Easthampton says farewell to Tim Luce, retiring Maple School principal, welcomes Judith Averill, whom he mentored

Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2014

EASTHAMPTON — It could be said that Maple School Principal Thomas “Tim” Luce began his education career as a high school student in Connecticut, when as a member of the “Future Teachers” club, he tutored children at local elementary schools.

“Who would have guessed?” he said with a laugh.

Luce, 57, of Conway, is retiring after more than 30 years in education. He spent the last 12 years of his career as principal of Maple School, where he will mark his final day on Wednesday.

Superintendent Nancy Follansbee, who described Luce as a “much loved and revered” principal, said his retirement is a loss for the school district.

“He has done a wonderful job of developing a warm and nurturing culture in the school,” said Follansbee. “We are sad to see him leave but know that whatever happens in his future will be something wonderful.”

Replacing him is Judith Averill, 50, who has worked in the district for 10 years and has served as interim principal at Maple School since March, when Luce went on medical leave.

She will assume the role permanently Wednesday — the day Luce officially retires. The position had been posted internally and Averill was the only applicant, said Follansbee.

“She has done an excellent job as our interim principal,” Follansbee said. “Everyone is delighted that she is willing to take on the position.”

Averill, 50, of Florence, has been a behavior specialist for the Easthampton schools since 2004, and for the last six years, has worked closely with Luce as the “teacher-in-charge,” a position with similar responsibilities to those of an assistant principal.

Following in Luce’s footsteps, Averill noted, will be no small task.

“I don’t want to say he made it look easy, but he really made it look more manageable,” she said. “I’m really glad I worked for him for those years because I feel like I learned a lot from him. I feel very ready to take this on because of the opportunities and support he gave me.”

Prior to his position at Maple School, Luce had been a principal in Heath for two years, Conway for seven years, and Cornish, New Hampshire, for six years, where he had also been a teacher for seven before that. He has also coached high school basketball in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Luce said among the initiatives he is proud about during his tenure at Maple School is the “All School Themes” he launched in which the whole school focuses on a different topic each year with lessons, visiting performers, and field trips with a culminating event at the end. He had originally come up with the concept when he was a principal in Conway.

This year’s theme at the Maple School is “Going Green.” Related lessons have included ways to recycle and alternative forms of energy, and the art and music teachers have also found creative projects to fit the theme.

Luce said his favorite theme has been “Easthampton,” seven years ago. The school had taken a trip to Boston so the children could meet their legislators and learn how Easthampton is represented in the State House.

Averill said she found Luce to be particularly skilled at creating a sense of community in the schools.

“He just really cares a lot about kids and families,” she said. “He just really wanted children to be treated well and enjoy their school experience, and it really showed.”

Averill said one of Luce’s strengths as a boss is bringing out the best in his staff.

“He had a lot of trust in his people. He never micromanaged,” she said. “He let people do their jobs and he supported people to be independent professionals, and people rise within that. You become more professional when you’re treated as a professional.”

Before she was hired in Easthampton, Averill had worked as a behaviorist in the Greenfield public schools for 10 years. She also worked as a classroom teacher in Springfield for one year.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in special education from Westfield State. She lives on Nonotuck Street in Florence with her husband John Averill. They have three sons, William, 18, Daniel, 16, and Jack, 14.

Another practice that Luce brought to Maple School was all-school meetings, which are weekly gatherings of students and staff to celebrate what is going on in the school, Follansbee said.

In retirement, Luce said he plans to get another job at some point, but is not sure yet what that might be. He has been a big brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Hampshire County for two years.

He lives with his wife, Rita Luce, a teacher at the elementary school in Williamsburg. They have three grown children.

He spoke fondly of the Easthampton community and his colleagues at Maple School.

“It’s an over 100-year-old building,” he said. “But what happens in the building is pretty magical.”

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.


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