WASHBURN, Maine — Larry Worcester, a former Washburn High School teacher and long-time Aroostook County educator, has taken the helm of MSAD 45 and is bringing a spirit of collaboration.
Worcester was hired as the MSAD 45 superintendent effective May 13. Of the candidates who applied, he “was the best fit,” said MSAD 45 board chairman Jeremiah McIntosh, a former student of Worcester’s.
Originally from the Piscataquis County town of Brownville, Worcester graduated from the University of Maine Presque Isle and moved to Washburn in 1993 with his wife Kim, a fellow teacher and Washburn native. Worcester taught physical education at Washburn High School for 13 years and both his son and daughter graduated from the district.
Worcester spent the past four years as principal of Easton Elementary School. He said he was interested in working in Washburn and taking on the challenges and opportunities of leading the district of more than 300 students.
“I’m really excited to be back where I started and looking forward to the challenges,” Worcester said.
“We have really good people who work here. Staff care about kids and work hard. The challenge is: How do we meet the kids where they’re at and provide the best possible education and see the achievement go in a positive direction?”
Worcester is MSAD 45’s first superintendent in more than two years. Former superintendent Elizabeth Ervin left in 2016 after a cancer diagnosis and died in 2018. A school walkway named the Pathway to Learning is dedicated in her honor.
Since the 2016-2017 school year, MSAD 45 has contracted with MSAD 1 in Presque Isle for administration and later other services, including special education and technology management. Both boards voted this year to exit that contract.
Increasing local education costs and property taxes has been a major issue in recent years for MSAD 45’s communities of Washburn, Wade and Perham. The district has seen its state funding decline in concert with decreases in student enrollment, while operating costs stayed the same or increased.
Worcester said the district has fiscal responsibility as a top priority and is in the midst of several collaborative, cost-saving initiatives.
Worcester is serving in dual roles as superintendent and high school principal, and the district has combined the elementary school principal and special education director positions, hiring MSAD 1 teacher Laura Hunter for the role.
The positions of part-time assistant principal and athletic director also were combined and the role is being filled by long-time district employee Ron Ericson.
“We’ve been combining a lot of things to try to save money and consolidate. We’re trying to combine as many things as possible,” Worcester said. “Everybody’s looking for ways to make the dollars stretch a little further,” he said, noting that the towns of Washburn and Ashland share a police chief.
MSAD 45 also is turning to RSU 39 in Caribou to contract for technology services and bus maintenance and transportation, moves that should work out well financially for both districts, Worcester said.
“It’s good for us and it’s good for them. It helps them out with their budget and helps us out with our budget.”
Worcester said that he, the staff and the board are working on the district’s budget, which district voters will be asked to approve in late June.
In terms of the impact to local property taxes, “it’s too early to tell where we are,” Worcester said. “We’re just starting the process.”