Wiscasset Elementary School was officially joined by its new principal, Kathleen Pastore, on July 1.
Pastore takes the reins from Superintendent Terry Wood, who has served as the acting principal since Principal Stacy White moved on from the position in 2019.
Pastore has over 30 years of experience in education, spending the last 11 as a principal in the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District in central Massachusetts. She originally planned to retire after the 2020-21 school year, but being separated from students amid the pandemic convinced her that she wasn’t ready to leave her career in education behind just yet.
“When COVID hit, I realized it was really the students that I would miss,” Pastore said during an interview at the school on Aug. 6
With Master’s degrees in education and literacy from Worcester State University, Pastore began her career as an elementary-level classroom teacher before honing her skills to work as a reading specialist. She also spent about 10 years as an adjunct professor teaching new teachers best practices in reading instruction.
A life-long learner, Pastore earned a certificate of advanced graduate study in school-wide special education with a focus on positive behavior supports from Assumption University in 2019 to continue to build her skills as a school administrator.
Pastore and her family purchased a second home in New Harbor about 10 years ago. As she drove through Wiscasset over the years, she always found it to be a “lovely community.”
“I truly believe Midcoast Maine is one of the most beautiful places on earth that I have ever seen,” she said.
When she saw the job opening at Wiscasset Elementary in April, the decision was a no-brainer.
While her husband is currently travelling for work between their homes in Massachusetts and New Harbor, Pastore said he is very supportive of her continuing her career in education, noting that he too was not quite ready for retirement.
“We jumped into this heart first and the head and the feet came later,” she said.
Pastore was also attracted to Wiscasset Elementary’s small size. The enrollment at her previous school was about 450, nearly double that of Wiscasset Elementary for the 2019-20 school year. She said that she is excited to be able to get to know students and families on a more individual and personal level.
Pastore said that Superintendent Wood’s vision for the school district was integral to her decision to take on the position.
“At one time, Wiscasset School District was one of the top scoring districts in the state, and she firmly believes we have a dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable staff that, in conjunction with this supportive community, can move our students in that direction once again,” Pastore said in an email on July 8.
However, she also wants to collaborate with staff in setting goals for Wiscasset Elementary. Pastore spent two weeks in July meeting with staff members to get to know the school and what they would like to see in the coming year.
She already met with the school’s three literacy teachers who plan to collaborate with the principal on in-school professional development opportunities.
In terms of her own vision, Pastore said that she wants Wiscasset Elementary to be a school where each student’s needs are addressed at an individual level. She was inspired to pursue this goal in first grade by her teacher, Ms. Jordan, at West Main Street School in Spencer, Mass.
“For a teacher to make each child feel like they are the most special thing in that classroom, (that) is what Ms. Jordan did,” Pastore said.
With only a little over a month into her new role, Pastore is impressed by the support the local community provides the school, citing Wiscasset Feed Our Scholars’ “Set for Success” program, which works to meet the school supply needs for all of Wiscasset’s in-school and home-schooled elementary-level students.
However, like any principal, Pastore anticipates some difficulties as the school year begins. Beyond the regular challenges of how to appropriately utilize staff and ready the building, she is trying to stay prepared for what the next year will hold with COVID-19.
In terms of more enjoyable school-year preparations, Pastore is holding a number of informal meet-and-greets, called “Popsicles with the Principal,” where parents and students have the opportunity to get to know her.
Pastore said that a number of families and incoming students braved the rain at the first meet-and-greet on Aug. 5, and she hopes to see even more at the next one.
“I am most excited about building connections and relationships with staff, students and families,” Pastore said.
The next Popsicles with the Principal meet-and-greet will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. and again from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19.