Lauren F. French. Screenshot via Facebook

GOUVERNEUR — After eight years heading Gouverneur Central School District as superintendent, Lauren F. French has announced her intent to retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Following several executive sessions to discuss personnel during Gouverneur Board of Education meetings this summer, Mrs. French, 59, on Tuesday night publicly announced her resignation, effective June 30, 2021.

First walking the halls of Gouverneur schools as a kindergartner in 1966, Mrs. French spoke to community members in a live video streamed on the district’s Facebook page this week.

“My goal will continue to be to serve this community and the children, the scholars that we have on a day-to-day basis between now and the end of the school year,” she said. “This was not a decision that was taken lightly.”

Mrs. French has been employed by the district since the 1980s, starting her career as an educator teaching biology. She was appointed middle school principal in 1999, and began her tenure as superintendent in 2012.

Retirement considerations began last year, Mrs. French said, and by March of this year, she was nearly ready to draft her letter.

As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped New York state, closing schools in mid-March and prompting emergency declarations, the creation of task forces and the development of detailed reopening plans, the longtime Gouverneur official said she would not leave the district during the outset of the ongoing crisis.

Now that the district, like businesses, schools and universities across the country, has made it through spring and summer, with reopening and contingency plans in place, Mrs. French said she feels more comfortable moving forward with her personal plans.

“What means the most to me and what really fulfills my goals as an educator and as a human being is to have direct contact with teachers and scholars,” she said, adding that she has spent hours every week preparing plans with district staff this summer and now documents daily COVID-19 data, limiting her capacity to be among learners and teachers.

She recalled only one interaction with a student this school year, a middle-schooler particularly anxious about new school procedures. Their 10-minute conversation, she said, was “wonderful.”

“That meant more to me than any report that I filed or any data that I collected or any columns that I organized,” she said. “I absolutely love what I’m doing. ... I just know for the time and the wear and tear that this has put on me to work at least six days per week, it’s not healthy for me.”

With three young grandchildren, Mrs. French said she is looking forward to enjoying more hours with family and will continue to support the district as a community member in retirement.

The Board of Education is expected to accept Mrs. French’s notice of retirement during its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 19. Meetings continue to be closed to in-person public participation, but will be streamed from the middle school cafeteria on the district’s Facebook page.

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