St. Agatha and served as a teacher, principal, and now superintendent all in the same school system. Collectively, she has been an educational steward in the St. John Valley for 42 years.

Susan Pratt, RSU 58’s superintendent, received the Maine School Superintendents Association President’s Award, and State Representative and long-time educator and former superintendent Paul Stearns of Guilford received the 2016 Distinguished Service Award.

Other recipients include: Superintendent Service Awards for retiring superintendents Henry Aliberti, Jr., Marc Gendron, Lloyd Crocker, Deryl Holt, Kenneth Coville, David Morrill, John Davis, and William E. Pullen.

Longevity Awards went to: Donn S. Davis, Fern M.Y. Desjardins, Eric L. Haley and Dr. Betsy M. Webb for 15 years of service as a superintendent. William P. Braun and Emil P. Genest were honored for their 25 years of service, and John Backus was recognized for his 30 years as a superintendent.

The 2016 Outstanding Leadership Awards went to: James S. Boothby, James D. Hodgkin, Eileen K. King, Scott K. Porter, and Gary Newell Smith. Each of these superintendents was nominated by their regional associations.

The Commissioner’s Conference is continuing today and tomorrow with professional development discussion topics, including truancy, certification, Every Students Succeeds Act, district/school turnaround plans, schools reimaged, and more.

For more information, contact Maine Department of Education Director of Communications Anne Gabbianelli at 592-4439.