FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Fort Fairfield schools will have a new leader starting July 1, when Middle High School Principal Tanya Staples becomes superintendent and curriculum coordinator, the district said Wednesday.
For Staples, it’s a high point of her 20 years in education. She started her career teaching sixth grade in Fort Fairfield, served as principal for two local schools and then moved south. When she and her husband returned to Maine last year, she jumped at the chance to apply for the open principal’s position at Fort Fairfield Middle High School.
Staples will be the district’s first full-time superintendent in seven years. SAD 20 has shared Superintendent Tim Doak with RSU 39, which serves Caribou and Stockholm. Doak will leave Aroostook County to become superintendent at York County Schools in July.
“Being the superintendent of SAD 20 is something I always thought about doing, so it truly feels surreal and exciting to know I will be taking on the position in July,” Staples said Wednesday.
Her first order of business will be to connect with community leaders in Fort Fairfield and forge positive working relationships, she said. She also wants to hear district employees’ ideas, concerns, what they love about the schools and what they wish for the students.
Staples has spent 20 years in education. A graduate of Washburn District High School, she taught sixth grade in Fort Fairfield for seven years. After obtaining her master’s in educational leadership, she took her first principal position at Caribou’s Teague Park Elementary School for three years. From 2012 to 2014 she was principal of Fort Fairfield Middle High School.
She left Maine and moved south, where she became a school administrator for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina and the Huntsville City Schools in Alabama. After eight years, she and her husband came home to Aroostook County.
School safety will be one of her priorities, Staples said. She intends to provide education for students, teachers and parents on bullying and cyberbullying, and plans safety training for staff during August workshop days.
“School should be a safe place for all students, and it will take all of us — parents, school staff and community members — partnering together to help create a safe and positive learning environment for our schools,” she said.
The SAD 20 school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve Staples as superintendent and curriculum coordinator, board chair Christina Theriault said.
Fort Fairfield has not had a curriculum coordinator, Theriault said.
“We saw a need for the district to have a curriculum coordinator. With the coming departure of the current superintendent, Mr. Doak, we saw an opportunity to combine the two roles to best meet the needs of our students and staff,” she said.
The board was impressed by Staples’ leadership qualities, interpersonal skills and experience with curriculum coordination, Theriault said, adding that one of the biggest challenges SAD 20 faces is finding and retaining teachers.
Until July 1, Staples will work closely with Doak to obtain a head start in her new role. She will also work to fill the principal’s position she is vacating, according to Theriault.
Staples lives in Caribou with her husband, Justin, and their 10-week-old puppy, Cooper.
“Fort Fairfield has always held a special place in my heart and I am excited to be able to lead staff and students in this role as we look to transform education for our students in the future,” she said.