CHATHAM – Monomoy Regional Middle School Principal Mark Wilson has thoroughly enjoyed his more than 34 years in education, but the time has come for a new adventure. On June 30, Wilson will retire in order to spend more time with his family.
“For half my life I've been an administrator,” Wilson said in a Feb. 11 phone interview. “To do this job well you have to give the gift of time: coming in early, staying late, coming in during the summers, working the occasional weekend. When you do that you do well. I looked 18-20 years out, and decided it would be nice to give that time back to my family.”
The family includes son Ben, daughter Olivia, and wife Heidi, each of whom Wilson is looking forward to spending more time with after his retirement becomes official.
Wilson came to Monomoy in 2015, getting started as the interim principal of MRMS before eventually being given a permanent appointment. A former middle school teacher, Wilson relished the opportunity, looking forward to working with students in grades 5 to 7 on myriad initiatives.
His favorite part?
“The opportunity to build a collaborative spirit and the excitement to do things that are not ordinary to help kids,” he said, noting that he and his fellow educators capitalized on what he calls the bookends of the day, that time before school starts and after school ends. “[In the case of MRMS] a third in the students are in the building an hour before school opens, and two thirds are there afterwards, going out to Muddy Creek or the Elizabethan Islands or to the NEED (National Environmental Education Development) academy in Truro, and that doesn't happen at every school.”
Under Wilson's tutelage, MRMS in 2018 was the only middle school on the Cape and Islands classified by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as “meeting expectations.” In 2019, state education officials ranked MRMS as having the highest “accountability rating” of any middle school on the Cape for the second year in a row.
But Wilson is quick to point out that he hasn't done his work alone.
“I would never say the initiatives are mine,” he said. “They're ours. Everything is a 'we.' [For example] the staff recognized that we had an opportunity to help students improve their literacy, and every staff member has played a role. You've seen the results of that collaboration improve student outcome.”
Wilson was inspired to become an educator by former basketball coach and Tantasqua Regional High School English teacher David Roach, whom Wilson said was a key mentor in his life. It also helped that education runs in Wilson's family. His mother was a nursery school teacher for more than 30 years, and after earning a degree in internal relations, Wilson went back to school for education, ultimately earning his master's degree.
During his career he's taught at or served as administrator of Spencer/East Brookfield, Hopkinton, Mansfield, Falmouth, and Wareham before becoming principal of MRMS. He said what he'll miss the most is the kids.
“Every day is chaotic adventure when you've got 480 teenagers in your house, and they keep me young and excited,” he said. “I want to make sure that they get the best out of their education.”
Wilson, a Falmouth resident, said his commute did not factor into his decision.
“My children are happy in the home that we have. My wife as well,” he said. “And I have a school that I'm really proud of and look forward to coming to every day. If I have a great place to call home and a great place to call work, the distance between isn't much to complain about.”
When not at school, Wilson finds enjoyment in the sport of curling and is both a competitor and coach through the Cape Cod Curling Club. He credits Ben and Olivia with fueling his curling passion, which he'll have more time for after June 30.
While Wilson won't have a hand in selecting the next leader of MRMS, he has faith that the district will find someone worthy of the task.
“They'll find someone special, I'm sure,” he said.