LEWISTON — The School Committee unanimously voted Monday night to hire Linda S. MacKenzie as principal of Lewiston High School.

She is principal of Stearns Junior-Senior High School in Millinocket.

MacKenzie will be the first female principal of Lewiston High School. She starts the job Nov. 12. Retired Assistant Principal Paul Amnott has been serving as acting principal since Gus LeBlanc left in July to become headmaster at Lee Academy.

Superintendent Bill Webster said the 10-member search committee examined the 20 candidates who applied.

“It’s with great pleasure I nominate Linda MacKenzie,” Webster said Monday night. He described her as someone with great educational experience at three high schools, someone who has served as assistant superintendent, “and is an active learner. She is pursuing a doctorate degree.”

Committee Chairman Jim Handy said he’s thrilled with MacKenzie becoming principal. He said the high school has never had a female principal and the change bodes well for students.

Webster said he nominated MacKenzie “because she matched what we want. She is open. She listens. She’s got a great way with people, but at the end of the day she’s not afraid to make decisions. She is up on the latest in education. We had no doubt this is the person for Lewiston High School.”

During an interview Monday night, MacKenzie, 58, of Cornville said she’s excited about the job “in this beautiful, diverse, wonderful high school. I’m really excited about exploring, being here, learning about this community.”

Her first task will be to learn about Lewiston High School, she said. “Understanding the needs is important for any change process,” she said.

She plans to help high school juniors understand the importance of taking SAT tests in the spring, spreading the message that the tests are used not only to measure individual student skills, it’s “used by the state to grade schools. When students hear that, they hear the unfairness.” Students are not happy with that and become more motivated about the test, she said.

MacKenzie grew up in western New York. She came to Cornville in 1987 “because we read too many ‘Mother Earth’ magazines,” she said with a smile. “We raised sheep, turkeys, chickens.”

Her first experience in education was tutoring a special needs kindergarten student at the Cornville Elementary School. The 5-year-old was clinically suicidal. She underwent training to learn how to help that student and discovered a love of education, she said.

MacKenzie worked as an education technician at Skowhegan Middle School and Skowhegan High School until 1991.

“I was laid off. I decided I was going to go to school (to pursue a college education).”

She graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington in 1996 and became a science teacher at Madison Area Memorial High School. She taught there for nine years.

She got her master’s degree and was hired as a principal in Bingham, responsible for the elementary, middle and high schools.

In 2012, she became principal of the Stearns Junior-Senior High School, which had 300 students in grades seven to 12. She also was assistant superintendent for Millinocket schools.

She described her leadership style as collaborative, process-building, problem-solving and one that honors education. Part of her role will be to inform all of Lewiston about what’s happening at the high school.

“There’s no one in the community that’s not a stakeholder in education, teachers, children, ed techs, kitchen staff, bus drivers, taxpayers, parents and school board members,” MacKenzie said. “As a school leader, it’s my responsibility to help that education process, not just in the classroom or school building, but out in the community.”

Her annual salary will be $98,801.

MacKenzie is married and has three adult children. She plans to move to Lewiston later this year.

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