With only a few weeks on the job and four schools, three school boards and many constituents to get to know, new Union 76 superintendent Mark Jenkins only has one concrete plan for now: to get educated about his new position.
“I want to get acclimated,” said Jenkins, who has plans to talk “at length” with each of the school boards.
“I have no intention to do anything overnight,” he continued. “I like to approach things methodically and bring everyone along.”
Jenkins is in his 22nd year of school administration, with 16 of those years as a building principal. His administrative approach is collaborative, he said.
“You cannot make progress without bringing the vast majority of people along with you,” Jenkins said, while acknowledging that no course of action will please everyone. “Everyone needs to own the plan and there needs to be progress and accountability.”
For the past 12 years, Jenkins served as principal at Fort Fairfield Middle/High School, a 6-12 school with approximately 300 students. A Portland native, Jenkins said his time at Fort Fairfield taught him how to handle a variety of situations, and helped him learn how to read people and figure out what they need. It is where he learned to “sit at the same table and build consensus toward goals.”
One of those goals was to help transform Fort Fairfield from a “solid, traditional high school into a forward-thinking, standards-based school while maintaining the small-town feel,” said Jenkins.
With achievements and successes there come challenges. Jenkins said the major challenge in Fort Fairfield was one he’d experienced in other schools as well, including the elementary school in Machiasport: the challenge of maintaining goals in the face of different voices and different needs.
Jenkins came to Union 76 looking for a new professional opportunity. He and his wife Robin have an affinity for the coast and were familiar with the area.
Currently, Jenkins resides in Stonington. He and Robin hope to live in-district in a year or so. Robin is working in Fort Fairfield as a special education and literacy teacher. The couple has two grown sons, 24-year-old Chris, a double Master’s student in Massachusetts, and 22-year-old Graham, a recent engineering graduate from the University of Maine who is now a commissioned officer in the Army.
Jenkins’ favorite activities are “most things outdoors” like hiking, camping and canoeing.
The message Jenkins hopes to send to parents, staff and community members in the area schools is simple. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. It’s not about singling out specific problems, said Jenkins. Well-defined standards of expectations for all teachers and students will help bring improvement to the schools.
“Everyone is part of the solution and the equation,” said Jenkins.
Superintendent Mark Jenkins can be reached at the Union 76 office in Sargentville at 359-8400.