A fond farewell to RHS principal Peg Regan
The school committee hosted a farewell reception for Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan in the Culinary Arts dining room at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Monday night. As the school year ends, so will Ms. Regan's ninth - and last - year as principal, in keeping with the decision she made last September to resign.
Monday's event preceded Ms. Regan's last school committee meeting as principal. The mood was a mix of celebration and regret, as several Island town selectmen and student and community organization representatives joined school committee members in stopping in to wish her well.
Culinary arts students and chef/instructor Jack O'Malley prepared a delicious and beautifully presented array of appetizers and pastries. A string ensemble featuring Willoughby Smith, Shaelah Huntington, Bethany Pennington, Emily Carter, and Hilary Dreyer provided a backdrop of soft music.
Mid-way through the informal event, Martha's Vineyard Regional High School school committee chairman Susan Parker stood at the front of the room up to make some remarks and encouraged others to do the same. She commended Ms. Regan for being "a professional educator, who really gets her students." Student council secretary Max Nunes, a junior, told Ms. Regan how thankful students are for her style of leadership. "We've never known anything but a school where a student's voice is allowed and encouraged," he said.
Don Amaral, who worked with Ms. Regan when he was a basketball coach at the school for four years, moved into a different role in years past, representing Tisbury's finance and advisory committee in scrutinizing the high school's budget for several years. "Tough decisions had to be made," he recalled. "She left her stamp on this building, and it's a good stamp, a better place now than when she came."
School committee member Les Baynes, who has been involved at the high school for 14 years, said if there was one thing people should remember about Ms. Regan, it was that "Peg really cared about the kids."
In a conversation last week, as the school year draws to a close, Ms. Regan said, "I'm excited but also a little wistful. Each thing that happens is the last time through, there's a feeling of nostalgia."
She has no regrets, however, about her decision. "I have realized, though, as I end this year, that I have a great, great fondness for the school and the kids in it and the teachers in it - and that's a good thing to come to, because I think sometimes when you retire out of a job or leave a job, it's kind of a feeling like, oh, well, I'm sort of glad I'm out of there."
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Instead, she said, "I think I'm leaving before I got to the point where I felt like I was completely wiped out, done - and that I still have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for other pursuits, and also for helping this school, as well."
When she submitted her resignation last September, she said she wanted time to pursue other interests. "I still want to do a lot of teaching - I'm very interested in doing more writing, especially writing about the art of teaching," she said.
Other options she is exploring include interim principalships off-Island, as well as working with the Department of Education advising failing schools that have not been able to meet their Adequate Yearly Progress goals in terms of test scores. Although she doesn't plan to pursue a superintendent's position at the moment, Ms. Regan recently obtained her superintendent's license to expand her future options.
"Education is really the only business I honestly love," Ms. Regan said. "I have a great passion for teaching and schools." Unfortunately, the part of teaching that she loves is only a small part of her job as a principal, she explained. "I need to get back to the source of teaching."
Being a supervisor and boss in a small community has been the hardest part of her job, she said. "Personnel decisions can be absolutely heartbreaking," she said. "But you can't delegate those to someone else. As principal, you are the only person in the school, along with the superintendent, who can impact a person's family, children, and ability to live on the Island."
On the other hand, the familiarity and closeness of the Island community translates into great parent involvement at the high school, she pointed out. "Almost all the parents have what I consider is a personal relationship with the principal," she said.
Asked what she considers her signature achievement, Ms. Regan answered without hesitation, "I'm happiest about the faculty's belief there is potential and opportunity for teacher leadership in the school, in instruction, curriculum, and professional development."
The same goes for students, she added. "Providing a sense of possibility and opportunity if you choose to take it is the thing I feel best about." Ms. Regan said. "It's not a perfect school, but I've made a move to make it a safer place for teachers and students to speak out."
Assistant principal Stephen Nixon has been appointed the next principal and will assume duties on July 1.