SAD 72 Superintendent MacDonald to retire in June

Gary MacDonald
SAD 72 Superintendent of Schools

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — When Gary MacDonald was a substitute teacher in New Hampshire back in 1972, he had no idea that 41 years later, he would retire as SAD 72’s superintendent.

After 31 years as an educator and administrator in SAD 72, MacDonald will retire June 30.

He informed the school board of his decision in mid December. Under state law, school boards are required to vote on the superintendent’s contract in December, so MacDonald announced his decision — which he termed as “very difficult.”

“I have been and continue to be so impressed with the professionalism of staff, the interest and dedication of school board members, and the support of parents and taxpayers,” MacDonald wrote in his letter to the SAD 72 School Board. “It has been a privilege to work with my colleagues in this district.”

MacDonald praised the work of the SAD 72 administrative team, as well as Business Manager Madeline Bassett, who after 33 years working in SAD 72, will also retire in June.

“I’ve been thinking about retirement for a few years — it was a matter of exactly when.  I told the School Board chair last summer that this current year would very likely be my last year as superintendent of SAD 72,” MacDonald told The News this week. “There is never a good time to retire, especially when you enjoy so much of what you are doing. But, I am looking forward to having the flexibility of time to explore new things, having time to do the activities I enjoy, and spending more time with family.”

The school board has contracted with Maine School Management Association to conduct a search for a new superintendent.  A MSMA official was scheduled to meet with the school board yesterday (Jan. 9) to set up the process.

MacDonald has served as SAD 72’s superintendent for the past eight years. Previously, he was the New Suncook Elementary School principal for 23 years. He served as principal at the old Sadie Adams School, the Annie Heald School (before the fire) and for a year at the Snow School.

MacDonald also served for many years as the Curriculum Coordinator for the District before he became superintendent. He took a year leave of absence in 1992 to direct a statewide educational program in Concord, N.H.

When MacDonald looks back at his career, there are many stories to tell, challenges to remember and rewards to savor.

He said the last eight years as superintendent “have been particularly challenging” with such a wide range of situations that have had to be addressed. One major issue is declining state and federal aid for education. SAD 72 will lose $64,933 as the result of Gov. Paul LePage’s curtailment.

“Our budget is extremely tight this year and this reduction will be difficult to absorb. We froze the budget for any non-essential purchases a few weeks before the holiday break in anticipation of this happening,” MacDonald reported. “Administratively, we will be looking at all line items to see where we can reduce spending for the rest of the year. Unfortunately for this district, any budget reductions will have to come from the K-8 component of our budget, because we tuition our secondary students to Fryeburg Academy and those costs are obligated by our contract with the Academy.”

Another trying moment during MacDonald’s tenure was the failed attempt by the Maine Department of Education to consolidate local school districts.

“What makes this job so energizing on the one hand and so frustrating on the other is the variety of issues that a superintendent of schools gets involved with, requiring an assortment of skills,” MacDonald wrote. “I have always tried to keep the focus of my work and the decisions I have made on doing what is best for all students as they move along their educational journey.”

When asked by The News was his greatest rewards and challenges were, MacDonald said, “Probably the greatest reward is seeing students be successful as they move through our educational system. To make this happen, I have been very fortunate to work with so many professionals, who demonstrate their commitment to students on a daily basis.”

As to challenges faced, he said, “As superintendent, there are many. Certainly, the financial condition of the nation and state has greatly impacted our work over the last several years. Significant subsidy decreases from the state and other sources have created great tension between being fiscally responsive to our district’s taxpayers, where local town tax assessments continue to grow, and providing the necessary resources for our classrooms. Trying to find the appropriate balance has not been an easy task — and it will continue to be difficult.”

In the closing paragraphs of his letter to the SAD 72 School Board, MacDonald recalled a quote: It has been said that “the mark of a vibrant and dynamic school district is one in which the entire school community is continually examining and challenging their work, never accepting the status quo, nor the complacency that they are doing the best they can.”

He concluded, “I believe that the work that is going on in this district — at all levels — reflects the characteristics of a vibrant and dynamic school district. I look forward to being a part of this work through the end of this school year.”

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