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New Principal Chosen for Casco Bay High

Casco Bay High School will have a new principal as of this summer:  Priya Natarajan, who currently serves as the school’s assistant principal.

At its Tuesday, May 7, meeting, the Portland Board of Public Education voted to approve Natarajan’s appointment. She’ll formally take on the principal role on July 1.

Natarajan was chosen after a comprehensive selection process that included the active involvement of the Casco Bay High School community, members of which participated in focus groups and on the interview team and provided other feedback.

“Our commitment throughout the process was to select a principal who embodies Casco Bay High School’s values, inspires our community, and champions the success of every student. After considering a total of eight candidates, the interview team and I are satisfied that Priya meets that description and more,” Superintendent Ryan Scallon said. “Her vision, experiences and her in-depth connections with Casco will help ensure a smooth leadership transition for the school.”

Natarajan will be taking on the role currently held by Principal Derek Pierce. Pierce announced in February that he will be stepping down at the end of this school year as the leader of Casco Bay High School, which he founded and shaped over the past 19 years. 

Pierce is wholeheartedly behind the selection of Natarajan as his successor. He shared this statement: “Priya Natarajan is absolutely the right leader at the right time for Casco Bay. She’s long internalized and actualized the Casco’s distinct vision for excellence, and she has the skills and wisdom needed to guide CBHS to evolve and improve as it should. Ms. Natarajan will deepen both the rigor and the joy in our community. I am beyond delighted for both Priya and CBHS.”

Natarajan said, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the Casco Bay community as its second principal. I am committed to celebrating and deepening the traditions that make our school a special place to learn and teach, especially our commitment to Expeditionary Learning and Crew.  As we approach our 20th year, it is a natural time for our community to reflect and change in intentional ways, and I am grateful that the community trusts me to lead that work. I enjoy working with our students and staff each day to support their work and elevate their accomplishments, and am incredibly grateful to have learned from and with Derek for the last ten years.”

Priya was appointed as Casco’s assistant principal this past summer. She previously served as Casco’s interim dean of students and also was a Crew leader and a math teacher at the school for seven years. She joined the Portland Public Schools in 2002, first working at Deering High School before switching to Casco to teach mathematics. In that role, she won the 2017 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in the mathematics category. 

She left Casco to serve as the district’s high school math instructional coach for two years, working to advance school success plans and support teachers across the district, before returning to the school. She also has served as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Southern Maine and Eastern Maine Community College. Prior to her work at PPS, Priya was a founding teacher at the Boston Arts Academy in the Boston Public Schools for four years.


Priya has been active in state and local efforts to recruit and retain teachers and is passionate about celebrating the teaching profession and making it a more sustainable, joyous and rewarding career pathway. She has been active in several district-wide projects, including the High School Redesign Team, ESOL/SLIFE curriculum and assessment, data visualization and analysis and 8th/9th grade transitions.

Priya holds a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Ohio University. She completed both her ESOL endorsement and the Leadership for Tomorrow’s Schools program at the University of Southern Maine.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with more than 6,600 students, and it’s also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of 53 languages. Approximately 48 percent of the district’s students are white and 52 percent are students of color. Nearly half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.