Joe Fagnant, who has served RSU 29 for 27 years in many roles, will begin his tenure as superintendent on July 1.
Joe Fagnant will become superintendent of RSU 29 this summer. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — A statewide search for an RSU 29 superintendent led the Houlton school district’s board back to their own Joe Fagnant, a familiar face in local education.

Fagnant, who has served RSU 29 for 27 years in many roles, will begin his tenure as superintendent on July 1, replacing transitional superintendent Rick Lyons, who served for two years. Lyons’ contract ends in June.

“We are thrilled to have someone as experienced as Joe lead RSU 29,” school board chairperson Erica Peabody said on Wednesday. “In addition to Joe’s varied educational experiences, he is very vested in our local communities, serving in many capacities.”  

RSU 29 serves the towns of Houlton, Hammond, Littleton and Monticello.

Fagnant has been in education for 30 years and spent 27 of those in RSU 29. Initially, he was the instrumental music teacher for grades 9-12 from 1993-2013, as well as the K-12 Music Department chairperson.

In recent years Fagnant held multiple administrative roles including director of adult and community education, director of Northern Maine Community College in Houlton and director of operations for Houlton High School.

“It’s very exciting,” said Fagnant. “This gives me a chance to put my leadership skills back into the school system. This brings together my community-wide vision for education in Houlton.”

Fagnant is also slated to head the Houlton Rotary Club next year as its president and he chairs Vital Pathways, a local nonprofit that offers community wellness programs.

Combining his commitment to the community and his long educational service, Fagnant said this new role brings his experiences all together.

Under Fagnant’s direction, the Houlton high school ensemble earned awards at state festivals and regional competitions in Boston and New York.

He founded and served as president of the Houlton Community Arts Center, a private organization that partnered with RSU 29 to renovate the Houlton Middle High School auditorium. The project raised $1.2 million to invest into the performing arts facilities at the school.

In 2008, Fagnant was a regional finalist for Maine Teacher of the Year.

Fagnant has a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Maine, a master’s degree in arts and letters from Southern Oregon University and a certificate in administration from the University of Maine at Farmington. He has completed additional graduate work in adult education leadership courses at Endicott College.

The RSU 29 budget will be his biggest challenge, he said.

“We are working with a tough funding formula,” he said, pointing to increasing property valuations and a declining student population.

Fagnant lives in Houlton with his wife Heather, who teaches social studies at Houlton Middle High School, and his two daughters, Alison and Hannah.

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...