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Around Belchertown: Committee forming for superintendent search

Pat Corriera


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The School Committee set a deadline of Nov. 20 for people wishing to serve on the screening committee for a new superintendent of schools to submit a letter of interest to committee Chairwoman Linda Tsoumas.

Current Superintendent Judith Houle is leaving when her contract expires in June.

The composition of the 15-member committee will be three parents, three teachers, two administrators, two non-teaching staff, two school board members, two community members and one member of the Select Board. The screening committee will be chosen by lottery from among those applying.

Tsoumas said the letter of interest need not contain any information other than that the person wants to serve and under which of the above categories he or she wants to be considered.

The School Committee decided not to include a student out of concern that it would be too much of a time commitment given that screening committee members are expected to attend all the interviews of the semi-finalists, which may number more than a dozen.

The committee will be responsible for winnowing down the semifinalists that Pat Corriera of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, a consulting group, will submit to it. The goal, Corriera said, will be for the screeners to choose their top three to five candidates and forward them to the School Committee for final selection.

Screening committee members will be able to review all the applications that come in, Corriera said.

Tsoumas said she has already heard of several people wishing to be considered for the committee and she expects there to be considerable interest in participating. She also encouraged everybody in town to participate in the focus group sessions Corriera is organizing for various constituents that are taking place. The last “open session” will be Monday, Oct. 28, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Jabish Brook Middle School principal’s meeting room on.

“We are at the beginning of our search,” Tsoumas said. Participating in the focus groups or responding to an online survey posted at belchertownps.org “offers the community the chance to identify the values and characteristics of our next superintendent,” she said.


Banner year for scholarships

Sixty-five members of the Belchertown High School class of 2014 are eligible for the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship program run by the state Department of Secondary and Elementary Education.

The award carries with it up to eight semesters of free tuition, not including fees and room and board, at any community college, state school or public university in Massachusetts.

To qualify, students must, in their first attempt, achieve an MCAS score of “advanced” in either English, math or science and receive a score of at least “proficient” in all the remaining categories. Their combined MCAS scores must also put them in the top 25 percent of the district. Linda Tsoumas, chairwoman of the School Committee, said that this is a “record breaking” year in terms of the number of Belchertown students qualifying for this recognition.

In a statement, Superintendent Judith Houle termed the awards, “a tribute to our students’ hard work and to the work of all our staff and faculty who have played a role in preparing them for college.”


Minimizing meltdowns

A presentation for parents and caregivers of children up to age 5 titled “Minimizing Meltdowns: Helping Children Master Strong Emotions” will be held at the Chestnut Hill Community School in Belchertown Nov. 4, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The speaker will be Jeanine Fitzgerald, a certified teacher, mental health professional and mother of three grown children with 30 years of experience as a specialist on at-risk children. Fitzgerald is the author of “The Dance of Interaction: A Guide to Managing Children’s Challenging Behaviors.”

The presentation is part of the “Puzzle of Parenting” series organized by the Collaborative for Educational Services with workshops scheduled throughout the fall and spring. The presentation is free. Those wishing to attend can pre-register by calling 570-3061 or emailing earlychildhood@collaborative.org.

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