Amidst a constantly changing educational environment, Waterville Public Schools can expect some new changes in the upcoming school year. One of these changes is the statement of a new superintendent.
On Mar. 27, the Waterville Board of Education unanimously approved Peter Hallen to assume the superintendent position following Eric Haley’s retirement. Haley served as the superintendent for nearly 22 years and has worked in education for over 40. The search for his replacement has been a long and difficult process that has spanned over a year.
In May 2022, the Waterville Board of Education announced that they could not find a suitable replacement for Haley from their 12 applicants. In a statement from Joan-Phillips Sandy, chairperson of the board, Sandy outlined their discussion, “Although we received a number of applications, from within and outside Maine, many from dedicated and capable school administrators, none rose to the level of experience and qualifications we believed necessary for WPS at this time.”
The board agreed to revisit the question in the fall of 2022, and Haley agreed to continue his position for another full year. Both parties set a goal of hiring someone by Jul. 1, 2023, which is Haley’s planned retirement date.
With the appointment of Hallen, the long-awaited search is over. Hallen is currently the assistant superintendent. Originally from Massachusetts, Hallen moved to Maine in 1999 when his wife was offered a job at Colby College.
Hallen began working as the assistant superintendent in July 2022, and one of his main priorities has been working as a liaison for homeless students and their families. In an interview with the Morning Sentinel, Hallen said, “Our efforts for the students really focus on making sure they have the resources they need to be in school — transportation, school supplies, clothing if they need it, food to send home.”
Hallen can also expect to face lingering challenges from the pandemic and the resulting educational consequences. Some of these challenges include reduced socialization and in-person learning from former pandemic regulations.
Hallen plans to make addressing these issues a priority. “I see a level of dysregulation that we’re not used to and that can be kind of contagious. I really see that in my conversations with teachers and other administrators, with parents. What we’ve got to make a priority is to teach students how to be with each other before we can teach them how to do math and things like that,” he said.
Waterville Public Schools has also implemented different programs to fight staffing shortages. The district has a shortage of bus drivers, so a training program was created for people to become qualified drivers. So far, 15 people have signed up. The training requires 42 classroom hours, 20 hours driving on a closed range and ten hours on the regular road. The district hopes that this program will help streamline the process of becoming certified and therefore solve the driving shortage. Hopefully, these new changes will help improve the Waterville Public School system and better the greater community.
~ Vivian Nguyen `25