What’s New at School? … August 20, 2014
By Ann Needle
Summer brought some big changes to both the Stow schools and Nashoba Regional High School. When school opens August 27, families can expect new staff and learning options at its schools.
One of the biggest developments is big—that is, Center’s population is growing briskly. Not only will the school open its first full-day pre-school program this year, but four grades (kindergarten, second, third, and fifth) each will have a fifth classroom, up from the traditional four classes per grade, reported Principal Kevin LaCoste. He estimated that the school now supports about 640 students.
“This is definitely the most [students] we’ve ever had,” he remarked. “It’s a major change for us.” And, tapping a pile of applications on his desk, LaCoste added, “I have 13 more students we need to place.”
Center’s growth, along with staff turnover, will mean several new faces in the teachers’ lunchroom. New staff includes third grade teacher Laura Albano; Special Education teacher Erica LeBrun; and Instructional Assistants Marian Harwood and Erica Podgornin.
More students also means some moves among current teachers. Amy Keough will switch back from teaching first grade to kindergarten, and teacher Teresa Zuckerman is moving from fourth to fifth grade.
In other notable staff changes, fifth grade teacher Betsy Kyle retired over the summer. In June, she was found to have been in violation of the school’s bullying policy by the School District. Though Kevin LaCoste did not comment on whether the incident lead to her retiring, he said, “I think she found this was a good time in her life to try some new things.” Replacing Kyle will be Laura Torigian.
And, as Physical Education teacher Diana Mandile heads for a long-term leave this year, taking her place will be David Zina, who retired as Center’s PE teacher a few years ago.
Meanwhile, though Center bustles with activity, some of the bills from its new construction are still outstanding. According to the Elementary School Building Committee’s Craig Martin, Stow still is disputing about $400,000 t0 $450,000 in bills with the project’s bonding company, which took over the project when the original general contractor defaulted. ESBC Co-Chair Ellen Sturgis remarked that the town “was supposed to have had a settlement worked out by August 30, but it’s not looking good.”
Hale Welcomes Stow Connections
Hale was busy this summer filling several key staff roles. The result was some new teachers with old ties to Stow.
With long-time sixth grade Math teacher Sheila Flaherty retiring last June, Monica CampoBasso will be stepping into her job. A Lancaster resident, CampoBasso served on the Nashoba School Comittee for several years, and taught fifth grade in Leominster.
The new seventh grade Math teacher will be Stow’s Maggie Perreault, taking over from Elisha Arsenault, who left after two years. Hale Principal George King decribed Perreault as an experienced math teacher who has been tutoring Hale math students, and recently completed a long-term substitute assignment in Lancaster’s Luther Burbank Middle School.
Another experienced teacher is joining the staff, as Kristen MacDonald becomes the new eighth grade Science teacher.
King explained that MacDonald has several years of experience teaching middle school science “and will be ready to hit the ground running.” She takes over for Chris Whitaker, whom King mentioned has moved to Vermont after five years at Hale.
At NRHS, a Landmark Year
The high school is focused this year on the approaching visit and re-accreditation evaluation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which takes place every five years. NRHS Principal Dr. Parry Graham noted that the school’s required self-study is almost complete, and the site visit will take place in March 2015. He explained that this will bring in 16 educators from throughout New England for three days, “evaluating us across seven different standards, and producing a report that will identify the high school’s strengths and areas for improvement.”
NRHS also will offer more than a dozen new courses this year. These include several team-taught courses, which Graham said “will give students more opportunities to pursue their interests and have enhanced learning experiences in a broad range of subjects.”
These team-taught classed include an interdisciplinary freshman Humanities course, taught jointly by an English Language Arts and a Social Studies teacher, combining the topics of World History and Literature and taught across two class periods. Graham reported there also will be two team-taught ELA/Science courses for seniors, and another (the Art and Science of Cooking) team-taught by a Biology teacher and a Foods teacher. Other new courses Graham listed included Digital Photography (“which was so popular that we couldn’t fill all of the requests!”), Forensics, a new Math Foundations elective, Video Game Design, and several new computer science courses.
For the first time, freshmen reporting to school next week will be welcomed on New Chieftain Day, said Graham. Upperclassmen have planned activities designed to welcome new students. The activities were scheduled for August 19 and 20 (freshmen pick one of the two days to attend), each day concluding with a cookout catered by NRHS cafeteria staff.