After going to as a student, and later returning there as a teacher and department head, Julie (Hagg) Miller returns to Stoughton High again, this time to lead the school as its new principal.
A 1994 Stoughton High graduate, Miller taught at SHS from 2001-2008, serving as math department head for five of those years. From 2008-2012 she served as an assistant principal in a pair of other school districts. Now Miller comes back to the place that fostered "her love of learning."
"I'm just really glad to be back. It feels like home," said Miller, whose parents still live in Stoughton.
With former O’Donnell Middle School principal Wayne Hester retiring at end of this past school year and former Stoughton High principal Matthew Colantonio becoming principal at the OMS, there was a vacancy in the top post at SHS.
Miller emerged from what started as a for the position, with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi .
Miller, who officially started as SHS principal in July, will be the third principal in the last four school years at SHS. She joins current assistant principals Hope Fernandes and Mike O'Neil, who both return this year.
Most recently, Miller held administrative positions at both King Phillip Regional and Apponequet Regional High School, where she has served as assistant principal.
Stoughton was looking for a principal at the same time Miller was looking to make the next step in her career.
"I wanted a school district that would be a home for me," she said. Someplace she could have a "long, fruitful career." When the Stoughton job opened it was the perfect fit.
Miller's first return to Stoughton came in 2001 after teaching math in Roslindale for three years.
"As a teacher just starting out in my career I wanted to come back to Stoughton because of the positive experiences I had here [as a student] and my family had here," she said.
Miller recalls having great teachers and being able to participate in a number of sports and activities - she was a three sport athlete playing on the field hockey, basketball and softball teams (her basketball team played in the state tournament at the original Boston Garden in her junior year) - and was a National Honor Society student (her diploma and gold NHS tassel are proudly on display in her office).
Coming back as a teacher "reaffirmed" the positive experiences she had at SHS as a student.
Miller taught math at SHS until 2008, serving as department head in her last five years at the high school. It was retiring math department head Steve Woodruff who encouraged Miller to pursue being a department head. This position, which provided a nice step for Miller since it has both teaching and administrative duties, got her thinking about making the move to full-time administrator.
She said leaving Stoughton was a "tough decision," but it gave Miller added perspective. She returns to Stoughton with prior institutional knowledge of this system, as well well as King Phillip and Apponequet, and even Roslindale.
All four districts are unique - different demographics and settings. She said it gave her a "flavor of different school cultures" - a chance to see how different schools handle the same situations in different ways.
Miller said she will be approachable, visible, collaborative and consistent as principal at SHS. Not too far removed from the classroom, she said that lends a sense of credibility with her staff. When making a decision she has the perspective of how it will impact the teacher.
Though she is no longer in the classroom on a day-to-day basis, Miller said the connection with her students is still there, even as a principal.
"I'm still out there, still talking to them, still at events," she said. "[But] rather than teaching them proofs, we're talking life decisions and goals."
Miller credits her predecessor, Colantonio, with helping to make the transition process a smooth one. The two taught together at SHS (Colantonio was an English teacher before making his move to administration).
Miller, who enjoys long distance running (she has run marathons in the past), won't take a sprinter's approach to her new job.
"I don't feel like I need to come in and just make changes [for the sake of making changes]," she said.
She said her biggest goal is to look at where the school excels and make enhancements there and make the necessary improvements in other areas.
Miller hopes her passion for learning will inspire her students. It is something that goes beyond just math or the field of education - Miller has even taken recreational classes on cake decorating.
"I hope [the love of learning is] one thing I can inspire in students here - always want to try something new and learn something new," she said.
Parents, students, faculty and staff are invited to join the administration for a meet & greet this Wednesday, August 29 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the SHS Media Center. It will be a chance to meet Miller before the start of the school year.
The first day of the 2012-2013 school year in Stoughton for students in grades 1-12 is Wednesday, September 5, 2012 (after Labor Day). Teachers (Unit A) and nurses report the day before, September 4. Kindergarten starts September 7.