Hampshire Regional School District sees new staff and new programs
Interim Hampshire Regional High School Principal Kristen Smidy replaces former principal Laurie Hodgdon. Smidy previously served as the assistant principal for middle level programming and academic affairs. Purchase photo reprints »
WESTHAMPTON — This year, students and staff at Hampshire Regional Middle and High School will see a new face in the principal’s office, when Kristen Smidy takes over as interim principal, replacing former principal Laurie Hodgdon. Smidy had previously served as the assistant principal for middle level programming and academic affairs.
Filling in as interim assistant principal will be former chemistry teacher Jesse Porter Henry.
Meanwhile, to improve communication and help students navigate classes and interact with other students and staff, Hampshire Regional is implementing a one-on-one advocacy program. This means every Hampshire Regional student will be assigned to a teacher who will be their educational advocate.
“This way, each student will be well-known and will receive individual attention, whether it be for academic help, assistance with talking to other teachers, or even helping them find emotional support,” Smidy said.
Smidy said that the school will also continue its partnership with the University of Massachusetts’ Bridges Program, in which college students studying education can gain hands-on teaching experience.
“It is a nice way for us to pick their brains on cutting edge education, and they get to be in a teaching environment,” she said.
The school has also moved to a rotating schedule, which eliminates year-long courses.
“As an example, this allows students who are really interested in biology to take two different biology courses rather that just one,” Smidy said.
New hires at Hampshire Regional include Heidi Lukas in high school guidance; Jon Letender, middle school science; Josh Schroeder, biology; and Alexandra Furman, middle school science.
This year, the New Hingham Elementary School will be looking to strengthen its science curriculum.
“It is exciting because now we have a new half-day position that was created for a science specialist,” said Principal Rosemary Larkin. “That position will be filled by Lisa Florek.”
New last year, Larkin says she is settling in nicely to the school.
“Now that I have a year behind me, I have a better idea of the direction things need to take as we move ahead towards the future,” Larkin said.
Larkin sad the lower grades (1-3) at the New Hingham School are being split into two classes for each grade. “This will give the students in the lower grades extra attention and help them with the foundation skills that they will need to move forward,” Larkin said. “When they move into the fourth and fifth grades we bring them back together to work on social skills and team building.”
Larkin said she hopes the move will help ensure that younger students are well prepared before moving into the upper grades.
“If they are moved into the upper grades without strong foundational skills, they often end up being put into remedial classes. What we are doing is trying to prevent that,” Larkin said. Because of those changes, Larkin said the school has done a good deal of staff shifting this year.
Kindergarten teacher Maura Carbery will teach first-graders and Julie Brittain will move from fifth grade to teach fourth grade.
The school has also hired Lesley Parker to serve as a Response and Interventionist/specialist.
“This will be a part-time position that will help our special education teachers with their case load of students,” Larkin said. “It will also support students in regular class who may be strong in certain areas and not in others,” she said.
New teachers at New Hingham this year include: Jane Evans, fifth grade; and Holland Gage, third grade. Larkin said that the school also hopes to eventually fill a new paraprofessional position.
Last year, students in grades three through six were moved into the Helen E. James School while renovations took place on the Anne T. Dunphy School.
This year, the 160 elementary students will remain at the James School until renovations are completed in the summer.
“A lot of the demolition has been done and the construction phase is beginning,” Principal Stacey Jenkins said. “This has been a year of transitions for us and we are continuing to gel as a community.”
Jenkins said that during the slight upheaval, she and her staff are focusing on reaching out to parents, and strengthening the way that information is shared.
The school will also be beefing up its after-school enrichment programs.
“We are starting small and trying to build sustainable programs, so that in the future we will be able to hand parents a menu so that they can see what the programs will look like throughout the school year,” said Jenkins.
According to Jenkins the vision is to provide several after-school sessions, each with a different focus including language, musical instruments, art, and physical activities such as running biking and hiking.
Some programs will have to wait until the newly renovated school opens in the fall of 2014.
“Part of the challenge this year is that we really don’t have the space or the luxury of having a gym,” Jenkins said. She noted that school staff are being creative during the transition.
After the resignation of former Principal William E. Collins from the William E. Norris School at the end of the last school year, Superintendent Craig Jurgensen appointed Anna-Stina Wardlaw to serve as interim principal for the coming school year, while school officials seek a permanent replacement. Wardlaw left her position as principal at the Silvio O. Conte Community School in Pittsfield to take the temporary post at the Norris School.
Jurgensen said that Wardlaw is a “nice fit” for the position and described her as a “strong leader.”
New Hires at the Norris school this year include: special education teacher for kindergarten-second grade, Jennifer Anderson; speech and language teacher Leslie Basco; pre-school teacher Amanda LaRose; second-grade teachers Cindy Diemand and Anne Marie O’Reilly; third-grade teacher Nicole Demagistris; and fourth-grade teacher Susan Rapoza.
Westhampton Elementary School’s parking lot and playground have been resurfaced.
“We are hoping to have a new play structure installed by the end of September, or the beginning of October,” said Principal Deane Bates.
Bates said that staff and programming at the elementary school remains fairly consistent.
“Teachers are continuing to update reading programs and look for supplementary reading materials,” Bates said.
“We will also be starting a Spanish class for the after-school enrichment program, and a winter enrichment program that will include skiing,” he said. “And of course, we will be continuing to work with the new teacher evaluation system based on the common core standards.”