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Auburn superintendent retiring in June

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Advertise your business with Sun Media. .Advertisement Advertise your business with Sun Media. .Advertisement Advertise your business with Sun Media. ..City Auburn superintendent retiring in June By Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer Published Mar 09, 2011 12:00 am | Last updated Mar 09, 2011 12:00 am

Tom Morrill, superintendent of the Auburn School Department, relaxes with his 2-year-old grandson, Presley. Morrill plans to retire in June 2011.

  • Jose Leiva/Sun Journal Buy a PrintAUBURN — Auburn School Superintendent Tom Morrill will retire in June to address health problems and to spend more time with his 2-year-old grandson, he said Tuesday.

Morrill, 60, declined to say what his health problem is but indicated it is serious.

“If I don't take care of myself, it is not going to be pretty,” he said. For too long, he's put his work ahead of his family and his health, he said. “There comes a point in time in your life you can't do that anymore.”

Morrill said his condition is not unique. “I've had some heart issues, the gene line is not real strong.” He said he was confident that with good medical care, “I can right the health ship.” To ignore doctors' advice and not retire would be “selfish and not fair to my family.”

Morrill has been in education for 36 years as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent. He has worked in Kingfield, Farmington and Auburn, becoming superintendent four years ago.

Serving children has been an honor and a privilege, he said. “It's absolutely a special gift when your heart aligns with what you do. That's what it's been.”

His grandson, Presley, has had a big impact on him. When giving reports about Auburn students, Morrill often mentions Presley. Becoming a grandparent has been magical, he said. “It awakens the child side of things; you see the world through different eyes again.”

Auburn School Committee Chairman David Das called Morrill's retirement “a loss to the School Department and to the community. He's done an outstanding job.”

The School Committee will continue what Morrill started, Das said, including improving literacy at the elementary level and implementing new ways of delivering education at the middle school and high school to make learning more engaging.

“He's given us the sense of where we need to go and left us in a very good place,” Das said.

Recent years have been difficult ones for schools because of less money and more budget cuts.

“Tom did a good job of addressing issues, also maintaining morale,” Das said. Without Draconian threats, Morrill calmly took on each crisis, one at a time, with a great sense of humor, Das said. “He was solid. At the same time, he put forward a real vision of (learning) reform.”

Recent years were some of the toughest since the Great Depression, Morrill said. The Auburn School Department made sure students had what they needed while maximizing every dollar.

Despite revenue cuts, property taxes did not rise for two years. That was done by eliminating some positions, asking educators to pay more for spousal health care, building improvements to save energy, “and by everyone pulling together,” he said.

The list of what he didn't get done as superintendent is long, Morrill said. “If it were up to me, I'd work until I was 85. I love what I do.”

He talked about the need to change how education is delivered by using more technology to help middle and high school students learn from different sources and get involved in careers. There's no reason they can't learn science from nurses and doctors, learn math and science through rebuilding cars or work on music with students in India or London. Education doesn't have to be one-dimensional or static, he said.

Today's students “are going to be the greatest generation, but we have to make sure we provide them the opportunity to access that greatness,” Morrill said.

Morrill's wife, Leslie Morrill, is an assistant principal at Edward Little High School. She has no immediate plans to retiring, Morrill said.

Assistant Superintendent Katy Grondin, who has a superintendent's certificate, will likely serve as interim superintendent as the School Committee decides how to replace Morrill, Das said.

Come June, Morrill has a few things to focus on besides his health. Those plans involve his grandson. “We're going fishing," he said. "We're going to start surfing.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com