By Marjorie Nesin
---- — While elementary students enjoy the hazy, sometimes lazy days of summer, a new principal is gearing up for his first-year as Veterans Memorial Elementary principal — as excited and anxious for the first day as any student.
“You know what I love about elementary school is you get to celebrate everything — every holiday, every first day and last day is exciting,” said new principal Matthew Fusco.
Fusco moved into his teal-colored office July 1, switching from the 345-student Great Oak Elementary School in Danvers to a more urban school environment he had craved.
“I thought about where I could be the most help and where I can get the most satisfaction from my career and really help kids,” Fusco said.
His 10-year experience teaching fifth grade at an urban Chelsea school before taking the principal’s job in Danvers guided Fusco’s decision to seek work in a more urban environment.
At Danvers’ Great Oak Elementary, Fusco was known and many times noted as a man who connected with his students. He welcomed kids into his office to read passages from books they had just mastered, and offered suggestions of his favorite stories.
One time, after losing a bet with students, Fusco allowed the kids to spray him with paint outside the school.
Each Friday, Fusco would visit classrooms to hand out pencils to students who had stuck up for a bullied student or reached out to another student who seemed alone. He plans to continue similar programs at Veterans, bringing his skills as the leader of a school that implemented a plan to change the nature of its culture to prevent bullying well before the state-mandated changes.
“We were kind of on the forefront of that,” Fusco said. “Like anything though, it’s just about talking to kids.”
Fusco has already met some of Veterans’ students through a summer literacy program and intends to meet each student in the fall.
“I really want to be in the classrooms a lot. In a school this size —approximately 200 students— you can get to know each student.”
Though curriculum and academics at Gloucester’s five community elementary schools are regulated by the district, each carries its own set of unique characteristics. Fusco hopes to bring an emphasis on health and wellness as Veterans’s new leader.
A runner and exercise enthusiast, he plans to start a running club at the elementary school, similar to one he led at the Danvers elementary school. That school hosts an annual one-mile run for students and kids from surrounding towns. Veterans already has an invitation this year.
With his wife and daughters, ages 13 and 9, Fusco will continue living in Hamilton, where his daughters attend school. But Gloucester’s salty ocean air was another draw for Fusco, whose office features a decoratively painted fish and a lighthouse landscape painted by his father, Bill.
“I’m really excited and honored to be the principal here,” Fusco said. “I’m just really looking forward to making Veterans the best it can be.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.