Kris Francoeur won't return to MUMS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union Middle School Principal Kris Francoeur had hoped to resume her duties this fall after taking a one-year sabbatical to care for her husband, Paul, who is living with ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
But she’s abandoned plans for a return in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the potentially devastating effect the virus could have on her husband’s remaining time, should he become infected.
“I couldn’t be certain that I could return to a school building safely in the near future,” Francoeur said in a recent email exchange with the Independent. “We also made the decision that because of the currently 100% fatality rate from ALS, that our time together is so precious, that we needed to work to spend as much time together as possible as a family. While it truly is a bittersweet decision, it is what is best for us as a family.”
Francoeur, a Leicester resident and former Rutland Middle School principal, took the reins of MUMS in 2016, and has made a profound impact on the school during a fairly short period of time. She, interim Principal Andrew Conforti and MUMS educators have together laid groundwork for the school to accept Addison Central School District’s sixth-graders — and thus become a grades 6-8 school — beginning this fall.
Francoeur’s tenure has coincided with the ACSD’s pivot to the International Baccalaureate program, involving an arduous certification process and revamping of the MUMS curriculum.
Those who worked with Francoeur praised her for never losing sight of the focal point for all the big changes at MUMS: The children.
“She has been an inspired champion for the success and opportunity of all students, and her legacy at MUMS is apparent throughout all facets of the school,” ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows said.
Francoeur used three words to sum up her fondest recollection of her time at MUMS: “Kids, kids, kids.”
“Kids made me laugh, inspired me, challenged me in the best possible way, and reminded me of why this work is so important,” she said.
Her second-favorite memory of MUMS involves a student-run effort to honor the memory of the 17 students murdered by a shooter at Marjorie Stoneham High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018.
“A group of students came to me wanting to plan an event to honor those lost, and share their concern about school safety,” Francoeur recalled. “Working with those (students), and giving the freedom to plan and run the event, and keeping the adults from trying to take it over, was a true gift of an experience for me. Those students brought tears to my eyes with their strength, vision, power and hope.
Another highlight for Francoeur: co-leading the ACSD District Task Force on Racism, Bias and Inclusion. Spurred by incidents of racial intolerance on and off campus in 2017, the task force — made up of ACSD staff, faculty, parents and community residents — issued a report in 2018 detailing ways member schools could foster an environment of openness and inclusion within and across the district campuses.
“I hope ACSD will make that important work even more of an emphasis as they move forward,” she said.
While Francoeur is leaving MUMS, she promised to remain committed to public education, especially the needs of the most vulnerable students.
“In the near future, I will work some as an educational consultant and advocate, continuing my work with the state Act 264 board,” she said. “Depending how life unfolds, I may return to public education at some point.”
Francoeur could certainly teach a course on writing, if she feels such a calling. She recently started her own ghostwriting company (Garlic Ghostwriting, LLC), writing both fiction and nonfiction. The “Garlic” moniker is a nod to her incredibly moving book titled “Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude.” That 2018 work is a loving tribute to her late son, Sam, who tragically perished from an accidental drug overdose on Oct. 9, 2013, at the age of 20.
The Independent published a story about Francoeur’s book in its May 11, 2016, edition.
Burrows is establishing a MUMS Principal Hiring Committee to find Francoeur’s successor.
Conforti confirmed he’ll be among the candidates.
Conforti expressed his appreciation for Francoeur’s service and talents in a recent email to the school community.
“I am grateful for her lasting influence on our students, staff, families, and her continued support,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.