GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 12, 2012

Update: Maine man accepts Rockport superintendent's post

By Stephanie Bergman
Staff Writer

ROCKPORT — The Maine regional school district superintendent who was the unanimous choice by Rockport's School Committee last night to become superintendent here has accepted the job, and says he's very much looking forward to coming to Cape Ann.

Robert Liebow,  currently superintendent of the regional Mount Desert Island schools system in Maine, told the Times today he spoke with Rockport school officials shortly after they selected him over the other finalist —  North Reading High School principal John Bernard — and accepted the job late Wednesday night.

"I think I might have hesitated for about two seconds — just to catch my breath," Liebow said. "Then I said 'yes."

"I see this as a great opportunity, and it's one that's been a target of mine to keep in mind for some time," said Liebow, who said he's impressed by Rockport's school district, and especially by the community's support for its schools. Liebow, who also has a son and a grandson living in Hamilton, said he's confident that he and Rockport School Committee officials will work out a contract in the coming days.

"I'm very much looking forward to coming on board," he said.

That feeling came across as mutual among Rockport School Committee members last night.

"I think Rob would be the better choice for us at this moment," said School Committee Chairman Michael Kelley.

Liebow has worked in the Mt. Desert Island schools for 21 years, and School Committee members who visited the district Tuesday said that it is clear he made his presence felt.

"Clearly Rob is an institution up there," said Kelley, and the other committee members remarked that they were looking forward to Liebow becoming part of the community in Rockport.

Liebow's ability to reach out to the community at large was noted approvingly in the meeting, with members citing the way Liebow was able to explain the budget to the diverse communities in the school system — which comprises 11 towns — and his willingness to divide the budget into essentials that could not be cut and items that would make the school system a better place for children to learn.

In his Rockport public interview two weeks ago, Liebow had impressed the people who came to observe, Kelley said, noting that nearly all of the comments he had afterwards said good things about Liebow, though many were also supportive of Bernard.

"Rob was clearly the crowd favorite," said Kelley.

The committee last night took a straw vote that turned out to be unanimous, though all of the members said both candidates were exceptionally strong, and committee members thanked the 15-member search committee for their efforts.

"The question is, do we want someone who is so ready to go, or do we want someone who is already there?" Morgan said.

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Stephanie Bergman can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at sbergman@gloucestertimes.com.