Darren Gossage views his time at Russell County High School as a labor of love.
The Russell County High School principal will be wrapping up a 28-year career in education at the end of this month, with 23 of those at Russell County High School.
A 1989 alumnus of RCHS, Gossage said he’s always been a Laker, and that drew him to coming back to the Russell County School District on his career path.
“40 of my 50 years, I’ve gotten up and come to Russell County Schools, in one way or another,” Gossage said. “Either as a teacher, student, or principal. Retiring is going to be a big change for me because this has been such a huge part of my life.”
Gossage said he initially wanted to come back to RCHS to get into coaching, and he did that for a while, ultimately ending up in an administrative role with two stints as principal at RCHS. The first stint was from 2005-2012, then working in a district role for a few years before returning in 2017.
“I felt like there was some things we could do and things we could change in an administrative role, and that’s what led me back here… and I’ve been here ever since,” Gossage said.
Over that time, things have changed quite a bit, Gossage said. He pointed to frequent changes that have occurred at the state and federal level in terms of accountability.
“All the standards, the testing, it’s constantly changing,” Gossage said. “You’re trying to hit a moving target with what we do here. It makes all of our jobs tough.”
Gossage said there are a lot of things to love about being principal of the school, but he said his favorite is graduation and seeing students achieve their goals.
“The students, that’s why we are all here,” Gossage said. “But seeing them walk across the stage is the best feeling. You see them for four years, and you see them grow up, and then finally you get to shake their hand, tell them congratulations, and I think that’s one of the best things.”
Each day presents a new challenge, Gossage said, which has kept the job interesting over the years.
“It’s usually not the same thing every day,” Gossage said. “You have a different task, a different hill to climb almost every day. It keeps things interesting and rarely boring.”
Gossage has also had children go through the school system during his career. His daughter, Maggie, was at RCHS before being selected to attend the Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University and his son, Gavin, is entering his senior year.
“They’ve been blessed to have great teachers all the way through from the beginning,” Gossage said. “My kids have excelled in Russell County Schools and I’m very proud of that. Maggie was here for a year with me before she went to Gatton and I’ve been lucky to be with Gavin through three.”
Making the decision to retire wasn’t an easy one for Gossage, but he said he felt like it was the right time. Gossage said he felt like some positive momentum was occurring in the school prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which derailed everything as the school district had to adjust on the fly to virtual learning.
Gossage said the thought of returning for one more “normal” year after two school years that have been disrupted by the pandemic was intriguing, but ultimately, he felt it was best to go ahead and retire after some lengthy and emotional discussions with his family, as his wife, Jessica, applied for and was hired for a counselor position at the school this summer.
“We thought over it, prayed over it, cried over it, and in the long run, we thought it was best in the long run for her to come up here and that ultimately helped make my decision to move on,” Gossage said.
Gossage said he will miss the faculty and staff at RCHS the most as he prepares to leave, along with the daily interaction with students and athletic events.
“The camaraderie with the teachers during the day is something I’ll miss,” Gossage said. “We have a great group of teachers here at RCHS that care about kids, and I’m going to miss those interactions with the kids… You know, Friday nights have been some of my favorite times of my life, and basketball games, the excitement we have here and how excited the kids are, whether it’s swim, band, golf, whatever. I love the passion these kids have and seeing them grow. There are so many things I’m going to miss, a lot of things that just put a smile on your face.”
Gossage said he hopes people remember the success the school had during his first stint as principal, and he hopes that people see the effort he put into his job.
“I hope people see that it’s been a labor of love,” Gossage said. “I hope that they see what we’ve been able to do.”
At the end of the day, Gossage said his time in the school district has been more than just a job.
“I’m a Laker through and through.”