Welcome Back

Published by Chris Wangler - June 30, 2020.

What school will look like this fall remains to be seen, but there’s excitement about a Waltham native taking over as superintendent.

Brian Reagan (pronounced REE-gun) starts on July 1.

“As someone who grew up in Waltham and as a graduate of the Waltham Public Schools, this appointment has significant personal meaning for me,” he said after he got the job earlier this year.

Reagan no longer lives in Waltham, but when he graduated in 1990, he played trumpet in the Waltham High School Orchestra and in the Wind Ensemble.

Returning to Waltham now, he will lead an entirely different district.

Challenges include COVID-19, spiraling enrollments, a high dropout rate and a $3 million decrease in schools funding. There’s also the WHS project.

It’s a lot for an educator with two years’ experience as an assistant superintendent in Wilmington, known more as a high school principal in Shrewsbury and Hudson.

But he arrives in Waltham with the support of school officials and educators impressed with his professionalism and people skills―and looking for a new approach.

By the time former superintendent Drew Echelson left for Harvard last spring, Waltham educators had turned on him.

They criticized low morale during his tenure, an unpopular unilateral hiring decision and a high number of interim officials in top positions.

“We desperately need a consensus builder who involves parents, teachers and others,” said Waltham Educators Association (WEA) co-president Nate Rono in late February.

During the superintendent hiring process, the WEA favored Reagan over other finalists, including one with more experience.

Part of the appeal was his down-to-earth credentials. He did not attend an Ivy, is the parent of teens in public schools and worked his way up through teaching, not academia.

The school committee was also impressed, voting 4–1 to hire Reagan.

“He was almost like a dad,” school committee member Jane Gately said after observing him with Waltham kids. Reagan was described by others as “the whole package” and “a people’s superintendent.”

His entry plan includes “school-based residencies.” Over a 10-week period, he will spend three days at each of Waltham’s schools to see how things work in detail.

“I will spend the majority of my time in each building watching classes, interacting with students and families,” he told school officials recently.

Reagan has already met virtually with a few principals, community groups and school committee members.

WHS 1990 yearbook photos; 2018 courtesy photo