NEWPORT — Ever since school reopened two weeks ago for the fall semester, it has been a whirlwind of new faces for Kevin Held, the new principal of Nokomis Regional High School.
“I’m just trying to get my feet wet, get to know the kids and get to know as many of the staff as I can,” he says while thumbing through piles of papers spread out on his principal’s desk, trying to find a list of local clergy he has been meaning to call.
Held came to Newport from the Millinocket-East Millinocket area, where he worked as teacher, vice principal and principal for the past 24 years. He admits that lately he has been feeling much like a fish out of water.
Held’s first and main goal for the school year is to get himself acquainted with people and places. Besides meeting with faculty, staff and students, he has been visiting local police and fire departments, selectmen, and the board of directors for SAD 48.
Goals for the coming school year are limited at the moment. He says he won’t know what the school needs until he has been there a while longer. The new principal wants to continue in the same direction the school has been going, with rising scores on the Maine Educational Assessment tests as an example.
“Education should be fun,” he says. “I think education is the most important thing an adult can give a child, with humor and a glint in the eye.”
Held thinks humor can help students become “a learner for the rest of their lives.”
Held started his career in 1970, after getting his bachelor’s degree in social studies education at the University of Maine and finishing graduate school at Rhode Island. He taught U.S. history for two years in a classroom in northern New York state. He came back to Maine in 1973 and got a job teaching U.S. history, psychology and sociology at Stearns High School in Millinocket.
Held moved to an administrative position, serving as assistant principal at Schenck High School in East Millinocket until 1994, and as principal until last spring.
The administrator applied for the position at Nokomis because he “wanted a new challenge,” he says. Nokomis — with its 1,000-plus students from Newport, St. Albans, Palmyra, Plymouth, Hartland, Etna and Dixmont — has twice the student population as Schenck and more than 40 more faculty members.
It is also the only school he has worked in that has had its own cafeteria, he adds.
Another plus, he adds, was location. “It’s closer to some urban-type areas,” Held says. “I spent 24 years in the East Millinocket-Millinocket area, and it was time to make a change.”
So far, Held has found everyone to be “real friendly, supportive and helpful so I don’t feel overwhelmed.”
“I still don’t know the names of a lot of the faculty. It’s difficult to go from one place where you know everybody to a place where you don’t know anyone,” he says.