LEWISTON — The Lewiston School Department listed an ad on its website Monday to begin the search for a superintendent.

Bill Webster, who was hired in 2010 to succeed Leon Levesque, said he is retiring at the end of June 2019.

School Committee Chairman Francis Gagnon said the hiring process will be different than in the past. Instead of a local committee finding candidates, a national firm that specializes in searching for school leaders has been hired.

“The School Committee is stepping back,” Gagnon said.

BWP & Associates of Libertyville, Illinois, was hired for $21,500. Gagnon said the firm, which helped Portland hire its current superintendent, will do a better job in a national search than what the School Committee could do. The cost wasn’t much different than hiring expertise in Maine, he said.

The ad will list an annual salary of between $135,000 and $145,000.

Webster’s salary is $140,000, according to the School Department.

If the School Committee hires a local person, the community will know that the person was selected among candidates from across the country, Gagnon said.

BWP will lead focus groups and surveys, Gagnon said, to develop a leadership profile of qualities and characteristics Lewiston residents want.

Input will be sought from teachers, students, nonprofit organizations, parents, business people, local college workers, “anybody and everybody. This will be totally transparent,” Gagnon said. “If someone says, ‘I didn’t hear about this,’ they’re hiding under a rock.”

The surveys will be available in several languages so everyone can participate.

Debra Hill of BWP said Monday that the vacancy was posted on the company’s web page and the Lewiston School Department web page. The job posting included a history of Lewiston and the School Department.

Facts included are the top six languages in Lewiston are English, Somali, Portuguese, French, Arabic and Swahili, and about 29 percent of Lewiston students are English Language Learners. Lewiston has about 5,600 students in nine schools and 1,500 employees. Lewiston High School is accredited and is the largest high school in Maine, the description says.

Kennebunk Superintendent Katheryn Hawes will work as a consultant with Hill.

Finding the right candidates “is a lot of work,” Hill said. “We work for the School Committee and with them,” Hill said. “We’re coming in with a far reaching network. … Also we tap people on the shoulders to ask if they’re interested.”

On Oct. 22, in addition to the community meetings, a survey for residents will be available on the School Department’s web page and in print.

Community members will be asked to share their thoughts on the strengths and the challenges of the School Department, what skills they want in the superintendent and what level of education and experience they expect.

Once the list of top candidates have been narrowed to two or three people, the community will be invited to meet those candidates and provide input, Hill said.

BWP has interviewed School Committee members, Gagnon said.

He said he wants a superintendent who’s excited about working with a diverse population. “We have over 50 nationalities in our schools with over 30 languages,” he said. And, like Bill Webster, “we need someone who is a great communicator.”

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