As the interim superintendent of AOS 93, Jim Hodgkin knows the most important work during the school year will not be accomplished within the central office, but rather in the classrooms in each of the five schools that make up the Central Lincoln County School System.
Hodgkin, of Leeds, is the new interim superintendent for the Central Lincoln County School System, stepping into the role filled by Steve Bailey since 2011. Earlier this year, Bailey resigned from AOS 93 to become the full-time executive director of the Maine School Management Association, an Augusta-based nonprofit federation of local school boards and superintendents that advocates for the interests of public schools and students.
Coincidentally, Hodgkin had been considering applying for the deputy director position at the Maine School Management Association this spring after resigning as superintendent of RSU 4, which consists of Litchfield, Sabattus, and Wales. Hodgkin joined RSU 4 eight years ago, when the school unit first formed.
When he got an email about Bailey’s appointment as executive director, Hodgkin reached out to offer his congratulations and pick Bailey’s brain about AOS 93.
“I’ve gotten to know (Steve) really well over the past six years he was here, and he has done a really great job,” Hodgkin said. “When I got the email in mid-June that he had been named the executive director, I gave him a call and told him I was interested in the deputy director position, but at the same time, I would love to come down and be the interim here.”
Bailey discussed the matter with the AOS 93 Board, and shortly thereafter, AOS 93 Board Chair Joshua Hatch offered Hodgkin a one-year contract, which could be extended in the future.
Since officially coming on board in July, Hodgkin has worked hard to get up to speed on all the goings-on in AOS 93 and the seven towns it serves: Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Jefferson, Newcastle, Nobleboro, and South Bristol. The school system consists of five schools – Bristol Consolidated School, Great Salt Bay Community School, Jefferson Village School, Nobleboro Central School, and South Bristol School.
One major difference between the RSU system and the AOS 93 is the number of school boards – one in the former, nine in the latter. The result is a “change in the interactions” between the superintendent, the principal, and the school committee from what Hodgkin experienced in the RSU, he said.
“With an RSU, everything was filtered through the central office. There was one school board that really looked to the superintendent to do everything, while the principal focused on the educational development,” Hodgkin said. “A big part of my education here has been learning the different roles and responsibilities the different parts play.”
A large part of Hodgkin’s education has been meeting with people across the district, including committee chairs, principals, and town officials, to get up to speed on their concerns and topics of conversation in the school system, including the next round of contract negotiations, teacher evaluations, and the upcoming budget cycle.
“It’s really been about learning the routines and why things are the way they are,” Hodgkin said. “There’s a great (central office) staff here that has just been amazing in helping me get up to speed and understand the nuts and bolts of what all needs to happen.”
Meeting people is one of the things Hodgkin enjoys about the job, he said. He’s looking forward to spending more time in the schools, where the “real important stuff happens.”
“The most important place is the classroom, not the central office,” Hodgkin said.
Hodgkin got his start as an educator as the only seventh-and eighth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Embden. After two years, he became the school’s principal while retaining his teaching responsibilities.
Over his 33-year career in education, he has slowly shifted away from the classroom and into more administrative roles, but he has maintained a special appreciation for working with students.
“I’ve always been a champion of the underdog and encouraging the students who might need it the most,” Hodgkin said. “That’s part of the reason I became a teacher in the first place.”
Hodgkin, the youngest of three boys, said it felt as though he was “swimming upstream” going through school. He was the first in his family to go to college, and one of the things that motivated him to become an educator was the opportunity to encourage students like him.
“My biggest goal is to have every kid, teacher, and administrator understand they have a sphere of influence, and they need to maximize that,” Hodgkin said. “Everyone is important, and they need to embrace it.”
Hodgkin and his wife, Mary Jo Hodgkin, live in Leeds. They have four children.