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Merrimack Valley names finalists for superintendent job

Three veteran New Hampshire school administrators have been named finalists to succeed Merrimack Valley Superintendent Mike Martin, who is retiring at the end of this year.

The finalists, announced yesterday, are Mike Jette, principal at Merrimack Valley High School; Mark MacLean, assistant superintendent for Kearsarge Regional School District; and Elaine Arbour, assistant superintendent for Claremont, Cornish and Unity. The interview process will continue in January with the candidates visiting the district and search committee members visiting the candidates’ current schools. A new superintendent will likely be chosen by the end of the month.

“These candidates are all highly qualified. Each has their own unique skill set that would be valuable to Merrimack Valley,” said Lorrie Carey, chairwoman of the search committee.

Merrimack Valley includes Penacook, Boscawen, Webster, Salisbury and Loudon, and the superintendent also presides over Andover, which has a kindergarten through eighth-grade school and sends its high school students to Merrimack Valley. Martin has led the district since 1999, and school board members said they are seeking a new superintendent willing to make a similar long-term commitment to the district.

To narrow down the finalists, each candidate had an hourlong interview with the search committee recently. In that meeting, board members from Merrimack Valley and Andover asked how each candidate would balance district priorities such as Common Core State Standards and the International Baccalaureate Program, how they would react to budget cuts or overspending and a handful of other questions.

Jette, the high school principal, started teaching in Merrimack Valley in 1991. He taught chemistry and physics before he became assistant principal in 2001 and principal in 2004. He holds a doctorate of philosophy in leadership and policy studies from the University of New Hampshire. He said he applied for the superintendent job because he’d like to help Merrimack Valley continue growing in a positive direction.

“I just love this school district. I’ve been here watching it get better year by year and just kind of want to be a continued part of that process,” he said.

As the interview process continues, he is looking forward to traveling to the district’s other schools and learning about the need of each school and community.

MacLean, from Kearsarge Regional, also has a history with Merrimack Valley, where he was a business and computer teacher from 1996 to 2007. He then became dean of academics at Alvirne High School in Hudson before taking the assistant superintendent job at Kearsarge Regional three years ago. In 2012, he earned a certificate of advanced graduate studies in educational leadership from Plymouth State University.

Although he’s happy in his current job, he said he’d like to return to Merrimack Valley because of his experiences there.

“Merrimack Valley was the school district that really kind of taught me to be a good teacher, afforded me my first leadership opportunities and really supported me in my growth,” he said.

Arbour works as assistant superintendent for SAU 6, which is based in Claremont and also covers Cornish and Unity. She has a doctorate of education from Florida’s Argosy University, with a major in educational leadership. As assistant superintendent, she handles curriculum development and professional development and manages grants, according to a press release from the district.

Arbour could not be reached for comment yesterday.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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