Administration changes, new staff evaluation process on tap at Frontier Regional
Martha Barrett at Frontier, new Frontier Regional School District and Union 38 superintendent. She has served as the principal of the Frontier Regional School for the past 12 years, and now steps up to take on the role of superintendent. She replaces Regina Nash, who retired at the end of the last school year. Purchase photo reprints »
Northampton Interim School Superintendent Regina Nash said she was pleased that the state reduced the number of city schools being asked to undertake a trial run for a test being considered as a replacement for the MCAS standardized tests.
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Regina Nash, interim Northampton schools superintendent, is one of numerous new faces that will greet students when school starts Sept. 3.
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DEERFIELD — The Union 38 and Frontier Regional School Districts will see changes to their administrative staff and teacher evaluation methods this fall, with a new superintendent, a new principal and the implementation of new state regulations for educators’ reviews.
Martha H. Barrett, who has been principal of Frontier Regional School for the past 12 years, has taken on the role of superintendent. She replaces Regina Nash, who retired at the end of the last school year. Nash was then hired to serve as the interim superintendent of the schools in Northampton.
Barrett said she has held individual meetings with all the teachers and new members of the staff, and has planned a new teacher orientation event on Aug. 27.
“I think there are always some fun and interesting facts to share that you don’t always know when you are hired at a new place” she said. She said she is also going to give the new teachers a bus tour of all the schools. “I want them to know where all the buildings are and have a sense that we are one school district.”
At the Frontier Regional School, Barrett’s ascension to the superintendency has given her former assistant principal, Darius Modestow, an opportunity move up as well — he takes over her job as the school’s principal.
Modestow said that his past experience working with Barrett should streamline some of the decision-making processes within the district.
“We’ve known each other, so we’ll be able to be on the same page from the start, and I’m excited about that,” Modestow said. “The fact that she’s still my boss and we know each other very well is a unique situation to be in.”
According to Modestow, Frontier Regional will continue to expand its Advanced Placement class offerings this year with the addition of a new, year-long environmental science course. Last year, the school added classes in computer science and European history through a partnership with the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative, which seeks to increase participation in Advancement Placement courses, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
The school this year will also install three so-called smart boards, or electronic chalk boards, bringing it closer to its goal of outfitting the entire building with them. Modestow said that nearly three quarters of the school’s classrooms are currently equipped with smart boards.
Both Union 38, which governs the area’s elementary schools, and Frontier Regional School will also be switching over to the state’s new Educator’s Evaluation program, which is being implemented statewide this fall. The program will shift evaluation methods from the administration to the teachers and measure student learning by looking at data from MCAS testing, direct observation and other types of evidence.
“We spent last year training teachers and administrators and this year is our implementation year, so we’re going to be spending a lot of time making sure that that happens and making sure that it happens in an informed manner,” Barrett said.
“I think if we do it well, it will probably have the most profound change on education,” she said. “The new evaluation system is no longer the top-down model where the principal comes into the classroom and does an observation, writes up a few things and leaves. It really is working in conjunction with the teachers. More responsibilities are going to be put on their shoulders for providing the documentation and making sure their curriculum is aligned with the standards.”
In the district’s elementary schools, Deerfield Elementary has created a new literacy coach and interventionist position this year to provide an expert who will work directly with teachers during the school day, an approach that Principal Jeanine M. Heil calls “embedded professional development.” The coach, she said, will work directly with individual teachers and have ongoing conversations about their teaching and student achievement, Heil said.
“We have to produce a school improvement plan every single year, and one of our goals in the plan for next year is to focus on writing and our approach to teaching writing,” Heil said.
At Sunderland Elementary School, a new program for students who need help, known as Horizon, will be introduced this year. Principal Timothy Merritt said the program aims to assist children who are struggling academically to receive the support that they need to succeed in school and on standardized tests.
Students at Whately Elementary will get a chance to play in the dirt during the school day this year with the continuation of the school’s gardening program. The program, which originally began two years ago, sends students out to the school’s garden each Tuesday to learn about gardening while applying what they learn in class to the lesson.
“It’s connected to the Massachusetts curriculum framework,” said Principal Peter Crisafulli. “Depending on their age, they might be learning about the life cycle of a plant, photosynthesis or the water cycle. They might be measuring volume and area in our raised garden beds. There are lots of applications.”
He said that the program helps students get closer to their food source and to learn about how food is produced. Most of the produce that is grown in the gardens is sent to the school kitchen for use in the students’ lunches.
“It’s important to learn where your food comes from and what’s going into your body,” Crisafulli said.
The Union 38 and Frontier Regional School District serves the towns of Conway, Whately, Deerfield and Sunderland. It consists of the Conway Grammar School, the Whately, Deerfield and Sunderland elementary schools and Frontier Regional School.