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Four New School Leaders for the Portland Public Schools

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Four New School Leaders for the Portland Public Schools
Posted on 06/03/2015

Starting July 1, the Portland Public Schools’ school leadership teams will gain four new leaders. Dawn Kenniston, whose name formerly was Dawn Carrigan, will be the new principal of Hall Elementary School; Abdullahi Ahmed will be the new assistant principal at Deering High School; Jake Giessman will be the new assistant principal at Lyman Moore Middle School; and Ted Hummel will be the new teacher leader at Reiche Elementary School.

Only one of the four administrators – Giessman – is new to the Portland Public Schools. Kenniston is a former principal of Longfellow Elementary School who has been on leave for the past year. Ahmed is a teacher at Deering and Hummel teaches at Reiche. But all four are taking on new administrative roles.

“I welcome all four leaders to their new positions,” Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “All four are highly qualified and have experience in not only working directly with students but in holding important leadership positions. Their knowledge and expertise will add value to our already strong school leadership teams.”

The Portland Board of Public Education approved the hiring of assistant principals Ahmed and Giessman at its June 2 meeting.

Ahmed and Giessman will step into two assistant principal positions being vacated by James Moses, assistant principal at Deering, and Louise Moses, assistant principal at Lyman Moore. The two, who are husband and wife, are retiring after long careers with the district.

“We hate to lose such dedicated leaders who have had illustrious careers with the Portland Public Schools,” Caulk said. “I thank them for their service to our students and families. At the same time, we’re very pleased to be able to bring on new leaders who can continue their work and add to the success of our schools.”

Ahmed, who will be the new assistant principal at Deering, has worked for the Portland Public Schools since 2001 and currently is a teacher at Deering, teaching earth science and Arabic. A doctoral candidate in educational leadership at the University of Maine, Ahmed also is a member of Deering’s Leadership Team and leads the school’s Partnership and Community Engagement Committee. His previous experience includes teaching physics and chemistry at Portland High School and science at Lyman Moore Middle School.

Ahmed speaks four languages – English, Somali, Arabic and Urdu – and lived as a refugee in four different countries. He formerly led the Islamic Society of Portland, Maine, the first Islamic center in the city, for two years. “I appreciate diversity and reflect on how it shapes aspects of our lives,” Ahmed said. He said that as the new assistant principal, “I am thrilled and inspired to work with the students, teachers and community members of Deering High School.”

Giessman, who’ll be the new assistant principal at Lyman Moore, is relocating from Columbia, Mo., where he has been the director of the Columbia Public Schools’ secondary gifted and talented program for the past five years and also coordinator of that district’s summer school program. His previous experience includes being head of school at the Academy Hill School in Springfield, Mass. and a teacher at the Forman School in Litchfield, Conn.

Giessman has a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Montana, as well as a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard University. He has completed postgraduate coursework in educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Missouri and has also taught at that university as an adjunct instructor in the College of Education.

“My philosophy is that everyone has a growing edge,” Giessman said. “I work to meet students, teachers, and staff where they are, to help them identify where they are going, and to empower them to make their next steps along that path.”

Kenniston has been on leave abroad for the past year and will become principal of Hall School when she returns this summer. Kenniston will replace the current Hall principal, Cynthia Remick, who is taking a leadership position in another school district. Remick was assistant principal of Hall before she was appointed principal in 2012.

“I want to thank Cynthia for her dedication and service to Hall School,” said Caulk, who recently sent a letter to Hall School parents informing them of the upcoming transition. “And I welcome Dawn as Hall School’s new leader. Hall will be in very capable hands with such an experienced administrator at the helm.”

Under Kenniston’s leadership as Longfellow principal, that school won numerous awards and honors. Now, Kenniston has spent the past year abroad as the principal of the elementary and middle schools at Kaohsiung American School (KAS), an International Baccalaureate school in Taiwan. She is returning with a broader perspective as a global leader and equipped with the skills to prepare students for global competency.

Kenniston also gained key experience in managing school building projects while assisting KAS in its new school building process. Her experience will inform her role as Hall principal as Portland school and city officials work towards finding the best solution to replace aging Hall School, which is eligible for state funding. Working at KAS also allowed Kenniston to expand her knowledge of state-of-the-art school technology and broadened her experience in direct and indirect programs for English language learner students.

Hummel is already a teacher at Reiche but will become one of the three teacher-leaders at that school. The teacher-leaders operate Reiche as a collective of co-equals who are responsible for all aspects of the school. Teachers rotate in and out of the positions. Hummel replaces Kevin Brewster, who is returning to his teacher role.

“I thank Kevin for his hard work and commitment,” Caulk said. “Reiche is a wonderful, caring community school with a high rate of parent involvement and we’re glad to have a capable, dedicated leader like Ted step up to help ensure that all students there continue to have a successful school experience.”

Hummel began his career with the Portland Public Schools in 2001 as a special education educational technician at West School (now the Bayside Learning Community) and moved to Reiche the following year. After earning a master’s degree in special education and endorsements in general elementary and special education in 2005, he became a special education teacher at Reiche School.

In 2006, he had the opportunity to move overseas to London, England, working at the Primary Learning Support Service for Camden Schools as a peripatetic learning support teacher. He gained much insight on how school structure and culture impacts student achievement. After two years he returned home and worked at the John F. Kennedy Kindergarten Center in Biddeford as a special education teacher. He returned to Reiche at the start of the 2012 school year and currently is a member of the Instructional Leadership Committee and Focus School Committee.

Hummel said his goal for Reiche is “to strengthen current best practices and to proactively improve upon identified areas of growth.”