2013-05-03 / People

New principal at Pond Cove

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Michael Tracy Michael Tracy Transitions in life are never easy, whether it’s a new job, new school or any other move. But when Dr. Michael Tracy moves from Newbury, Mass. to Cape Elizabeth this summer to become the new principal of Cape Elizabeth Middle School, his goodbyes will be exceptionally difficult.

In addition to leaving his teachers, staff, students and parents at Newbury Elementary School, Tracy has to part ways with a school he attended from kindergarten to sixth grade as a child in Byfield, Mass., a village on the west side of Newbury.

“It’s bittersweet for sure. There are things you really will miss, but there are new opportunities that come up,” Tracy said. “It’s important to just be open to all the possibilities and potential, not worry about what could be difficult, and go into this with a completely open mind.”

Tracy’s career in education goes back 20 years, since he founded and directed a recreation program in Newbury while home for the summer as an undergraduate student at Colby College in 1992.

There were similar programs in neighboring communities at the time, Tracy said, and he wondered why no summer program was available to students in Newbury. He put a proposal together, presented it to the town council, and after he was given a budget, hired a staff to offer summer games and activities for children four days a week. From there, Tracy said, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in educating middle school-aged children.

Tracy’s teaching career started at an independent school on Long Island, N.Y., after graduating from Colby. After seven years teaching, he moved on to a career in administration in 2000, where he said he has “developed an appreciation for schools as organizations.”

Tracy was assistant principal at O’Maley Middle School in Gloucester, Mass., for five years, then served another five as the school’s principal. In 2010, he moved on to the principal position at Newbury Elementary School, a school with 614 students from kindergarten to sixth grade.

Cape Elizabeth’s reputation as a town committed to its schools attracted Tracy to the middle school principal position. He takes over for Steve Connelly, who resigned after eight years to take a position as superintendent of schools for Regional School Unit 60 in North Berwick, Berwick and Lebanon. The Cape Elizabeth School Board approved Tracy’s appointment at its meeting Monday, April 9.

“To see a district that’s making a serious commitment to quality teaching and learning – it’s exciting,” Tracy said. “You can come in as a new person and recognize all the things you’re going to support and maintain. Cape is a place that has so many things in place. It’s a great opportunity.”

Part of Cape Elizabeth’s strong reputation has come from a high level of engagement from parents in town. Tracy said one of his first priorities when he starts as principal will be to gather parent feedback about their “hopes and aspirations,” what they might like to keep in place, and what could change to improve the middle school.

“I think there’s a lot of involvement from the parents. It’s clear to me they’re very proud of their schools. To have involved, engaged and invested families, that’s key,” Tracy said. “That’s such a huge element of a successful school.”

Although the transition from the town he grew up in will be a challenge, Tracy has also established roots in Maine, decades ago at Colby College and more recently, to see his two children, who live in Westbrook.

Tracy said he is looking forward to the move to a community that’s really not all that different from the one he’s putting behind him. “Maine’s always been pretty special. It was great to be up at Colby for four years, being on the ocean and on the coast, driving through coastal communities, back and forth during undergrad,” Tracy said. “It’s reminiscent of the North Shore, the seaside communities with great people. There’s something special about coastal living.”

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