By Chris Maza|
WILBRAHAM – Marc Ducey was elected chair of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District on May 27.
Ducey, a resident of Wilbraham who was nominated by former Chair Peter Salerno, was elected to the School Committee during the Annual Town Election in May 2012 after previously serving as the Finance Committee’s liaison to the School Department. His chairmanship was unanimously approved 6-0, with Ducey himself abstaining from the vote.
“I want to thank everybody for their support,” he said. “I think we have quite a bit of work to do this year and I think it will be a challenging year, but I hope a rewarding one and good year.
Salerno was also nominated for re-election as chair, but declined.
“I think it’s time for newer memberships to take hold here. I’d really like to step back and enjoy my 74th year next year,” he said, thanking Lisa Morace for giving him a vote of confidence by nominating him.
The committee also welcomed its newest member Patricia Gordon, who was one of two winners of a three-person race for two three-year seats on the committee in Wilbraham’s May 17 election. Gordon was the top vote-getter with 864, followed by Salerno, who earned another term with 734 votes.
D. John McCarthy, who, as a result, failed in his bid for re-election, was commended by both Ducey and Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea for his service to the district.
“Being on this board for nine years, that’s an awful long time and that’s an awful lot of work and effort on his behalf,” Ducey said. “I’m sure he’s left us a better district than when he got here, so we should appreciate that.”
Hampden resident Leah Buteau was elected vice-chair, also by a 6-0 vote with the elected abstaining.
In other school business, Jolene Guzzo, representing the citizen’s group Falcons for Educational Freedom, spoke at the public comment portion of the meeting to ask the School Committee to join the Tantasqua Regional and Peabody school committees in its opposition of the Common Core Standards.
Guzzo said she was contacted by James Cook, a member of the Tantasqua School Committee, who told her his committee would pursue a resolution through the Massachusetts Association of School Committees that would ask the state’s Board of Education to “abandon PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career] testing, drop participation in the Common Core and return the Commonwealth to its original MCAS [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System] testing.”
She also pointed out that the Peabody School Committee recently began pursuing a conflict of interest complaint against Mitchell Chester, who serves as Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioner and PARCC Commission chair.
While the School Committee and the district have not taken an official position, they have raised concerns regarding recent trends in education to state legislators.
Salerno and O’Shea sent a letter to state Sen. Gale Candaras as well as state Reps. Angelo Puppolo, Jr. and Brian Ashe on Jan. 29 in which they outlined a series of mandates that cost the district a conservatively estimated $1 million, including implementation of new English language arts (ELA) and math standards in all grade levels, creation of a new educator evaluation framework and a new set of district determined measures to evaluate student learning as part of the educator evaluation process, implementation of the PARCC pilot program, and the adoption of a new approach to teaching ELA.
In addition to the cost, Salerno and O’Shea criticized the pace at which these mandates were unveiled.
Before losing the election, McCarthy had also circulated a petition to remove Common Core Standards from the Massachusetts educational frameworks.
The School Committee also voted in favor of a new middle school math program.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Timothy Connor explained the new program was chosen through a process that began more than a year ago after a great deal of interest from school personnel after the completion of the elementary mathematics review.
He explained that the current middle school math textbooks do not align with the Massachusetts educational frameworks, which fall in line with the recently adopted Common Core Standards.
He added that there has been a lack of consistency in the curriculum in math and other subjects between the two towns. The new program would address that issue, while also providing continuity from the elementary level.
“September shouldn’t be a restart,” he said.
The new program also changes the focus of learning away from strict computation, he explained.
“One of the things that is being seen in occupations being created right now [is] the ability to solve problems – not just math problems, but being able to be critical thinkers,” he said.
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