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Teacher to fill new post in Lew-Port ; Position merges duties of dean, sports director

In a dual effort to promote character development in students and accountability in the athletics department, Lewiston-Porter's Board of Education recently hired high school social studies teacher Scott Townsend to the hybrid post of district athletic director and middle school dean of students.

Townsend has served in the position on an interim basis since the start of the school year but assumed the role permanently Jan. 1, at a base salary of $80,400 a year.

"I've been a part of this community my whole life," he said. "It's just an honor to have the position."

He has taught in the district for 15 years and has received a stipend for the past six to also oversee athletics, though not at an administrative level.

Superintendent R. Christopher Roser said that the new authority will allow for better assessment and accountability in the athletics department.

"It's hard for a teacher to tell another teacher what to do," he said. "It's different when you put on a new jacket and you're an administrator."

Controversy within the varsity boys soccer team last school year was evidence of the need for an administrator in athletics, Roser said.

He confirmed reports that put former coach Samuel Ricotta under suspicion of trying to gain competitive advantages during games in the fall of 2009 by lying to referees and opponents about the medical condition of one of his players.

Claiming the athlete suffered from Tourette syndrome, a neuropsychiatric disease, allowed the athlete to play more aggressively and use vulgar language without being penalized.

Ricotta resigned last year for personal reasons. Roser would not comment further on the situation.

"You need an administrator, and everyone needs to know that there's supervision," Roser said. "They need to know that there are well-stated, articulate expectations, and you have to live up to those expectations, or otherwise not retain your position."

Townsend, who also dealt with the aftermath of the controversy, declined to comment directly but said that in his new role he is committed to pushing character development among his coaches. Coaches will be regularly evaluated, he said, and he intends to institute a mentoring program in which newer coaches are paired with veteran coaches to encourage their professional development.

Roser said that Townsend's ability to "maintain his composure, de-escalate volatile situations and remain calm under intense pressure" were also desirable qualities for a middle school dean of students.

Lew-Port Middle School houses more than 500 students and until now has had only one administrator. As dean, Townsend will deal mostly with disciplinary issues.

"It's the nature of the beast," Roser said. "Middle school students are very active and energetic. It requires more supervision."

Townsend acknowledged that students' interaction with technology is something that poses a challenge for school administrators. Last school year, for example, the middle school principal suspended a handful of his male students who passed along a sexually explicit video created on a cell phone after school hours.

"The Facebook and the texting and the MySpace has opened up a whole new realm of issues," Townsend said. "Middle school kids are much more public about that kind of stuff."

He said he's committed to educating students and parents about online dangers. He also intends to continue to expand the school's successful anti-bullying program.

Townsend was selected for the job out of 73 applicants and two finalists.

"He understands the students, and he's very good with them," said the middle school's interim principal, Linda Ruest. "He's like the gentle giant. He has the right mix of kindness and firmness."

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