It’s been a decade since Rochester Memorial School began a school year without Derek Medeiros as its principal, but the elementary school has moved on by introducing Heidi Letendre as interim principal for the 2023-24 academic year.
Letendre had worked at RMS as a student-teacher 30 years ago, so her introduction was part of a festive opening meeting for the Rochester School Committee on August 31. Old Rochester Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson said that since accepting the job, Letendre has been working.
ORR also introduced a familiar face in the new role of interim director of Student Services as Kris Lincoln, who has worked in all six ORR schools over an almost 20-year period, replaces Craig Davidson. After time in Colorado, Teah Keogh returns to the ORR District as an English Language Learning specialist.
At RMS, Leigh Beson comes on as a Grade 1 teacher, and Caitlyn Coelho is a new Grade 6 Special Education liaison. Lauren Harper and Bridget Houlihan join RMS as Grade 5 teachers. From the small-world department, Nelson reported that Harper is the neighbor of one of his high school teachers, who assures Nelson that Harper is a very good teacher.
Alexia Pacheco joins RMS as a Project Grow teacher, and Jacquelyn St. Thomas is the new school psychologist. Erin Sharp is an instructional assistant, and Catherine Staier, a frequent substitute in 2022-23, joins the RMS staff as a Grade 1 teacher.
Nelson said many schools were dealing this summer with vacancies, but RMS is down to one.
RMS Paraprofessional Lynne Arruda was recognized for her 25 years of service, and RMS Special Education Secretary Kimberly Amato was recognized for 15 years. “Most of our staff, when they come here they end up staying here, which is what you want,” said Nelson.
Two RMS staffers changed positions, Tess Hedblom going from Special Education Classroom teacher to Grade 2 teacher and Lea Sims from Lunch aide to instructional assistant.
Opening Day ceremonies for the district included faculty representatives from all six schools at the high school, and Nelson was enthused to tell the committee about Sippican School Grade 6 student Nia Gonzalez, who delivered an inspirational keynote address to ORR faculty. Nelson called Gonzalez “an incredible leader.”
In her Chairperson’s Report, Sharon Hartley and committee member Kate Duggan brought to the committee’s attention the fact that Rochester is aligned in the state association of school committees (MASC) with Cape Cod-based school districts (Division 7) rather than Division 3 with fellow Tri-Towns Marion and Mattapoisett and the ORR District as a whole.
The committee voted to approve an OpenSciEd grant of $4,100 for Grade 5.
Hartley said the RMS solar-canopy project is still being hashed out. As of the August 31 School Committee meeting, the town’s next step was for the Select Board to consider an amendment to the amount of money in the PILOT account. The electricity rate would presumably lock in for two decades.
Nelson credited Erin Bednarczyk for her role in helping ORR upgrade its website, and Nelson said the district is working on a phone app.
Vision 2028, a new five-year plan for the district, will be presented to the Joint School Committee on September 28.
Dr. Shari Fedorowicz, ORR’s assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning, addressed the committee, focusing on opening day and the positive atmosphere at RMS, which was a facility well prepared for the beginning of school. Fedorowicz publicly recognized Kim Reed for her effort to make the new teachers feel welcome on the first day.
Fedorowicz also updated the committee on the literacy program instituted last year.
During a scheduled School Committee Reorganization vote, Hartley was reelected as chairperson of the committee. Duggan was elected as vice-chairperson for the 2023-24 school year. Melissa Wilcox will continue to serve as secretary.
Jason Chisholm agreed to continue representing Rochester to the ORR School Committee, but Anne Fernandes indicated her interest so a vote was taken, and Chisholm was voted in by a 4-0 margin with Fernandes abstaining.
Fernandes will be back on the Superintendents Union #55 half of the Joint School Committee after she, Hartley and Robin Rounseville were unanimously voted to remain Rochester’s representatives on the JSC.
The committee entered Executive Session to discuss negotiations and to comply with state law, returning only to adjourn.
The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is scheduled for Thursday, October 5, at 6:30 pm at Rochester Memorial School.
Rochester School Committee
By Mick Colageo