SKOWHEGAN — As principal of Skowhegan Area High School for the past eight years, Richard “Rick” Wilson has seen it all: toilet paper and manure on all the front doors of the lobby in 2009; a portable toilet plopped on the roof of the school with a stuffed dummy on the commode gazing down into the parking lot in 2008; and two rival student factions, one called Carnival Killers, in “goth” clothing erupting in protests, suspensions and a student sit-in in May 2007.

To Wilson, 61, who retires this month, it was just kids being kids — there is no such thing as a bad kid.

“Education is always interesting — you try to teach boundaries. We haven’t had issues like that for three years now,” he said. “Kids actually come to talk to us now. One of the best things about this school is that there are a lot of caring adults, and the kids know there’s a lot of caring adults. I think this is a safe place for kids.”

The last day of school is June 16.

Wilson previously was vice principal at Portland High School.

“It’s been great,” he said of his years in Skowhegan. “My goal was to work with people and try to make things better for kids and their future, and this was a great place to do it.”

He said what struck him first about Skowhegan Area High School was that it was more of a community center than just a school building. Because it is a rural area, he said, the school is a centerpiece for the entire area — all six towns in the district — with academic achievement, winning sports teams, theater and a top notch career and technical center.

As for changes at the high school during his tenure, Wilson said the expectation now is that all graduating seniors will be ready for college — whatever they want to do after high school.

“We still want you to do what you want to do, but not because you can’t do something else,” he said. “For example, every kid takes algebra here, so if they want to go to a college, they’re going to be prepared, not just some. That’s our goal — to raise expectations for all, to keep that rigor up there — it’s a culture shift.”

He said 30 years ago if a child dropped out of high school, he or she could get a job in the mills or the shoe shops. Today, he said, if a student drops out of high school or is not prepared for college, there are no jobs waiting for them.

“We have to catch all these kids, and I think we are doing a better job,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he has two grandchildren in southern Maine who need his attention and a 91-year-old mother to visit on the family farm in Kittery.

“I’ll start by just doing some down time — relax and spend time with family, then do a little bit of traveling where there is no snow,” he said. “I will spend next winter in Central America.”

Wilson said he has some business opportunities when he gets back to southern Maine and looks forward to having options for future activities.

Taking over for Wilson in Skowhegan will be Monique Poulin, a Skowhegan native who is principal until the end of the school year at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

“She’s a great lady — they got a good one,” he said. “She’s a quality professional; they lucked out.”

She starts July 1.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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