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Colpitts Named Superintendent of the Year

MSAD 17 Superintendent Richard Colpitts has been named Maine Superintendent of the Year by a vote of his colleagues – an honor that recognizes his work to support teachers and administrators to help all students achieve and his community outreach to keep taxpayers and businesses engaged in the local schools.

Colpitts has been superintendent of MSAD 17 serving Oxford Hills for the past five years and before that served as its assistant superintendent. Prior to that he was superintendent in MSAD 39. He has an impressive history in the education field, starting out as a teacher and then serving as a principal where he won national recognition for his leadership. He even served as a chair of his local school board in MSAD 21, based in Dixfield.

The award was announced by the Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA) in November. Colpitts was selected by a committee of his peers, including former Superintendent of the Year recipients, MSSA officers and presidents of Maine’s superintendent regions.

When asked about his achievements, Colpitts said he gets things done by surrounding himself with good people.

“I have been able to assemble an incredible leadership team who have been empowered to lead,” he said.

He takes particular pride in the district’s success with connecting students to the business community, in real ways where they are actively involved with the work.

“Education should be messy – a mixture of theory and practical application. These partnerships enable our students to experience how skills learned in class are applicable to the real world,” he said.

The businesses include everything from farming to banking and even building race cars.

Colpitts also is a strong supporter of professional development for his administrators and teachers. He instituted an administrative literacy course for all district leaders so they could better evaluate and support literacy teaching in the classroom. He also developed the Maine Math Coaching Project, in partnership with University of Maine Farmington, so selected educators across the state can get intense training in teaching math and return to their districts to coach others.

When asked what the best part of his job was Colpitts said working with the smartest people he knows – “students, faculty, board members, staff, parents, civic leaders and state politicians.”

The most difficult? Asking people in a tough, rural economy to increase their support to public education while the state share diminishes.

“There is a community commitment to local education in rural Maine that is both strong and powerful,” he said, and in the last four years that community has supported the MSAD 17 budget with decisive majorities.

Colpitts is a member of the MSSA executive committee and the national superintendents association. He is a former member of the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine Principals’ Association, as well as the National Association of Elementary Principals. He was named Maine’s National Distinguished Elementary Principal of the Year in 2000-2001.

In nominating him for the Superintendent of the Year honor, MSAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy described Colpitts as someone who has earned a “stellar reputation as a leader and an ‘out of the box’ thinker.”

“Maine and the nation would be fortunate to be represented by a Superintendent of Schools like Rick Colpitts,” Murphy said.

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