Flower Hill Primary School observed a “changing of the guard” late last week as interim principal Paula Nickerson passed the baton of leadership to Lucia Laguarda, who officially assumed her new post on Friday.
One day earlier, Flower Hill students and staff gathered in the school gym to say goodbye to Ms. Nickerson, who had served as interim principal since September. The celebration included warm words and the singing of the school’s new anthem.
Reading teacher Margaret Matthews kicked off the festivities with a stirring bagpipes performance. Who knew the faculty member possessed such talent? The unique sound produced by the instrument drew Ms. Nickerson from her office to investigate where it was coming from. What she found was a gym full of students. When the youngsters, faculty and staff members saw the veteran administrator they erupted in applause.
Music teacher Karen Cronin was only too pleased to unveil the school’s new song, “Flower Hill Foxes,” which she composed. The song came after Ms. Nickerson said she was surprised the school didn’t have one considering it opened 63 years ago.
Interim Flower Hill Principal Paula Nickerson
with the Flower Hill fox.
After students performed the new song before the large group, Ms. Nickerson took the microphone and told the packed gym that serving as Flower Hill’s principal has been delightful. “I’ll be back to visit,” she promised.
The fun continued as physical education teacher Lou Giani donned a Flower Hill fox costume to the delight of the crowd. He led the group in a massive dance-off that had everyone on the move and smiling.
“I was really surprised,” said Ms. Nickerson after the festivities had wrapped up. Dozens of students hugged the longtime educator and more than a few tears were shed.
New Principal Takes the Helm
Ms. Laguarda is Flower Hill’s eighth permanent principal since the school opened in September 1954. She obtained a BA in sociology with a minor in Spanish at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in May 1992. She also studied as an undergraduate at Universidad de Sevilla in Spain and went on to earn a Master of Arts in Education with a multicultural emphasis at California State University-Dominguez Hills in May 1996.
A member of the Phi Delta Kappa Honor Society, Ms. Laguarda had been the Riverhead School District’s director of professional personnel at the time of her appointment as Flower Hill’s principal. She earlier served as principal of Hemenway Elementary School (2010-2015) and in a dual appointment as principal of King Elementary School (2013-2015) in Framingham, Massachusetts. The latter was the district’s first STEAM school.
Ms. Laguarda began her career as a bilingual classroom teacher for grades 3-5 at Clyde Woodworth Elementary School in Inglewood, California, working there from 1992-1996 before becoming a teacher support coordinator with Teach for America in Los Angeles. She supervised, evaluated and provided in-service mentoring to over 200 TFA teachers in the LA area from 1996-1998.
A bilingual and multicultural teaching methods instructor at California State University-Dominguez Hills in 1997/98, Ms. Laguarda went on to serve as an English language special projects coordinator at Eucalyptus Elementary School in Hawthorne, California from 1998-2000. She was assistant principal of William Green Elementary School from 2000-2002 and principal of Billy Mitchell Elementary School from 2002-2005 and 2006-2010, both in Lawndale, California.
A native Spanish speaker, Ms. Laguarda was an instructional coach and school improvement consultant with Teachscape National Professional Development in the Indian Oasis School District in Tucson, Arizona in 2006.