GROTON — After completing her first year as principal of the Florence Roche Elementary School, Ruthann Goguen said her energy level for the job shows no sign of lessening as she looks forward to the months ahead.
“My enthusiasm for the job remains high,” Goguen said. “I’m committed to being a leader in the school and see my job as being a supportive one for teachers. It’s rewarding to see kids learn and grow because, for me, it’s all about them.”
A resident of Ashby, Goguen was hired last year to replace Launa Zimmaro, whose resignation was one of several high-profile departures from the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District, along with high school principal Joseph Dillon and Middle School principal Beth Raucci. More recently, Prescott Elementary School principal Betty Lavin declared her intention to retire following the current school year.
“My first year has been very satisfying,” Goguen said. “I’ve worked on trying to open communications with parents and my principal’s coffees have been very well attended, as well as our Sped PAC round-table discussions.” She listed some new traditions started at the school, including weekly principal’s citizenship awards for students, the student of the month awards, and a new fourth-grade student council.
“We’ve also taken measures to improve safety and security at the school, with parent pick-ups and sign-outs and with teacher IDs,” she added.
The academic year ended successfully last week with a “moving up” ceremony, where graduating fourth graders received T-shirts and were recognized by Goguen and the rest of the faculty for their achievements.
“We wished them well on their journey to middle school,” Goguen said.
Before taking charge of the 600-plus students at Florence Roche, Goguen began her career in education as a substitute and special education teacher, then became an elementary and middle school guidance counselor in the Ayer school system. Following that, she was named middle school assistant principal in Gardner and later served in the same capacity at the South Street Elementary School in Fitchburg. Finally, Goguen arrived in Shirley, where she again served as an assistant middle school principal.
“I love what I do,” said Goguen. “I’m an advocate for the kids. At the elementary school level, we have an opportunity to continue to push ourselves to the next step and to provide more and more for the kids because at this young age, their minds are like sponges.”
“Our students at Florence Roche are at a different developmental stage than those in middle school or high school,” Goguen said. “My experience working with middle school students has given me insight on what elementary students can expect as they move to the upper grades. I know what level of expectations is being put on kids in the upper grades and think that’s an advantage I have.”
Goguen said one of the primary goals she had set for herself over the last year was to foster a positive learning environment for students and staff at Florence Roche, a goal she felt she had achieved.
“My style of leadership is promoting collegiality among the staff,” Goguen explained. “We’re a team and every member brings something different to the table. By communicating with each other, we can find out what we’re all thinking. When we see the other side of things, then we can begin to work together to build something better.”
Part of making it all happen was a program of events at the school, including performances and visiting speakers, that could hold the interest of students while imparting valuable information.
“We brought in state Representative Robert Hargraves for Memorial Day and had some nice schoolwide assemblies,” Goguen said. “We also planted a tree at the send-off ceremony. I think that those kinds of traditions are very important in building unity and a positive school culture.”
Still, there is always room for improvement, Goguen said.
“We’re going to continue building new traditions at Florence Roche,” the principal stated. “We’re going to continue to look at data and assessments on students and to make educational decisions around instructional practices. We’re going to continue to provide teachers with opportunities for professional development and to try and be proactive rather than reactive.”
Looking ahead to her second year on the job, Goguen will face the challenge of integrating a large influx of students from the Prescott School, which closed its doors for the final time this year.
“The best thing about being an elementary school principal is the kids,” Goguen said, unfazed by the coming surge of Prescott students. “Every day I greet the kids with a smile and they smile back and I can tell that they’re ready to learn. There’s no feeling better than that!”