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Home > John McDonald named Superintendent of the Year

John McDonald named Superintendent of the Year

Maine’s 2019 Superintendent of the Year is John McDonald of RSU 13 – an educational leader who was described by his board chair as one of the most inspiring, highly qualified, dedicated and personable individuals they have ever seen in the job.

Taking over a district that was in crisis in 2014, McDonald had his work cut out for him. Graduation and dropout rates were unacceptable, and the community had lost faith in their school system.  John learned early on that leadership is learning, and learning begins by listening. So in his first year, he embarked on a listening tour.  John knew that programming had to change in a way that was engaging and meaningful enough to hold students’ interest. He also learned that parents and community members wanted to be told the truth about what needed to be fixed and be part of the solution.

One year later, John introduced a plan called “Schools of Our Future” to create safe, attractive, efficient and welcoming learning environments. The plan contained a complete reorganization of the schools and new instructional strategies and curriculum.  It was supported by the community because people recognized elements of the plan that reflected their own personal views and desires.  The Schools of Our Future belonged to the communities in RSU 13.

Today graduation rates have increased from 78 percent to more than 91 percent, and dropout rates have decreased dramatically. The reorganization of the elementary, middle and high schools that occurred encompassed the closing of four schools and the building of one new elementary school — all with community support.  The academy model for Oceanside High School was developed to increase student engagement, to give choices to students that reflected their interests, and to create an environment and school culture that acknowledged student strengths and passions.  Included in this structure was the Fisherman’s Academy for those interested in marine-related fields, and students are working in partnership with the local marine and fishing industry.

The years of crisis in RSU 13 are in the past. Under John’s humble and thoughtful leadership, the community has pulled together to support the work of excellence in the district’s schools.