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With a long history serving Guilford youth, Michael Regan’s latest role is as principal of the E.C. Adams Middle School. (Photo courtesy of Lorri Hahn )
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Though first-year E.C. Adams Middle School Principal Michael Regan isn’t new to Guilford by any stretch, he is hoping to bring a new level of empathy and care to students who are just beginning to face the coming-of-age challenges unique to the sensitive age of middle school.
Regan is taking over for the recently retired Catherine Walker as principal of Adams, having worked the previous two years as an assistant principal at the school. Regan also spent 14 years between 1998 and 2012 in the district in the social work field, including serving as director of Guilford Youth & Family Services.
It is this background in social work, Regan said, that most clearly forms his vision and passion for the school, as he takes on his first principalship here in his hometown.
“If you ask most people what [their] most difficult years in school [were], invariably they will mention 7th and 8th grade,” Regan said. “Or they will say the term ‘middle school.’ So in addition to having high expectations and really wanting kids to perform to the best of their ability, we want to provide a safe environment where kids can be who they are.”
Having spent so much time in the Guilford school system and having enjoyed that time so much, Regan said the decision to leave the district in 2012 to pursue leadership opportunities elsewhere was incredibly difficult, but his desire to take the next step in his career and build new experiences left him with no other choice.
After spending three years as a dean for the Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton and two years as an assistant principal at Nathan Hale-Ray High School in East Haddam, Regan said he was grateful to find himself back in Guilford.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to return to the district in [a leadership] capacity,” Regan said.
Though being a building principal was not always the exact vision Regan had when he first worked for the district, taking a leadership role in his beloved hometown school district was always “a dream,” he said.
“Guilford—my entire experience has been an incredibly supportive community of teachers and coaches and adults...that helped me through some tough times growing up,” Regan said. “This was the kind of community that no matter what, if a kid needed something we would always be able to make it happen.”
It again comes back to creating an environment for students where all their needs are met and the specific challenges and opportunities of their age group can be nurtured appropriately, Regan said.
“That’s one of the big differences I’ve found in going from high school to middle school,” said Regan, “is literally, this group is wide open for anything. They haven’t earmarked themselves or put themselves on one specific track.”
This makes middle school education unique and rewarding, Regan said, and also a place where his specific skillset and vision is especially relevant. He cited the consistent high performance of Adams and the district as he talked about what kind of school he hoped to lead.
“I think that achievement is going to take care of itself in that kind of environment,” Regan said. He says he also wants “parents and kids to feel that this is a safe place, that this is a place where people really care about you, and are going to work to support you to be the best you can be.”
Academics are still a priority. Regan said that having worked at the high school and continuing to liaison with high school administration now, he is well aware of how high the bar is set.
“They’re going to be going on to a high-performing high school, and I want every single kid to be ready for that challenge and feel, ‘I can handle anything Guilford High School is going to throw at me,’” said Regan.
In the end, Regan hopes that both the students and adults will continue to share his passion for Adams, and for the schools in his hometown.
“People got tired of me talking about Guilford,” he said. “I’ve always kind of preached that same kind of stuff, that really mirrors the experiences I had as a kid [in Guilford]. I want to make sure kids have that same opportunity.”
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