Director of Village School in Royalston steps down

Jocelyn Langer (left) has been hired as the new director of the Village School in Royalston, succeeding Rise Richardson, who has served in that position since 1994.

Jocelyn Langer (left) has been hired as the new director of the Village School in Royalston, succeeding Rise Richardson, who has served in that position since 1994. PHOTO BY GREG VINE—

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 04-15-2024 4:30 PM

ROYALSTON – Village School Director Rise Richardson, who has been there since the doors opened in 1989, has announced she has stepped down from the position.

Richardson has been the school’s director since 1994, and said she had decided that it was time to hand over the reins to someone younger, someone who can bring fresh energy and a new perspective to the director’s office.

“I started with the school when it was a preschool and I was volunteering,” said Richardson. “It was just a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Then, before you know it, I’m the head of the school and raising money for a new building. But now I’m 72.

“I’m not old, but I recognized that I’ve done what was needed and it’s time for somebody else to take the reins who has certain skills I don’t have.”

Richardson has been succeeded by Jocelyn Langer, a former teacher at the school.

“I wanted to leave and still be around to help until Jocelyn gets a chance to get a sense of how the school is running,” Richardson said. “And this is a good thing, because Jocelyn has worked in the school for about seven years, and she already knows the culture.”

Returning to Village School

Langer said she worked at the Village School for seven years, starting in 2009, teaching music, art, “and wearing a lot of different hats.” While working in Royalston, she also attended UMass Amherst, where she earned a master’s degree in translation studies, graduating in 2015. She took a full-time position at Northampton High School, where she taught for a few years before taking a position with the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

Langer felt her experiences in public education and nonprofit work would serve her well as director of the Village School.

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“It’s kind of a nice mix to bring back to the school in addition to my previous experience here,” she said.

Langer said her first goal at Village School is to get the lay of the land, adding that school culture has changed a great deal over the last several years. Langer said she wants to familiarize herself with the parents, community, staff and students and that the assistance from Richardson has been very valuable.

“I’m very intentionally not making any big changes right off the bat,” she said. “I think there are a lot of really good conversations already happening in the school around equity and inclusion. So, I think working on that, we could make the school a lot more equitable and inclusive.”

Providing more student services, she said, is something that needs to be closely examined and that there is opportunity for growth around student support.

While Langer will be succeeding Richardson as director, that doesn’t mean Richardson won’t be seen at the school anymore.

“I still plan on being around, being helpful and volunteering where I can,” she said. “Maybe coming in and reading to the kids from time to time.”

“Never a dull moment”

Richardson said she has learned as much along the way as the students who have passed through the doors of the Village School.

“I didn’t plan to be head of school. I just kind of fell into it, and as much as the school grew, I grew,” she said. “I learned so much about working with people. I learned so much about education. I loved the work. There’s never a dull moment in this job – never, ever.”

Her favorite part of the job, said Richardson, is being around the kids.

“When you’re sitting behind a desk, you’re not getting out as much with the kids as you want to,” she said.

Richardson did face some challenges along the way. The first was raising the $2.2 million needed to construct the new school campus on South Royalston Road. The Village School had previously occupied the former Raymond School in Royalston, but needed to relocate due to a number of issues with the structure, which was built in 1939. The next big challenge was dealing with the COVID pandemic.

“So, we’ve gotten all through that, and the school is in a really mature place right now,” Richardson said. “I’m really proud of it. I did what I could, but it would have been impossible without so many people – a super strong staff – and everybody collaborating.”

Greg Vine can be reached at  gvineadn@gmail.com.