Surprise move: Belchertown superintendent Houle decides not to seek contract renewal
Judith C. Houle, superintendent of Belchertown Public Schools, in 2009 Purchase photo reprints »
BELCHERTOWN — Belchertown Superintendent Judith Houle silenced around 40 community members who turned out to the School Committee meeting Tuesday with word she will not seek to renew her contract at the end of the coming school year.
Among members of the crowd were several parents who said they had planned to express concern had Houle sought to continue in her position. Many said they were dissatisfied with the lack of timely notification from the schools following several incidents in the system, most notably the shooting of two school bus windows with BBs in December 2011.
Helen Clark of Belchertown, whose son was on the school bus hit by BBs, said the lack of notification gives the impression that student safety is not the primary concern.
“I expected the school to, if nothing else, call us,” Clark said.
The issue had sparked Belchertown parent Myndi Bogdanovich — now a School Committee member — to start an online petition in May 2012 asking that officials not renew Houle’s contract as superintendent.
Amanda Saklad of Belchertown came Tuesday night to express her concern. She has three children in the school system, all of whom rode the bus hit by BBs but had gotten off at their stop before the incident occurred.
“The lack of communication on such a serious thing is just amazing,” Saklad said.
Also in the crowd were members of Houle’s central office staff, who said they had turned out to speak in support of Houle, had she elected to seek a contract renewal. When asked for their names, the staff members declined to be identified.
School Committee Vice Chairwoman Clare Popowich expressed regret that Houle had decided not to extend her contract and said she feels Houle has been “treated poorly.”
“She’s hard-working. She’s intelligent and she truly cares about our students,” Popowich said. “Everything people say she hasn’t done, she’s done,” she added, referring to Houle’s support of athletics, band and advancement of technology in the schools.
Houle has been superintendent since 2009. The School Committee approved a 1.5 percent raise in compensation for Houle for the 2013-2014 school year. Houle’s contract is set to end June 30, 2014.