Tim Seeley, left, smiles along with his wife Jill Clendenen at the Blue Hill Fair. Seeley, the head of school at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, announced he would be stepping down at the end of the school year. Credit: Courtesy of Tim Seely

The head of the de facto high school serving much of the Blue Hill Peninsula announced Tuesday that he will resign at the end of the school year.

Tim Seeley, the head of school at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, said he plans to step down in June after eight years at the school. Seeley’s departure comes after the town academy went through a contentious budgeting process with the area towns this year and the school’s leadership was called into question.

“It is time for me to move on to new things, and for GSA to benefit from new leadership,” Seeley wrote in a letter to the school community.

The head of school said the decision had “been brewing for a while” and he alerted the school’s board of trustees chair Sally Mills last week.

“I feel like I have done what I can do here,” Seeley said Wednesday.

George Stevens Academy is an independent nonprofit school that acts as the public high school for most students around the Blue Hill Peninsula.  The school, which also has an international boarding program, is overseen by its own board of trustees. Local towns can pay tuition per student or send them to other schools.  

The last three years have been challenging as the school dealt with COVID-19, as well as budget shortfalls that necessitated tuition hikes from the sending towns. All seven towns agreed to pay an extra $1,700 per student this past year to overcome a potential $660,000 deficit caused by the gap between the cost of educating students and the state-set tuition levels, according to the academy.

In the wake of that vote, a locally-appointed review committee was formed to give the local towns some say over the school’s budget process.

Mills praised Seeley’s leadership and ability to overcome these financial challenges.

“Under Tim’s leadership, we have addressed many complicated issues concerning the school, not least securing much-needed supplemental tuition from the sending towns,” she wrote in a letter to the community.

Many peninsula officials however complained that the academy was not transparent when it came to finances and said the school experienced growing pains with the new budget process. Sean Dooley, the chairman of the regional budget review committee, said budget meetings over the past year got contentious and the Penobscot School Board even passed a vote of no-confidence over the academy’s leadership this fall.

The school and the committee did eventually come to terms and the relationship had smoothed out recently. But Dooley was glad to hear that new blood would be coming in. He hopes that the board of trustees would also get some new members.

“The writing was on the wall as far as the towns being unhappy,” he said. “I think new leadership is good.”

The board of trustees has started the process of convening a search team to find a new head of school.

Seeley was proud of the work he’d done at GSA – saying working with the school’s children and families was the “high point of his professional life” – and expressed belief in the town academy model, a unique New England system of education.

Seeley expects to stay around the peninsula, as his wife Jill Clendenen owns a boutique and a recently opened a cocktail bar in downtown Blue Hill. But he doesn’t seem to be planning a return to education.

“There’s lots of cool things to do and it will be sort of the next stage in my life,” he said. “But I’ll put it this way, I’m not going to seek another school to lead.”