Year of the Space at NRHS… August 26, 2015
By Ann Needle
Call this the “year of the space” at Nashoba Regional High School, as administration continues to grapple with how to handle more people in an overcrowded building — and even in the parking lots. But the bigger story as school opens September 2 may be who is actually leaving NRHS. One of the biggest changes in personnel will be who is greeting everyone in the front office next week.
Stephanie Hilliger and Patty Nicoll, the secretaries who were the keepers of just about everything at the high school, both have moved on. For Hilliger, it has been an easy move down the hallway to a new job in the Guidance Dept., according to Principal Dr. Parry Graham. But Nicoll is moving out of state, though she should be around to help transition work to her replacement, Brenda Pelletier, he said.
Music/Chorus Teacher Susan Mianulli is another familiar face to be missed, retiring at the end of last school year. Stepping into her spot is Rachel Pelchat, someone Graham described as bringing to the role “lots of energy, lots of excitement.” Over in Social Studies, long-time Teacher Laura Pagington has transferred to a teaching position at Lancaster’s Luther Burbank Middle School, to be replaced at NRHS by Andrew Hunter.
Some NRHS families may even recognize one of the “new” hires. Former Guidance Counselor Katie Abruzzese has returned to the high school in that role, Graham said. He also mentioned that Career Counselor Sue Allaire will be taking on several students as her routine cases.
In a new position, Maureen Principe joins the staff as an Alternative Education teacher. Graham explained that, as someone with experience in the alternative education field, Principe represents “a great first step in trying to meet all of our kids’ needs.” Earlier this year, Graham mentioned NRHS was reaching out to students who do not always thrive in traditional education settings.
Graham also has advocated for a bigger mix of class offerings, and a few of those start up this year. Nick Ellis — who is going from substitute to full-time status with Social Studies — is teaching the new “The Origins of Everything.” NRHS also will be offering AP European History for the first time, along with some new Theater classes and more sections of Digital Photography, Graham said.
The NRHS Space Task Force may soon be recommending what sort of space the high school will need up to 15 years from now, but administration still must deal with short-term space needs. Graham reported that the two modular classrooms Stow donated from the former Pompositicutt School have been a big help. Both classrooms will host Math classes every period of the day, freeing up classroom space for some English Language Arts and Social Studies classes, he said.
With a growing number of juniors and seniors at the school (the only students allowed to park during classes), Graham reported, “Parking is something we’re trying to manage — again.” He explained that parking has been getting tight the past few years, to the point where the school does not anticipate having enough student spaces this year for those who want to drive to school, even when selling permits for both the student lot and some spaces near the auditorium.
The solution for this year will be to sell passes to seniors first, then to juniors. Each permit holder also will be assigned a numbered space, which should cut down on any parking disputes, he said. While the new policy appears to have upset some juniors looking forward to driving to school, Graham stressed that it should address parents’ concerns that the school enforce the parking rules consistently.
Elsewhere, school spirit could be getting a boost from the new “Nashoba Cup” competition. The brain child of the Class of 2015’s John Vasington, Graham described the Cup as “a positive, inter-class competition, competing against each other around positive things. We’re trying to build school spirit, trying to build on core values.” Each class will earn points based on such factors as “integrity points” from teachers and participation in extracurricular activities. The class in the lead will be recognized each quarter, and the Cup awarded at the end of the school year, said Graham.
If the Cup process looks familiar, consider that Graham reported Vasington as describing it as “like what they did in Hogwarts [from the Harry Potter book series], but without the snakes.” More seriously, he added, “Too often, we don’t recognize the good things our kids do.”
Finally, Graham noted that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges should release its formal re-accreditation report on NRHS near the start of the school year. Conducted every 10 years, the NEASC re-accreditation process was completed in the spring.