At the Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA) annual meeting on October 26, Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Ray was honored as Maine's 2023 Superintendent of the Year. MSSA recognizes accomplished administrators who enhance education and promote equitable access for all students, support school system leaders and advocate for all Maine public schools at the state and national levels.
Later in the evening, Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant--who was also in attendance at the ceremony in Augusta--recognized Superintendent Ray at the School Committee's regularly scheduled meeting. Although Maine’s 2023 Superintendent of the Year may be best known for his strength in budgeting and finance, his board chair refers to him as “a pragmatic problem solver and, more importantly, kind, compassionate, and hardworking. In response to tough economic times, Jeremy is known for thinking creatively and critically—a true ‘outside box’ thinker.”
“I am humbled and honored to be chosen as Maine’s Superintendent of the Year,” said Jeremy Ray of the Biddeford, Dayton, and Saco School Departments. “Steve Jobs once said, ‘Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people’ and this could not be more true. This accomplishment was made possible because of the superlative team with which I have surrounded myself. I encourage my team to think differently, challenge the norm, and generate creative ideas to support our students and staff; they rise to the challenge and exceed expectations. When I look back at my time as Superintendent, it is astounding what we have accomplished together; yet, the past few years have been the most demanding, and I am so grateful we persevered.”
Taking a transparent, engaged, and highly-visible approach to leadership, Ray was nominated by the Biddeford School Committee noting the following accomplishments:
He hired a Development Director to focus on private fundraising and grants to help bolster the taxpayer-infused bottom line.
Recognizing the importance of a robust arts program, a K-12 arts coordinator was hired which contributed to a 17% increase in the music and theater programs opportunities.
A STEM Academy was created which can be utilized by students during or outside of the school day which has fueled the imagination and interests of many students.
Recognizing the need for expanded math skills, a new math curriculum was adopted, with math coaches to assist in executing the program with fidelity resulting in better integration throughout all the schools in the district.
Being very focused on those students who have traditionally fallen through the cracks, Ray expanded the Alternative Pathways Center to allow at-risk students, or those who may learn better in a hands-on environment, to succeed in life, by having an opportunity to earn their high school diploma in an appropriate, safe environment. Mental health services are provided, and partnerships with local organizations help students to earn credits through creative educational opportunities.
As district’s faced a shortage of staff, Ray created an internship program in collaboration with the University of New England and the University of Southern Maine. This program created a feeder system for the school department, and exceptional interns became immediate candidates for job openings upon their graduation. On-the-job training also became a priority so that students could get real-life experience in the workplace.
Ray has very carefully selected his administrative team, and he has empowered school principals to establish programs within their individual schools that meet the specific needs which impact learning. One school has established a sensory garden for students with unique needs, and several schools have created free food/backpack programs to help students living with food insecurity.
Knowing that many cases of familial dysfunction and trauma exist, Ray recognized the value of establishing trauma-sensitive schools throughout the district, so that all staff would be trained in validating the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) of students who enter the schools each day with a focus on resilience for overcoming these serious and destabilizing obstacles.
“Jeremy Ray is best known for generously supporting and assisting Superintendents across the state,” said Eric Waddell, MSSA president. “Throughout the pandemic, Jeremy was instrumental in developing a COVID-19 handbook that he shared statewide so that other superintendents could tailor it to meet the needs of their districts. His regional service center purchased masks and other safety equipment for districts across the state, and when the ARP funds became available, he worked with other Superintendents and state leaders to develop a system that would equitably distribute these funds outside of the EPS formula. For the reasons in his nomination and many more, the Maine School Superintendents Association is honored to name Jeremy Ray, the Superintendent of Schools in Biddeford, Dayton, and Saco as Maine’s 2023 Superintendent of the Year.”
Ray holds a certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from St. Joseph’s University, a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Maine, and a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education from the University of Maine. He is married to his wife, Suzanne, of 15 years and is the proud father of Colby (12) and Kennedy (8).
For more information about the Maine School Superintendents Association, please visit https://www.msmaweb.com/o/mssa/
PHOTO CAPTION: At the Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA) annual meeting Jeremy Ray was honored as Maine's 2023 Superintendent of the Year. Pictured left to right: Maine Maine School Superintendents Association President Eric Waddell, Superintendent of Biddeford, Dayton, and Saco School Departments Jeremy Ray, Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin, and City of Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant.