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St. John Valley schools to start with some new administrative faces

Children and their families in the St. John Valley still have some summer vacation time left before school starts. However, when classes resume in the fall, students and staff will see a combination of new faces and familiar faces in new roles, as three of the area’s four school departments begin the 2017-18 school year with some new leaders. 

In March, Maine School Administrative District 33 board members approved Lisa Bernier as the new superintendent of schools, replacing longtime Superintendent Fern Desjardins, who retired in June. Bernier, who has been an educator for more than 30 years, was the principal at SAD 33’s Dr. Levesque Elementary School 11 years prior to being named superintendent.

In replacing Desjardins, the school board maintained the superintendent position as a part-time role, which Desjardins had transitioned into several years ago. Bernier was hired in the combined capacity of part-time superintendent and half-time elementary school principal.

DLES art teacher Theresa Cerceo will take on additional administrative duties at the school, and also recently was named half-time principal.

SAD 33 board chair Sandra San Antonio said school board members considered the declining student enrollments and decided that a combined superintendent/elementary school principal position was warranted.

SAD 33 serves the communities of St. Agatha, Frenchville and Sinclair. The district’s central office is located in Frenchville, at the St. John Valley Technology Center, which serves the students of SADs 33 and 27 and the Madawaska School Department.

The technology center itself will be kicking off the school year under new leadership. Frenchville native Kevin Lavoie started June 29 as the center’s new director, replacing Dave Morse, who accepted a position at Lake Region Vocational Center in Naples.

Prior to joining SAD 33, Lavoie had worked in various management capacities for Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent. Between 2008 and 2010, Lavoie also was a regular substitute teacher at SAD 33 and he has coached multiple sports for the district. This fall he will coach the Wisdom Middle/High School girls’ soccer team.

SAD 33 oversees the administration of the St. John Valley Technology Center, while the other two school districts pay a per student fee to take part. The tech center offers various career, technology and vocational programs for high school students, as well as some adult and community classes.

Students and teachers in Van Buren-based SAD 24 will see a familiar face in the principal’s office this fall, with the hiring of Karen Dubois.

Dubois, who had been an elementary school teacher at the district for more than 20 years, replaces Timothy Kane who resigned in June to take another position in southern Maine. Kane was only at SAD 24 for a year.

Dubois had been taking on an increasing number of leadership roles in recent years and said she is looking forward to the challenge of her new position.

At SAD 24, which serves the communities of Van Buren, Hamlin and Cyr Plantation, the principal positions for both the elementary and secondary schools are combined.

Kane also had served as the district’s superintendent and following his departure, the SAD 24 board approved entering into an agreement with SAD 42 Superintendent Elaine Boulier to serve as a part-time superintendent.

Former superintendent Clayton Belanger, who had stepped into the superintendent role on a temporary basis in the spring will retain some of those duties and work with Boulier.

SAD 24 board chair John Pelletier will be stepping down from his leadership position on the board this fall, with Antony Martin taking over. Pelletier will remain on the board.

Former Fort Kent Community High School science teacher John Kaleta is returning to SAD 27 in Fort Kent this fall as that school’s new principal. He replaces longtime SAD 27 teacher and administrator James Charette, who left in June to pursue a job opportunity downstate.

Kaleta will serve as the principal for both Community High School and Valley Rivers Middle school, which are co-housed in the same building in Fort Kent.

Kaleta, originally from Connecticut, is a 1985 graduate of the University of Maine at Fort Kent. He left the high school in Fort Kent several years ago to pursue other opportunities in public schools and most recently served as principal of Fort Fairfield Middle/High School in SAD 20.

SAD 27, with its central office in Fort Kent, serves students in eight surrounding communities.

According to Superintendent Gisele Dionne, there are no planned changes to school or system administrative positions at the Madawaska School Department this coming school year.

Voters passed the department’s school budget, without controversy, in June. Residents in the town had initially rejected multiple budgets in the last few years.

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