The hunt for a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School principal, a position which will be created with Margaret (Peg) Regan’s resignation this June — is down to four candidates. The final candidates are from Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts and the Vineyard.
Stephen Nixon has been at the high school since 1998, starting out as European history teacher, before becoming dean of students in 2002 and assistant principal in 2004 — two positions created by Mrs. Regan. Currently, he handles administrative matters at the school such as discipline, scheduling and staff assignments. A recommendation sent to the superintendent’s office by Ms. Regan describes Mr. Nixon as a gifted teacher known by students as firm but fair. A letter in support of Mr. Nixon, signed by more than 60 teachers and community members, was sent to the Gazette this week.
Eileen M. Coppola, who responded to an advertisement in Education Week, has been working as lecturer and associate director for research at Rice University in Houston Texas since 2000. In her application Ms. Coppola says she is eager to spend time closer to her family on the East Coast and that she has experience in educational policies, having worked on the urban superintendents program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She completed a stint as principal’s intern at Brighton High School in 1996. Her dissertation on instructional leadership was published as a book in 2000. Another book, Powering up: Learning to Teach Well with Technology was published in 2004.
C. Stephen Collins has background in education administration — moving from athletics director at Provincetown high school to principal of Quoboag Middle and High Schools in Warren — and in business, helping to start up an educational publishing company in Ipswich from 2000 to 2003. In his current position as principal of Quoboag High School, he states that, over the past four years, he restructured faculty and administration.
Arthur C. Arpin has worked as a Spanish and history teacher and, as principal of Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy, he led a Blue Ribbon award winning student body in 2006. He worked as assistant principal at Hamden High School in Connecticut from 1999 to 2005.
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said he hopes to see a principal chosen well before the academic years ends, so Mrs. Regan will be able to help with the transition. “I’m hoping to get it done before the February vacation,” he said yesterday.
Admiration abounds for the high school’s current principal, who has been on the job for nine years. High school committee member Leslie Baynes said Mrs. Regan has consistently managed budgets under increasingly difficult circumstances. “She is the best of public education and exemplifies what’s great about the American school system,” he said yesterday.
He also warned that whoever accepts the position will begin their principalship under strained circumstances. “Peg was working closely with financial committee members, town administrators and the community to deliver responsible budgets, while at the same time dealing with a falling census and new federal mandates,” Mr. Baynes said. A process which began in the fall of last year, the principal search has involved teachers, students and community members. The position was advertised in national newspaper Education Week, in The Boston Globe and in the local press. “We cast a national net,” said Mr. Weiss.
Mrs. Regan is currently considering a return to teaching and journalism, or possibly a move in to federal-level teacher advocacy. But while she wants to stay professionally connected, some distance from her day-to-day principalship will help her take stock. “After nine years in action mode, I think it’s time to reflect,” she told the Gazette last year after announcing her resignation. “I think it takes a great deal of solitude to understand things really well.”
Speaking this week, Mrs. Regan emphasized the need for timeliness in this search. “When I was offered this job in 1999 I accepted and was offered another position in Needham the following day,” she said by telephone. “I hope we don’t lose a good candidate because of timing.”
The superintendent’s office initially culled 12 applicants from 40 to 45 inquiries. The candidates were then considered by a specially formed committee headed by high school committee member Susan Mercier. The committee invited five applicants and sent the short list of four back to Mr. Weiss. The four finalists will now go before the high school committee for public interviews. A date for the interviews will be discussed at Monday’s monthly committee meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. at the high school library.