HWRSD School Board Questions Creation of New Curriculum Role

HAMPDEN/WILBRAHAM — Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District Superintendent John Provost opened the school committee meeting on his first day in office. He thanked everyone who had welcomed him.

The school committee is required to reorganize at the first meeting of the new fiscal year. Committee member Maura Ryan, who served as vice chair in fiscal year 2022 (FY22), said that as the superintendent had recently changed, it was in the interest of the district to maintain continuity with Michal Boudreau. again as president. The rest of the committee agreed. In a similar vein, Ryan was chosen as vice-chairman and committee member Sean Kennedy was chosen to continue serving as secretary.

Curriculum Coordinator

Director of Curriculum, Teaching and Professional Learning Lisa Curtin had created job descriptions and posted internally for two curriculum coordinators for the math and English programs for students from kindergarten to 8th grade. The roles come with two-year terms and $15,000 stipends and are open to teachers or coaches.

Boudreau told Curtin the positions appear similar to instructional coaches, but the stipend is higher than average for that position. Curtin explained that coordinators wouldn’t be doing the same job as coaches, who support teachers through professional development and mentoring. Instead, she compared coordinators to high school department heads and said the work would focus on vertical integration. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” in integrating the curriculum between grades.

Boudreau asked how a teacher could do this work and “carry the load” in the classroom. Committee member Lisa Murray also wanted to know how teachers could teach and do coordination work without working on the curriculum during class.

Curtin said work on the program would be done during free time, which is typically used for planning, or during nights, weekends and holidays. She said teachers will have more time to complete this work because the recent adoption of curricula means they will not need to write their own curriculum as they have done in the past.

Murray pointed out that there were more “efficient” uses for $120,000, and school board member Sherrill Caruana agreed. She said the district has expressed an “urgent need” for funding to hire more coaches. Aaron Oborne, whose title was updated to the school’s assistant superintendent for finance, operations and human resources as part of his new contract, explained that the coordinator’s stipends were funded by grants from the Fund Emergency Relief for Elementary and Secondary Schools (ESSER).

Kennedy argued that the ESSER money was provided to be used in the program and that the coordinator positions were the best way for Curtin to use it.

School committee member Bill Bontempi asked if the position would maximize the time coaches can spend supporting teachers. Curtin confirmed this and said the coaches were “excited” to spend more time working with the teachers.

Ryan said she felt the post was “rushed” and should have been part of the steps taken to put the strategic plan into motion. Bontempi replied, “You can’t sit around waiting for a [strategic plan] committee vote in October.

School committee member Patrick Kiernan raised concerns about how the stipend posts would affect the recently signed contract with the teachers’ union, Hampden-Wilbraham Education Association (HWEA).

“I would encourage us to be very careful,” Kiernan said. “If we add a position, we have to add it to the contract.” Bontempi suggested contacting the district’s legal counsel to ensure the role does not violate district contract requirements, but noted that other allocation positions do not exceed the HWEA.

Kennedy told Boudreau that it sets a “dangerous precedent” for a committee member to put on the agenda a problem they had with an administrative decision, rather than going directly to the administrator, but Kiernan defended the move and said anything that raises questions should go through the school committee chair.

Meal changes

Osborne made a change in the cost of meals to the committee. Elementary level lunches are expected to increase to $3.25, while high school lunches would increase to $3.50. The committee approved the new prices.

Kennedy suggested using a supplier such as the Homegrown Springfield Culinary and Nutrition Center, which prepares meals for Springfield public schools. “I would really like to have real, good food,” Kennedy said. Kiernan commented that the facility is “magnificent”. It was decided that the district would explore the use of such a provider.