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City Hall greeter runs ‘distance learning’ program on Maine islands

City Hall greeter runs 'distance learning' program on Maine islands

NEWBURYPORT – In an age of multi-tasking, William Shuttleworth might take the cake.

Shuttleworth volunteers as a part-time volunteer host at City Hall, and his professional commitment is as superintendent of schools for the islands of Monhegan and Matinicus, off the coast of Maine.

There are four students in the school system of Monhegan, which is 10 miles off the coast of Boothbay. Matinicus, 23 miles off the coast, has just three students in its system. Matinicus can be reached from Rockland.

“I fly into Matinicus,” said Shuttleworth, a career educator. “I can take a ferry to Monhegan.”

“State law requires that every school district have a superintendent, and I serve that role. There are actually two school districts, with their own separate school boards.”

Shuttleworth and his wife, Patty, recently moved to Newburyport from coastal Lincolnville, Maine, which could explain his connection to the island educational system.

He spends one day per month on each of the islands supervising the small educational resources.

Each community has 75 to 100 year-round residents, and each school has its own teacher, since the islands are miles apart.

Each educator teaches youngsters from K-8. Students can range in age from 3 to 13.

After finishing the island school, youngsters have the opportunity to attend any private school they choose. The community picks up the cost.

Most students are the children of fishermen and lobstermen, and Shuttleworth says they do well in whatever high schools and colleges they choose. The island students are self-reliant, and used to challenges, he said.

Prior to his island assignment, the affable newcomer was a school superintendent in Bath, Buckfield, Camden and Jonesport, all in Maine.

Before becoming a district superintendent, he ran a school for troubled youths in Portland.

“My interest has always been the kids who don’t fit in,” said Shuttleworth, a native of New York state who earned degrees at the State University of New York in Geneseo, Troy State University in Alabama, and the University of Maine, Orono.

“There are many programs for gifted students and those who are motivated, but I have always been interested in mentoring those who did not fit in as well.”

Shuttleworth himself had a gifted son who entered secondary school at the age of 8 and graduated Portland High School at 12.

He matriculated to the University of New England, in Biddeford, Maine, a school close enough to Portland that his parents could drive him.

“We didn’t want him living in the dorm when he was so young,” Shuttleworth said.

The young man now is a successful director of international programs in New York City.

Shuttleworth said he took the “greeter” job in City Hall to learn more about the city.

At City Hall, he sits in the lobby one day per week and is charged with answering questions for those who wander in. On a recent day, one Water Street resident declared that a live wire was hanging off a pole near his house.

“Contact the Department of Public Services,” Shuttleworth suggested.

Another visitor was looking for Kevin Hunt, who heads veterans services. Shuttleworth suggested he try the senior community center on High Street, where Hunt now has an office.

The Shuttleworths chose to migrate to Newburyport largely to be near better medical facilities.

He has found it a lively community.

“There’s a lot of pride here,” Shuttleworth said, “and a remarkable amount of diversity.

“We still have ties to Maine, and I go to the islands regularly as part of my duties.”

In summer, the island populations swell.

“Matinicus might grow to a population of 1,000, while Monhegan could get to 1,500 to 3,000, depending on day visitors,” he said.

“The artist Jamie Wyeth has a place in Monhegan, and many painters come to the island. It is a beautiful spot. But so is Newburyport.”

Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport. He can reached at 978-961-3149, or at [email protected].



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