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Supt. Timothy Doak who heads both RSU 39 and RSU 86/MSAD 20 in Central Aroostook County has been named the Maine School Superintendent of the Year for 2018 for his educational leadership and focus on students.
Doak believes community schools play an essential role in rural Maine by offering students opportunities they would otherwise not have. He also believes those same schools equally enrich a community.
“Lacking much needed resources in rural areas, schools become places of innovation for small communities,” Doak said. “We want our students to be leaders in tomorrow’s world.”
Doak has served as superintendent of RSU 39, covering Caribou, Limestone and Stockholm, since 2015, and MSAD 20 in Fort Fairfield since 2016. Prior to that he was superintendent of MSAD 27 (Fort Kent), MSAD 10 (Allagash) and the Madawaska and Grand Isle School Department.
Doak was nominated for the honor by MSAD 20 School Board Chair Paula Perkins, who said after 25 years as a teacher and nine as a board member, “I have yet to come across a more dedicated, open and knowledgeable man in his field.”
The award was announced by the Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA) on Oct. 25. Doak was selected by a committee of his peers, including former Superintendent of the Year recipients, MSSA officers and presidents of Maine’s superintendent regions.
His many accomplishments in his career include Instituting a Transition Center at Caribou High School to reduce the achievement gap with male and female students in math and English and promoting Pleasant Street Academy in Fort Kent – Maine’s first early college high school model established as a partnership between the University of Maine at Fort Kent and Fort Kent Community High School.
He also has brought teachers and business leaders together to talk about ways to keep youth in Aroostook County and invited community business leaders to meet with him and discuss ways schools can better prepare students for their jobs.
Asked what he was most proud of in his career, Doak said it is hearing from former students.
“Various times in my travels, former students will come up to me to thank me for being their teacher, coach, or administrator. I have taken great pride in these exchanges with my past students, and it is nice to know that I have had a lasting impact on their education” he said.
The greatest challenge of the job?
“Maine is facing some tough economic times, and the financial burden that is being placed on communities can challenge a superintendent to find ways to provide a quality educational experience for our youth. Working through the political climate that Mainers are facing today forces superintendents to focus on what is great about public education and to promote public education when it is a very challenging climate to ask for additional tax dollars.”
The best advice he can give to new superintendents is to listen.
“I have always held true to being an active listener. Listening is the most important skill because it allows a superintendent to have a clear picture of what the issues are and provides the foundation to help solve the problem at hand.”
Doak is a former principal and president of the Maine Principals’ Association and was named Channel 1 Teacher of the Year while at Madawaska High School. He will travel to the AASA National Conference, held in February in Nashville, TN, where all state Superintendents of the Year will be honored on stage.