Principals hope to help start new chapter for Caribou High School

CARIBOU, Maine — As another school year begins at Caribou High School, the newest administrators have begun forging connections with students and staff as they look for ways to make the school experience better for everyone.

Principal Jamie Selfridge and Assistant Principal Ben Goodwin both came onboard this summer after former CHS Principal Eric McGough became the school’s special education director. With a combined 30 years in education under their belts, Selfridge and Goodwin said that they hope to create a positive, post-COVID-19 school environment and more engaging learning experiences for students.

Selfridge comes to CHS after 15 years at Fort Fairfield Middle/High School — 10 as a middle school teacher and five as principal. Originally from Nova Scotia, Selfridge is new to Caribou but has spent the first two weeks of school getting to know colleagues and helping students through the often challenging first days of high school.

She and staff will need to listen to and collaborate with students and parents more as CHS moves on from the turbulent pandemic years, Selfridge said. 

“The pandemic didn’t give us many chances to collaborate or feel close to one another, but there are some good things that have come out of it,” Selfridge said. “We now have a chance to evaluate where we’re at and redesign how we move forward. We want to hear from students and parents.”

Recently, Selfridge has become part of a team of administrators and teachers looking for ways to better engage students both inside and outside CHS.

A new program dedicated to “extended learning opportunities,” she said, will allow students to gain high school credit from working at local businesses in careers they’re interested in pursuing. That means she and staff will aim to form stronger connections with local employers.

“Caribou has strong community roots and has always valued its school system. We want to build partnerships so that we continue to help students,” Selfridge said. 

Though Goodwin is just now stepping into the role of assistant principal, his 15 years as an educator in Aroostook have shaped how he forms relationships with students and teachers.

A native of Windham, Goodwin spent 11 years as a math teacher and athletic coach at Washburn District High School before coming to CHS in 2018. He spent the last four years teaching math before transitioning into an administrative role.

“I loved being in the classroom and affecting students’ lives, but I felt that I could do even more as an assistant principal,” Goodwin said.

His position is a first for CHS in a decade. When faced with a tighter budget, RSU 39 opted to eliminate its school resource officer and invest more in social workers and administrators to give students more mental health resources.

Goodwin sees maintaining consistency for students, parents and staff as an important part of his role, especially as everyone strives to return to a type of pre-pandemic normalcy. 

Though school has only been in session for a few weeks, Goodwin has already seen students embracing new opportunities and turning to him and Selfridge for guidance.

“Just having conversations with students has been the most rewarding experience,” Goodwin said. “I had one student come up to me with signatures he got from students who want to bring back the drama club.”

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