October 16, 2019
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Hampden area schools get new leader for the first time in nearly 3 decades

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Regan Nickels the current Assistant Superintendent of Business for RSU 22 will be the new superintendent of the school district as Richard Lyons is retiring from the post after 28 years.

Regional School Unit 22 will have a new superintendent starting next year, marking the first time in 28 years that Superintendent Richard Lyons won’t be leading Hampden area schools.

Current Assistant Superintendent of Business, Regan Nickels, will take over the stewardship of the regional school unit that oversees Hampden, Winterport, Newburgh and Frankfort schools on July 1, 2020, after Lyons retires.

The school board approved Nickels’ appointment in a unanimous vote Wednesday night, according to a news release by board chair Karen Hawkes. Members have had a succession plan in place for Lyons’ retirement for three years.

Nickels has been with RSU 22 for 14 years, first as principal of George B. Weatherbee School in Hampden, then Reeds Brook Middle School and finally as assistant superintendent of business and operations.

“[Nickels’] long tenure of fourteen years with RSU 22 provides an invaluable understanding of our districts’ culture and values,” Hawkes said in a statement.

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Nickels has planned a “listening tour” over the next few weeks which she will continue throughout the 2019-20 school year, when she will hear from parents, students, teachers and community members.

Nickels said the reason behind the tour is that before she makes any changes to the RSU, she needs to understand how parents and students feel about them.

“My intention is to make sure I’m aware of all the perspectives that exist in RSU 22,” she said.

The feedback she receives will inform her 100-day plan, which she will present to the administration before she takes over as superintendent.

Lyons said that his most significant contribution in the past 27 years leading the Hampden area schools is the academic and extracurricular opportunities he created for students. During his tenure, he oversaw the building of Hampden Academy, a $7 million renovation of an elementary school and the accreditation of two middle schools.

After more than 40 years as an educator, Lyons will continue his work in the field by consulting and teaching classes in education leadership at the University of Maine.

He’s confident that Nickels will be able to pick up where he left off.

“She’s focused, she’s a good collaborator and she can make tough decisions,” he said. “Regan and the board together can continue creating opportunities.”

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