FRANKLIN — Lucas Giguere has an ambitious agenda to make schools safer, focus on the emotional health of students and encourage diversity.
“When (given) the opportunity to continue to serve in a community that I love and respect, I felt like it was the natural move to make,” said Giguere, who was named superintendent of schools in April and officially started Friday.
A father of school-aged children, one of Giguere’s top concerns is student and faculty safety — especially after an incident in 2017 when a pipe bomb exploded outside his home in Blackstone.
The explosion was so powerful that it shook his house. No one was injured, although his Jeep was damaged.
Giguere, who was a principal in Bellingham at the time, said “as a (former) Marine, I was hard-wired to adapt… as a principal, the most important step I could take at that time was to model perseverance for my students.”
At that time, he wanted to show a strong front and underscore safety in the community for students and families. He said he was “overwhelmed by (the) support and compassion from the community.”
That incident — as well as a recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas — motivated Giguere to create a safe space for students and staff.
“My own children walk through those doors… I feel a deep sense of responsibility,” he said. "It's a reality that, unfortunately in our country, we have to confront."
This year, during a retreat held the day after schools were out, Giguere and other administrators set goals for the summer and upcoming school year — ensuring a safe school environment was a main priority.
'Strong systems in place'
The district’s schools have “really strong systems in place” and “great relationship” with the Franklin Police and Fire departments, Giguere said. Both departments know the district's buildings and are up to speed on the district's safety policies.
“We have really, really solid plans that we're working off of and we’re continuing to look for ways to increase safety not just with training but with our behaviors within our buildings,” he said. “That’s a big thing, and I take that seriously based on my own experiences as a Marine and, unfortunately, what happened to me.”
Giguere’s prompt actions and protective attitude stems from his time in the U.S. Marine Corps — he was a sergeant and served from 1998 to 2005.
That is where his “leadership story began… (and I) wanted to bring that together with a passion for public service,” he said.
One of the ways Giguere showed that combined passion was “carrying the torch” for Franklin Public School’s Substance Abuse Task Force.
The task force started in 2016 and is run by School Committee members, students, parents, medical professionals and the SAFE Coalition.
“We’re looking to expand it beyond just substance abuse and look at how it applies to all aspects of mental health — substance abuse is a symptom of that — so we’re trying to figure out how we can look at the precursors,” Giguere said.
This year, the task force held two community events, called "Critical Conversations." The first discussed the connection between mental health and substance abuse, while the second focused on the impact of social media use on students.
Students and parents tuned into the series on Zoom, through Franklin TV, or in person.
He plans to continue the series next year to address a variety of topics.
Giguere’s education career started 20 years ago — soon after his service with the Marines — when he became a one-on-one aide for students.
“To travel with a student and go through all of their classes gave me such a perspective on the student's day and how multiple educators come together to meet the needs of the kids,” Giguere said.
Over the years, he has held nearly every position, from teacher to assistant superintendent.
His greatest growth, he said, came when he moved to Bellingham and serve as principal for three years.
He could no longer rely on the relationships he built with staff, students and families in the Franklin area and “had to develop trust from scratch.”
Throughout those years, he learned how important trust is for a leader.
“It (trust) is something that’s a really foundational aspect to my leadership style,” Giguere said. “Building those relationships is critical in order to do this work… and I plan to carry that into my (role as) superintendent.”
Integrity, positive attitude
Returning to Franklin four years ago as assistant superintendent, Giguere was able to bring his new and old skills “to the table.”
His predecessor, Ahern, praised Giguere for guiding schools through substance abuse prevention and digital and social-emotional learning. She also spoke of his integrity and positive attitude.
“He has a wonderful sense of humor and finds ways to lift others up, even in the most difficult of times,” said Ahern.
Giguere is eager to take on the responsibilities of superintendent.
However, he acknowledges there will be challenges.
“We’ve seen an increase in need for support” concerning the mental and behavioral health of students.
To better help students, Franklin Public Schools created community partnerships, including one with the Wellesley Center for Women. The district is gradually adding counseling services and focusing on the emotional development of students from pre-K to grade 12.
Giguere said developing the district's budget and coming up with a long-term plan to make the best use of school space are on the docket as well.
To continue to build a better future for Franklin Public Schools, Giguere is looking at the “big picture.”
“The pandemic certainly identified areas where our systems could be improved,” he said. Currently, administrators are “looking at creating tiered systems to support kids academically, behaviorally and emotionally.”
Giguere and other educators will look at their systems through various lenses — curriculum, instructional strategies and mental health — to establish those “multi-tiered systems of support” for future students.
He wants to adopt a multiyear program to improve literacy from pre-K through grade 12.
“We have really strong educators and school-based leaders, which serve as the backbone… I am proud of the work we’ve done,” Giguere said.
One of Giguere's district-wide goals is to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“I approach this position with humility, respect and appreciation for public good and the teachers in our community who are all committed to providing the best education opportunity for our kids,” he said.
This article originally appeared on The Milford Daily News: For Lucas Giguere, becoming Franklin superintendent is 'natural move'