SEARSPORT, Maine — The Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors this week approved hiring a new superintendent and high school principal for the soon-to-be two-town district.

Chris Downing, current director of the Waldo County Technical Center, officially will start the dual position July 1. He said Tuesday he’s looking forward to the role at the helm of the district, which is in a major transition. Last November, residents of Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont and Swanville voted to withdraw from RSU 20, leaving the communities of Searsport and Stockton Springs as the only remaining member towns.

“It’s a good challenge, but it’s one I’m looking forward to,” he said.

Downing, who lives in Pittsfield, has worked in public education for 37 years and has been director of the technical center for six years. Previously, he taught at Mount View High School in Thorndike and was the athletic director for Nokomis Regional High School in Newport for a dozen years, among his other educational positions. At the technical center, his current position is similar to the one he will hold at RSU 20, as a combination principal-superintendent.

“I strongly believe that kids come first,” he said. “And my door is always open for people to come in and see what’s going on.”

That kind of transparency and Downing’s familiarity with the district and its students is welcomed by parents including Tracy Colby of Searsport. She helps organize the Parents Involved with Education booster group and said she heard parents were excited when Downing’s name was announced Monday night at an RSU 20 board of directors meeting.

“I’m happy to have heard that people were excited about the choice,” she said. “It sounds like he has done a good job at the tech center.”

Having a strong leader is important, she said, because the community knows the school district is going to be facing a tough financial reality this year. While the precise amount of money that will need to be cut from the budget is not yet known, there is a gap between the district’s revenues and its expenditures.

“I know that we’re going to have to make some drastic cuts,” she said. “We’ve all been feeling it and hearing about it. That’s why I have been speaking out to the parents and trying to get them to come to any of the meetings.”

Anthony Bagley of Searsport, chairman of the RSU 20 Board of Directors, said last week before Downing’s name was made public that the new superintendent-principal was selected by a search committee comprised only of the five board members from Searsport and Stockton Springs. No parents, faculty or community members were part of the search committee. He said the board was feeling very good about their selected candidate.

“I find large committees sometimes counterproductive,” Bagley said.

The current position of Searsport District High School principal, now held by Kent Hoffman, will be eliminated at the end of the school year.

Downing needed to be approved by the entire RSU 20 school board, which still includes the communities that have withdrawn from the district, because of a “grey area” in the law, Bagley said.

“There’s guidelines you have to follow,” he said. “It’s confusing as to why board members who aren’t part of the RSU [had to] be there for the vote. … It makes no sense to me. But it’s the whole legal aspect.”