PROSPECT — After spending his entire career in the Bethel public schools system, Derek Muharem is coming home — actually to the town he’s called home the past 12 years.
The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, last week unanimously voted to hire Muharem as the next principal of Long River Middle School.
“I feel very fortunate to be given this opportunity. I’m extremely thankful to [Superintendent of Schools Michael] Yamin and the entire board. I’m looking forward to a new chapter of my life,” said Muharem, a 43-year-old Prospect resident.
Muharem is currently the principal of Bethel Middle School, where he has spent his entire 19-year education career. He will take over as principal at Long River on July 1.
“Mr. Muharem is a 12-year resident of Prospect and is genuinely enthusiastic and excited to provide valuable leadership and implement an educational philosophy that is committed to the providing the highest level of education and achievement for all students,” Yamin said in a statement.
Muharem, a graduate of Pomperaug High School in Southbury, earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Jacksonville University, in Jacksonville, Fla. He earned his master’s degree in education and 6th Year Educational Leadership degree from Southern Connecticut State University.
Muharem began his career in 1997 as a physical education teacher at Bethel Middle School, and steadily took on more leadership duties.
“I tried to immerse myself in as much as possible to learn what it takes to be a leader,” Muharem said.
While teaching, he served as the coordinator of physical education and health from 2002 to 2006 for Bethel public schools. In February 2006, he was named assistant principal of Bethel Middle School and became principal in 2012.
It was a combination of factors that attracted him to the Long River job, Muharem said, and top among them was being closer to home.
Muharem and his wife, Anna, an English teacher at Woodland Regional High School, have three daughters, ages 12, 10 and 8. Working in Bethel, Muharem said, often meant that by the time he got home on late nights he missed a lot of activities with his family.
Having spent 19 years in the Bethel school system, Muharem said he feels connected to the town. However, Muharem said, Prospect is his hometown and he wants to help shape children in his community.
“I want to be able to participate in the growing and developing of our students,” he said.
Particularly middle school students.
“Middle school students are dynamic by nature,” he added.
Students in middle school are going through a lot of physical, emotional and social challenges, Muharem said. He said he loves helping to shape middle school students for high school and beyond.
“Being a principal at a middle school is an amazing job,” he said.
Muharem is replacing former Principal Jayne Lanphear, who retired in December after nearly four decades as an educator at Long River. According to Yamin, Muharem’s salary will be $134,800 with benefits.
Long River Assistant Principal Michelle Meyers has been serving as acting principal since Lanphear retired. Lanphear has also stayed on for two days a week to help with the transition. Meyers will remain as acting principal until Muharem’s tenure begins. At that time, Meyers will return to being assistant principal.
Muharem said he is coming into a school with established leadership in place that has done a good job. He’s looking forward to working with faculty and parents to map out the school’s course for the future.
“Being in the same district for 19 years, I’m ready for a new challenge,” Muharem said.