Valley Unified coordinator of innovative practice and community outreach Peter Caron addresses audience questions at a meeting of the SAD 27 board of directors on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, at Fort Kent Community High School. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

FORT KENT, Maine — Life in northern Maine may not be for everyone. Snow is unrelenting during winter months that seem to last a little longer than just about everywhere else. Quiet, outdoor activities are far easier to come by than exciting nightlife gatherings.

Things move a bit slower at the top of Maine, and that is one factor Valley Unified school officials are using to help recruit employees.

Valley Unified schools including those in SAD 27, which is the greater Fort Kent area, SAD 33 based in Frenchville and Madawaska School Department, make up most of the primary schools in the crown of Maine known as the St. John Valley. In a bid to recruit teachers from an ever-decreasing pool of available candidates, the Valley Unified team created brochures and videos to distribute to prospective educators highlighting the many reasons life in the St. John Valley could appeal to them and their families.  

“We need to stop apologizing for being located in northern Maine and we need to really accentuate all the unique amenities that our communities offer and that our greater region offers,” Valley Unified coordinator of innovative practice and community outreach Peter Caron said. “If you are really into a metropolitan lifestyle, this may not be the place for you.”

There are four vacant teaching positions just in SAD 27 from the elementary school to the high school and in subjects ranging from English to special education. SAD 33 is searching for a French teacher and multiple ed techs, and Madawaska School Department is in need of teachers for life science and special education, and employees to fill several other professional positions, such as a speech therapist, special education director and custodian/bus driver.

The first completed brochure focuses on the SAD 27 schools and features popular entertainment opportunities in the greater Fort Kent area. These include fishing on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, riding a network of ATV trails, downhill skiing at Lonesome Pine Trails and cross country skiing at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center.

“We bill it as one of the best places in New England to really live, work and raise a family,” Caron said.

The brochure, which is available on the SAD 27 website, also addresses district values and student life.  

Valley Unified officials hope a new brochure and video project will help draw more employees to the area. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

Those who express an interest in teaching positions at the school are directed to recorded videos of five SAD 27 educators discussing what they view as strengths about working in the district.

With a teacher shortage looming large throughout Maine and the rest of the country, the business of hiring qualified educators is competitive.

“The brochure and videos are aimed at separating us from the pack,” Caron said.

Caron said the district is not looking to hire people “from away” necessarily, but hopes to attract as many applicants as possible.

“We currently have a mix of native staff and those who have come to us from other areas, and their blend of perspectives and experiences enrich our students’ lives and learning on a daily basis,” Caron said.

Brochures and videos regarding SAD 33 and Madawaska School Department are currently in the works.