Springfield principal will helm JFK Middle School

  • John F. Kennedy Middle School 2019. Gazette file photo—

Published: 7/1/2020 12:02:24 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A principal for the Springfield public schools will be the next principal at JFK Middle School beginning Monday, after being named to the position by Superintendent John Provost.

Following a screening committee’s unanimous referral of Desmond Caldwell and feedback from virtual town halls this week for students, staff and the community in which they got to meet him and ask questions, he was tabbed to replaced longtime city educator Lesley Wilson, whose retirement was effective June 30.

“I thank everyone for the extremely warm welcome and I’m ready to get working and to become part of the community,” Caldwell said Thursday following Provost’s announcement.

Provost said the town halls yielded 65 responses from faculty and parents that were “overwhelmingly positive” about selecting Caldwell. He was the lone candidate put forward from among 19 applicants to the screening committee.

“The outpouring of support for Mr. Caldwell from families and faculty and staff has been heartwarming to me,” Provost said.

Caldwell has been a principal in Springfield, according to his resume given to the Northampton Public Schools. He also has worked as an administrator in Hartford, Connecticut; Durham, North Carolina; and Wake County, North Carolina.

Wilson, who is retiring after 35 years working in the Northampton schools, said in a phone interview Thursday that she will miss the students and their energy, curiosity and creativity, as well as her colleagues.

“It’s been a real privilege to work with all the teachers and support professionals in the building,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that parents and the School Committee have been vital to the school’s ongoing success.

“One of the strengths is community support for the middle school,” Wilson said.

In 2004, Wilson took over as interim principal of JFK Middle School, and a year later it became a permanent role for her. Previously, she had been the associate high school principal and helped to create and run the Florence Learning Center, an alternative high school program.

During her tenure, JFK Middle School has focused on equity and the needs of students, both for their regular education and for specials, such as chorus and band, which about half of the students participate in. “We make sure all our students have opportunities that will support them,” Wilson said.

The opportunities for the students also include a day of service program, the celebration of culture and exploration of tolerance and diversity through “Stand up JFK,” and an advisory program known as “JFK Forum” that will be transitioned to Flex Blocks in the fall.

Wilson began her tenure as a substitute teacher and then became a full-time physical education teacher and coach of the field hockey and softball teams.

In retirement, Wilson said she hopes to do more volunteering, possibly with organizations such as the Red Cross, remain in the education field, and stay active through exercising.

“Ms. Wilson’s retirement announcement coincided with the governor’s decision to extend the school shutdown,” Provost wrote in an email. “She sincerely wanted to notify her faculty at an in-person faculty meeting. Unfortunately, it became apparent that would not be possible when the statewide school shutdown was extended until the end of the current school year.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com. Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

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