June 7, 2024

In the public eye: Technology Specialist wraps up 25-year career at WMS

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Ed Pierce

It’s been a wonderful ride for Peter Mullen, but after 25 years of working at Windham Middle School, he’s retiring at the end of this school year.

Peter Mullen, the Technology Specialist for Student Support
at Windham Middle School, will retire at the end of the
school year after 25 years of working with students and
staff there. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Mullen is the Technology Specialist for Student Support for WMS, and his primary responsibility is to maintain the fleet of laptops that the school uses for both staff and students.

But as he explains it, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We all work together in the IT Department so that devices in all buildings work as well, sharing our knowledge with each other and passing on tips and suggestions and having each other's back,” Mullen said. “Then there are all the side issues that contribute to how well the devices work including the network, the performance of websites and software not under our control, to printing and managing information. Teaching today involves technology at every level which provides a constant threat that something will go wrong. There is also a lot of bookkeeping involved to make sure everything is kept track of, and we know who has what device and where everything is.”

As a certified teacher, Mullen began working at WMS as a substitute in the spring of 1999. He agreed to serve as an Ed Tech in the fall of 1999 and went on to work as a long-term sub teaching computer technology. He then taught computer science through the 2003-2004 school year.

“In 2002, the first round of laptops from the MLTI program arrived in Windham and I guess it was natural for me to start managing them while I was still teaching,” Mullen said. “In the summer of 2004, a position was created to just deal with the laptops which I have now been in for 20 years. A new computer teacher was hired but it wasn't too long before that position was eliminated since the laptops sort of made the concept of a computer lab obsolete.

During his time at WMS, Mullen has witnessed the technology explosion in Windham and in virtually every school in the state.

“Maine is unique. It is the only state to ensure 1-1 access to technology,” he said. “There are smaller jurisdictions that have done this, but nothing on this scale. I have seen it grow from just seventh grade having devices in 2002, to every student and staff member in RSU 14 (PreK to Grade12) having their own device (iPads in PreK to Grade 2, laptops from Grades 3 to 12).

He grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire and he earned an Associate of Science degree in Computer Programming at night from Hesser College in Manchester. He went back to school and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Science from The College for Lifelong Learning, a division of the University of New Hampshire, and earned his teaching certification at Franklin Pierce College.

His retirement wraps up a 44-year career in Information Technology.

“There were a couple of minor detours, but I consider my career to have started in 1980,” Mullen said. “I had moved to California and was lucky enough to start on the ground floor of a bank that was opening its own data center. I moved back east and managed a large financial data center in Boston in the 1980s. I started in IT in a large room with a large, noisy, mainframe computer with paper tape, keypunch cards, and other museum quality things.”

It was through a family connection that he ultimately landed at WMS.

“My cousin's wife is Marcia Mullen, who was the nurse at Windham Primary School for many years,” he said. “She suggested I come to Windham. It couldn't happen today, but within a day or two of her introducing me to former principal Donna Stephen, I was day-subbing. I wasn't a complete stranger to Windham as I had visited Marcia and her family many times over the preceding years.”

Of all the things he’s learned while working at WMS through the years, Mullen says one stands out above the others.

“Balance. I have never been accused of having too much empathy, but I have worked to try to find the right balance in that regard,” he said. “Part of growing up is the lessons of accountability and ownership. We hand out expensive tools to these children and things happen. My gut reaction is to hold them accountable which can include financial penalties among other repercussions that can affect a student's learning. But like I said earlier, it isn't always black and white, and I have gotten better at accepting that over the years.” <

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