2016-06-03 / Community

Cape Elizabeth hires interim superintendent

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

Howard Colter Howard Colter CAPE ELIZABETH — At a special meeting on Tuesday, May 31, the Cape Elizabeth Board of Education voted to hire Howard Colter, current head of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, as interim superintendent for the 2016-2017 school year.

Colter will receive a base salary of $125,000 for his one-year position.

In an email to the school community Tuesday, Cape School Board Chairman Elizabeth Scifres wrote that, “Among other sterling qualities, the variety and depth of

Mr. Colter’s experience made him an ideal match for Cape Elizabeth.”

In addition to serving as superintendent at Mount Desert Island, Colter has held the top education post at school systems in three New Hampshire towns – Barrington, Oyster River and Amherst/Mount Vernon, as well as in Williamstown, Massachusetts and Potter Valley, California. Colter, who has a master’s degree in education from Tufts University and a school administration credential from the University of San Francisco, started his career as a high school teacher, then became an elementary school principal in Potter Valley, California, before climbing into system administration. He also served in Vietnam.

Scifres said the Maine School Management Association assisted the school board in the search for an interim superintendent, as it had in the hunt for a permanent replacement to Meredith Nadeau, who is leaving July 1 after five years on the job to take a position in New Hampshire.

That search resulted in two prospective candidates. However, Steven Bailey, head of the Lincoln County school system, withdrew his name from consideration in mid-April. A week later, RSU 10 Superintendent Craig King pulled out after the school board failed to reach a decision on offering him the job at a closed-door meeting April 27.

“MSMA reached out to superintendents and asked for people who were qualified and certified and interested in the interim position for one year,” Scifres said Wednesday morning. “MSMA has relationships with many superintendents who do interim work, so here are known candidates.

“We interviewed two and happy to hire this one individual,” Scrifres said, adding that a new search for a permanent superintendent will resume “in the fall.”

Colter, 70, is said to be transitioning into retirement, and probably won’t be among the applicants for the regular gig.

“He has made it clear that he is here to help us prepare for our search,” Scifres said.

“I don’t think we’ll be launching any new initiatives during this school year,” Scifres said. “The board hopes Mr. Colter will continue us on our path toward our goals and our strategic plan, continuing the work the district has targeted in that regard.”

Initially hired as an interim superintendent at MDI at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Colter won a three-year contract in 2013 that started at $120,000 per year. He had previously served as superintendent of MDI schools from 1992 to 2004, when he left for a similar post in New Hampshire.

At that time, Colter told the Bangor Daily News he returned to MDI, where he and his wife kept a home in the Mount Desert village of Hall Quarry, because they had decided to retire there. Scifres said she is unaware of Colter’s housing plans for the coming year, but that she does not expect he will commute to Cape Elizabeth from MDI.

Scifres said Colter was chosen not only for his experience, but for his “sharp communication skills.”

“I think we’re in good hands and I hope everyone will welcome him and that we will all work together for a positive school year,” she said.

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