Former Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb, seen addressing students in this January 2020 file photo, has died. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Betsy Webb, a longtime Bangor School Department superintendent who helped make the district a statewide leader for academic performance, has died. She was 61.  

Her death was announced in a Friday statement by the Bangor School Department, which did not specify a cause or time of death. WABI reported she died Thursday after entering hospice care earlier in the week. 

Webb served for 13 years as the superintendent of Bangor schools and stepped down two years ago to become a professor at the University of Maine. 

Webb was also superintendent of schools in Brewer from 2001 to 2005.

Bangor School Department Superintendent James Tager, who replaced Webb, acknowledged her impact on the school department and city. 

“It is a blessing to be surrounded by so many caring and dedicated educators in the Bangor

School Department who continue her aspirations for student success,” he said. “One of her many legacies is to have hired and worked side by side with so many wonderful educators. Her impact is profound and lasting.”

Webb, whose public education career spanned 38 years, was appointed superintendent in 2008 after serving as assistant superintendent of the Bangor School Department. 

The district’s academic performance improved under her leadership, with students consistently outperforming their peers across the state, according to standardized test results, and the achievement gap between low-income student and higher-income peers narrowed, defying a statewide trend of a growing gap

Victoria Kornfield, a former Bangor High School teacher who served as a state representative in the Legislature, said Webb was the superintendent education leaders across the state turned to to look for as an example of excellence. 

“She really demanded that Bangor schools be excellent,” she said. “She just didn’t tolerate people being mediocre. She wanted the best from everybody.” 

When Kornfield was the chair of the Legislature’s education committee she frequently turned to Webb, whom she considered one of the foremost education experts in the state. 

“When superintendents would come to Augusta, and we had issues they would say to me, ‘What’s Bangor going to do about this? What does Betsy think about this?” Kornfield said. “I mean, she really was like the last word for those superintendents. It is a great loss.”

Bangor schools have developed a reputation for producing students who excel in the sciences. In 2012, Bangor High School became the first school in Maine to establish a STEM academy, a program within the school with a curriculum heavy on science, technology, engineering and math.

Days before announcing her retirement, Webb and members of Bangor’s School Committee apologized to students of color for racist experiences at Bangor High School following a Bangor Daily News article. Webb ordered an outside investigation into how Bangor High School handled reports of discrimination that five Black students experienced. 

The school committee had voted unanimously in July 2019 to extend her contract, which wasn’t due to expire until 2025. At the time of her resignation, Webb said she had been planning to leave for months. 

Since her retirement, Webb served as a UMaine Libra Professor of Educational Leadership. 

BDN reporter Judy Harrison contributed reporting

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how long she served as superintendent. It was 13 years.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...