Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Thad Miller has spent his entire professional career at Maricopa Unified School District. And his 20-plus years as an employee were preceded by 13 years as an MUSD student.
“It was a small farming town back then, but we always had high expectations,” said Miller, who attended Maricopa Elementary School.
Miller, a 1986 MHS graduate, moved with his family to Maricopa from Maryvale when he was 5 years old.
After receiving his teaching certificate from Arizona State University, Miller returned to Maricopa to teach middle school science in 1997.
“It was a pride thing,” Miller said of his decision to teach in Maricopa. “I wanted to help the community I came from, and that’s the way I still feel.”
He spent 15 years coaching middle school football, basketball and other sports on the same fields and courts he played on in high school.
“I grew up Maricopa Rams,” said Miller, who still sports his iconic, red, Converse sneakers every Friday.
Miller has been married to fellow MHS alumna Pauline Miller for 20 years, and their seven children have all attended MUSD schools.
In 2012, Miller began easing into administration at MWMS as a part-time teacher on special assignment focused on discipline, while still teaching science courses, before becoming a full-time assistant principal there.
Miller worked nearly a decade under former MWMS Principal Rick Abel.
“He was a great mentor for me, and we had a great situation. And it just so happened things went the way they did this year and changes were made,” Miller said.
District officials transferred Abel from the middle school to Maricopa High School last fall after MHS principal Renita Meyers resigned.
Miller said the transition was tough on students and staff – as it was not the first temporary change in administration that semester. Months before Miller was named principal, he had been placed at MHS to fill the slot of another assistant principal for a short time.
Miller’s return to MWMS helped staff and students better adjust to the transition, he said.
“It was one of those things where you don’t like change, but there is no reason to sit around and whine and complain. Our solution is to work together and move forward, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Miller said.
The former teacher, coach and disciplinarian said he practices positivity in every encounter with students in an ongoing effort to build relationships.
Abel said Miller has always been a “student-focused” educator.
“As a classroom teacher he had great management skills, and I think it’s the same in his administrative role,” Abel said. “Kids understand what they are expected to do, and he’s consistent with working with them.”
Among the changes at MWMS this school year, students welcomed 270 sixth graders back to campus, growing the student population to nearly 850, Miller said.
Additional challenges came from parents criticizing the school online, claiming student behavior is not properly addressed by administration. Miller said there is no major discipline problem at MWMS, though parents and guardians are welcome to visit him to express concerns.
“Passionate parents are who I like dealing with. They may have complaints at times, that’s OK.” Miller said. “I’m here to solve those complaints and make things better.”
This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.