CONWAY — For the past 10 years, Kennett High School Principal Neal Moylan has greeted students each morning on their way into the building. Like a dedicated postal carrier, he has done it through rain, sleet, snow and freezing temperatures — and he has loved every minute of it.
“I get to gauge if somebody is having a bad day coming in and can take immediate action, but most importantly I can build relationships that pay huge dividends, and that’s really what it’s all about,” he said.
Moylan, 65, will deliver his final principal’s address Saturday at 10 a.m. when the Class of 2019 graduates. He will retire at the end of this month after serving the Conway School District for 20 years as a marketing teacher, director of the MWV Career and Technical Center, director of Eagle Academy and principal of KHS.
Superintendent Kevin Richard appreciates Moylan’s advocacy for his Eagles.
“Neal is the model for being a student principal,” he said. “Greeting students at the front door every day has been a signature of the way the Neal does business. High-fives in the hallway, attending events or helping out with clubs and organizations are all ways in which he connects with students.
“I am certain that there are little to no students who would say that Mr. Moylan didn’t have time for them,” Richard said. “Early mornings, late nights and weekends have been his life for the past 20 years. No one bleeds Black and White (the school colors) like Neal.”
Moylan will pass the baton on to Kevin Carpenter on July 1.
Carpenter, 39, who lives in Center Conway, is currently the principal of Berlin High School.
“I have all the confidence in the world that Kevin will do a great job,” said Moylan, adding he hopes Carpenter adopts his ritual of greeting the Eagles as they enter the nest each day.
“It’s a wonderful way to start the day. Sometimes it gets a little chilly in the middle of January and February, but I put on two or three coats and a hat and that works well,” Moylan said with a chuckle.
With wife, Pat, and their two dogs, Moylan came to KHS from the private sector. He earned a master’s degree in business with an MBA in marketing from the University of Hartford and a bachelor of science from the University of Connecticut, worked in international business and aerospace marketing before moving to the Mount Washington Valley, where the Moylans owned and operated two Main Street businesses in North Conway Village, The Wild Carrot clothing shop and Bye the Book bookshop.
Then Moylan saw an ad for a marketing teacher at Kennett High.
“I still remember coming in to interview, and everyone was exiting to the Ham Arena because of a bomb threat,” he said. “As I was coming in, the whole flood of students was coming out. I said to Patty when we got back, ‘Geez, is this where we want to be?’ Fortunately, we both agreed it was.”
Moylan added: “This job has been the greatest thing I’ve ever done. ... To acquire the skills to be able to connect with students and to be able to adapt to the ever-changing ways of students and technology and education has been something that you truly have to embrace the idea of being a lifelong learner.”
Moylan admits it was a transition moving from career tech director and Eagle Academy director to taking over the principalship from Jack Loynd, who held the post for nine years and brought stability after Kennett had had five principals in 10 years.
“Being a career tech director is like being squirted with a garden hose, and being principal is like being squirted with a full-fledged fire hose,” Moylan said, by way of comparison. “It comes at you and doesn’t stop. It literally took me nine months to really get my feet firmly planted on the ground.”
Moylan has worked to make his campus a kind, open one. He gives the student council not only a voice but a seat at the table of the Conway School Board each month.
Moylan created the principal’s award and each graduation recognizes a handful of seniors, students who have overcome personal hurdles to get to their finish lines. He will present five awards on Saturday.
One of his fondest memories was when Kennett had a reading block.
“Ah, the Man Club,” Moylan said recalling a group of disruptive kids who were making it difficult in the reading break. “There were teachers saying help, help. I took them on, and it turned out that they were all boys, so that’s how we formed the Man Club.
“We started reading, and they read their first book. We found a topic that was interesting to them and initially easy, and then we began to scale up the complexity of the books that we read.
“Every time we finished a book I would buy them lunch, wherever they wanted. Then we would gather, talk about the book, talk about plans for the next book.
“As years went by, I had them journal because I was told they never really write. I said, ‘Well, I can get them to write, too.’ They wrote two or three things they liked about the book and two or three things they didn’t like.
“The last year (2017-18), we set a goal to read 1,000 pages. Remember, these are kids that don’t read or didn’t read, and we did 1,250 pages. It was pretty cool, and I still have great connections with those kids.”
Katy Meserve has been the vice principal for the past five years. She has learned a lot from her colleague.
“Neal Moylan has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to education and the Kennett community,” she said.
“There is no stronger supporter of students, whether they are the littlest Eagles or those flying off after graduation; he has been their champion.
“Neal’s dedication is second to none and goes beyond support and resources, spending hours beyond the school day talking with students and teachers, watching games and attending events,” Meserve said. “His dedication has been visible, even on the coldest of days, when he could be seen outside, greeting every student with a smile and hello as they came through the door.”
She added: “Neal has been a role model, a mentor and friend not only to me but to this community. We are a better school and a better community thanks to Neal Moylan.”
Although he truly believes he has “the best job in the valley,” Moylan knows the time now is right to step away and spend more time with Pat.
“No big plans — maybe I’ll take a gap year,” he said.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Moylan said: “He cares deeply for kids, and he left the school a little bit better than when he came in.”