High school principal will leave in June
When graduating seniors leave Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) next summer, so will their principal, Margaret (Peg) Regan. Ms. Regan submitted a letter of resignation effective at the end of the school year to superintendent of public schools James Weiss last Friday.
"This is certainly not something we would have encouraged," Mr. Weiss said this week. "She has done an outstanding job, and that is going to make it very difficult to replace her. But I understand it is a personal decision on her part and will certainly honor her request. We will bring her letter of resignation to the school committee when it meets on October 1."
In a phone call Tuesday, Ms. Regan said she will be looking around and thinking about what she wants to do next as she completes her ninth year as principal. "I'm still very interested in writing and I'm still very interested in teaching and staying in the field of education, in some capacity," she said.
Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan
What she is really seeking is time to pursue some of her interests, Ms. Regan added, including her theories and philosophies about education. "One of the things about being a high school principal is that you're constantly in the middle of doing things, getting things done, finishing this project or beginning another, and it leaves little time, really, to think about why you're doing what you're doing or to reflect upon it," she said.
Ms. Regan said she would like to get back to doing something more closely related to what goes on in the classroom, which is difficult for a principal to do while running a building. "You're meeting state and Federal mandates, and writing reports and collecting data, and it takes you very far away from the actual teaching and learning that goes on in the school," she said.
Ms. Regan assumed the principal's job at MVRHS in the summer of 1999. In terms of goals, she hoped to achieve at the high school, she said, "Like a writer, you continue adding chapters. There is no way as a teacher or a principal that you ever actually arrive - you're always in process, which is what I love about the profession. You are always seeking better and more innovative ways to do your job."
What gratifies her most at the high school, she said, is that parents, students, and teachers have a voice in how the school is run and where it will go next.
"I think superintendents can do a certain amount to change schools and teachers can work as teacher leaders, but really, the principalship is where real school change comes from," Ms. Regan said. "It's one of the reasons I got into the business, because I felt that as a teacher, I could effect change in my classroom, but I couldn't effect whole school change without getting into the principal's seat."
MVRHS committee chairman Susan Parker has worked with Ms. Regan on the school committee since 2002. "She is a very fine principal and has definitely advanced the school," Ms. Parker said on Tuesday, after hearing about Ms. Regan's resignation letter. "She really knows and recognizes what good education is. She has connected so well with so many of the students, and has her finger on the pulse of the school to a very large extent."
Leslie Baynes, who has been on the school committee since Ms. Regan became principal, said he has enjoyed working with her and watching her blossom in the job. He was impressed by her collaborative efforts in working with Island teachers in grades seven and eight to improve the math program, so that students enter high school better prepared. In working with Ms. Regan as a member of the budget subcommittee, Mr. Baynes said he thought she kept the high school budget fiscally responsible and was conscientious about keeping the Island towns well-informed and involved in the process.
When it comes to looking for Ms. Regan's replacement, Ms. Parker said, "She will be a tough act to follow - I think it's an important enough position that we need to allow ourselves plenty of time to look for someone in a very complete way, the sooner the better."
Mr. Weiss said he plans to discuss some ideas he has about the search process with the school committee on October 1 and then put something in place. He added that he appreciated Ms. Regan's consideration in giving the school committee a long lead time.
Ms. Regan said she did so knowing that it can take a year on Martha's Vineyard to find the right person for a job. "First of all, you want to bring somebody here in the winter so they know what it's really like," she pointed out. "You don't want to be interviewing just in May and June - it gives someone such a false sense of what the Island is like."
Moreover, she said, given that MVRHS is the Island's only regional high school, "You just want to have a thoughtful process, where people have a chance to have input into who they want as the building principal - kids and parents and school committee members and FinCom members, and all kinds of people who have to work with this principalship."
Ms. Regan said she is not sure when her last day will be. "I want to ensure that there's a very smooth transition, so depending upon what the new principal needs, that will be when I finish," she said. "I'm not rushing off to anything at this point. I don't have any big deadlines to make, which is kind of my plan - to try not to have so many deadlines."
Although their daughter Emily graduates from MVRHS this year, Ms. Regan said she and her husband Jack plan to stay on the Island. Mr. Regan teaches a grade 2-3 class at Chilmark School.
"I'll be around - I don't think I'll stray too far," Ms. Regan said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to stay connected to some of the things on the Island, just maybe in a slightly lower profile. I'll become Citizen Regan of Martha's Vineyard," she added with a laugh.
After graduating from college with a degree in English, Ms. Regan recalled, "I didn't want to be a teacher at all - I wanted to be a writer," she recalled. However, after finding out how hard it was to get anything published - and how little it paid - at a friend's suggestion she took a position as a reading teacher at a small parochial school in the lower east side of Manhattan.
"I just fell in love with teaching," Ms. Regan said, which inspired her to pursue her master's degree in teaching English at Columbia University. She took a job as an English teacher at Barnstable Middle School in 1977. In 1984 she transferred to Barnstable High School where she taught English until her promotion to assistant principal in 1994. She then served as the assistant principal at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, Calif., from 1997 to 1999.
Ms. Regan said she loves working with high school students, because they are skeptical and open to different ideas and perspectives, like to question everything, and possess amazing energy. Sounding like an advertisement for her own job, she concluded, "I've never had a boring day, ever. So if you want to live an interesting life and experience interesting times, work in the high school,u because there is so much happening here."