News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 29, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, September 29, 2022
School Union 93 superintendent to step down
Ruhlin cites mismatch in system’s structure and his vision

by Jack Beaudoin

School Union 93 Superintendent Reg Ruhlin has informed faculty, staff and school board members that he’s not interested in renewing his current employment agreement, set to expire in June 2023.

After just 14 months on the job, Ruhlin said he plans to continue in education administration, but would seek a job in a municipal school unit or other school system with a single school board.

“The school union structure just isn’t a good fit for my vision and interests,” Ruhlin said. “I found myself a part-time superintendent for each of the five districts with a lot of repetitious efforts.”

School Union 93 provides education to students from the towns of Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot and Surry. In Maine, a school union is “a combination of two or more school administrative units joined together for the purpose of sharing the costs of a superintendent and the superintendent’s office. Each member school administrative unit maintains its own budget, has its own school board, and operates in every way as a separate unit except for the sharing of superintendent services.”

“It’s been five of everything,” Ruhlin said of his experience preparing reports and budgeting for each district, and attending five or more monthly school board meetings. “The structure is incredibly inefficient.”

Ruhlin said he informed several district boards of his plans earlier this month during executive sessions that were labeled “Discussion of Labor Contract between School Union 93 and the superintendent.” Because he had reached his decision to leave, he said he “wanted to give the union and each of the districts plenty of time to conduct a search” for his replacement. He sent out a memo with the news to faculty and staff soon afterwards.

Blue Hill School Board Chair Jan Snow said that while the board has not met since Ruhlin made his decision, she had the chance to speak with him and “he has assured me that he will do his very best and fulfill his responsibilities through the end of his contract.”

Charles Brenton, a member of the Penobscot School Board, added, “We were very sorry to hear that he is resigning. He has done an excellent job so far, and he showed tremendous potential to grow. We wish him well.”

Snow said she planned to work with the district boards to begin a search for Ruhlin’s successor as soon as possible, and certainly within the next month or so. She said she’s not anticipating difficulties finding a suitable candidate, in part because of the school union’s reputation and the community’s desirability.

Strong schools, supportive parents

Looking back on the past year, the superintendent—who had previously served 27 years as a teacher and high school principal in various schools—said he had learned a lot, been challenged and felt as though he’d done a good job. He especially enjoyed working in the school buildings.

“Each of the five [elementary] schools are great schools with great leadership, great principals. I really enjoyed working with this administrative team,” Ruhlin said. “And the teachers at each of the buildings are very good. The peninsula has very strong schools, and the people here are very welcoming and supportive of their schools.”

During his tenure, Ruhlin has discussed the possibility of adding an assistant superintendent with the Union school board. The assistant superintendent could serve as a deputy, filling in for the superintendent at some of the meetings the position is obliged to staff. “It would make this job a little more sustainable, sharing the load to a certain degree,” he explained. “It wouldn’t necessarily mean a new hire. You could modify an existing position’s title or job description.”

Ruhlin does not have a job lined up elsewhere, but he feels confident his experiences have prepared him for whatever comes next. “I’m sure I’ll land on my feet,” he said.