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New Easthampton superintendent to shine spotlight on academics, consolidated school in design 

  • Allison LeClair is Easthampton’s new school superintendent.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2018

EASTHAMPTON – With so many changes underway in the school district, newly appointed superintendent Dr. Allison LeClair wants to put the spotlight back on academics. 

“We are making sure our curriculum is the top quality that it needs to be and that our instruction is on the same page,” LeClair said. “The (consolidated) building project is number one on our radar … We are taking a look at challenges around civil rights issues at the high school and district wide and how we are supporting students and families around these issues.” 

LeClair worked in the Agawam public school system as assistant superintendent since 2012 before being hired as superintendent by the Easthampton School Committee this past spring. 

Across the district, LeClair said that the math, reading, music, and arts programs are strong and that there are many students and parents in the community that take pride in their schools. A new civics class will pilot in eighth grade this year as well as a new early literacy program for kindergarten through second grade called Being a Reader. 

A new, approximately $109 million consolidated school for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade is slated to be built on the site of White Brook Middle School and is currently in its design phase. 

Easthampton High School enters its second year of a three-year plan, created by the Collaborative for Educational Services, intended to address incidents of racial bias in the district last year. The administration has stated that the three-year plan launched to ensure that every public school in Easthampton is a safe, welcoming learning environment for every student and adult regardless of their identity. 

The high school is also preparing for a visit from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for accreditation next spring. A steering committee, made up teachers and administrators, are preparing for the review that occurs every 10 years. 

When LeClair spoke with the Gazette in early August, she said she wanted to gather as much information as she could before implementing her own initiatives. Only a month into her new role, she said she had met a lot of hard-working administrators and teachers eager for the new school year. 

“I definitively think as a district we need to jump on the technology bandwagon more so than we have been,” LeClair said. “I hope its something I can move forward with the district, but that means securing funding so it’s something I want to work toward … We want to be methodical and thoughtful about what we need.” 

Maple Elementary School 

First grade teacher Martha Morgan at Maple Elementary is preparing on leading her students on “engaging investigations.” 

An online science program, called “Mystery Science,” encourages students to learn about scientific concepts by using hands-on activities that encourage their curiosity to roam. 

Students are asked to hypothesize about scenarios or events, such as why shadows move throughout the day, and students are asked to investigate why that happens. 

“It’s nice for kids because they can share with one another what they think and it sets them up for exploring,” Morgan said, who has taught at the school for 12 years. “It can be illuminating to ask students what they know about things when starting a lesson, it’s important for teachers to find out before.” 

The school piloted the program last year, and Morgan said she is excited to continue “Mystery Science” as it is “applicable” lessons for students. 

“It takes a complex subject and presents it in a fun and engaging way for kids,” Morgan said. 

Maple Elementary principal Judy Averill said her goal for the academic year is always to support the teachers and student learning. 

One way she does that is by making sure that teachers have the opportunity for professional development as well as having curriculum coordinators. 

“Teachers have been setting up classrooms for weeks and the important thing people don’t realize is all the work teachers do over the summer,” Averill said. She said some teachers within the school are changing grade levels, bringing a “wonderful fresh start” to the school. 

“The important thing this year is with new teachers at new grade levels that teachers get time together so that the senior grade person and the new person have time to work together so there can be that collaboration and mentorship,” Averill said. “Both people benefit. Everyone grows in a true mentorship.”  

The first day of school is Aug. 29 for all students in the district.