James F. Doughty, a former superintendent of schools in Bangor, died on Monday. Credit: Kevin Bennett / BDN

James Doughty, the superintendent known for overhauling Bangor schools and helping them build a reputation for academic rigor in more than a decade as superintendent, died Monday evening.

Doughty was 83 and passed away at his son’s home in Bangor, according to his obituary.

Doughty was superintendent of Bangor schools from 1987 to 2000, during which he was praised for stabilizing the school district and instituting policies that led to rising graduation rates and improved test scores.

He instituted programs aimed at improving students’ performance in reading and math, and ran the school system according to a philosophy that “all children can learn, and learn at a high level,” according to his obituary.

The James F. Doughty School in Bangor now bears Doughty’s name.

Doughty was a product of the city’s schools. Prior to his time as Bangor superintendent, he also served as superintendent of schools in Orono, assistant dean of the University of Maine’s School of Education, and as a teacher and administrator at schools in Monson, Greenville and Searsport.

After leaving Bangor, he was appointed to oversee teacher training programs at what was then Husson College, which had attended.

Betsy Webb, a former Bangor superintendent who served as assistant superintendent under Robert Ervin, Doughty’s successor, said Doughty was passionate about instilling a love of learning in students and focused on improving the quality of education for all children, not just those in accelerated classes.

“He had a soft spot for students without advantages,” said Webb, who was superintendent when Doughty’s grandchildren attended Bangor schools.

Webb said she appreciated his “no-nonsense” style and “his desire to intellectually spar.”

“He loved to push people’s thinking,” she said.

Rick Lyons met Doughty when he became superintendent of Regional School Unit 22 in Hampden, and remembered him as a strong educational leader who pushed to instill core values such as a lifelong love of learning and being a well-rounded citizen in students.

“I learned a lot from him,” said Lyons, who is now the superintendent of RSU 29 in Houlton, and who served on committees with Doughty as part of a coalition of Bangor-area superintendents.

Lyons said Doughty was leaving behind a legacy of academic excellence.

“He always had the belief and philosophy that high academic standards, obviously associated with teaching and learning, is the hallmark of a sound educational system,” Lyons said.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.