Amherst Regional Middle School. Photo: Amherst Public Schools

Possibly the most consequential issue brought to light at this week’s (January 14) Regional School Committee Meeting wasn’t on the agenda.

In his Superintendent’s report, Michael Morris mentioned that a search has been initiated for “a principal to lead the Amherst-Pelham Regional Middle School.”  An advertisement on educational websites indicates that the successful candidate would start on July 1, 2020.  Morris indicated that a search committee would be formed in the coming months to make a recommendation to the School Committee.

In 2018, the search for the Middle School Principal was controversial and ended with then-principal, Patty Bode, not receiving re-appointment because she lacked an administrator license. That process culminated in the hiring of both Joseph Smith and Rebecca Sweetman as Interim Co-Principals in 2018 for two-year contracts. Ms. Sweetman was on family leave for part of that term but this school year the two co-principals have shared responsibilities, one taking the lead for 7th grade and the other for 8th grade.  

The job posting did not specify whether this model of two principals for the Middle School would continue.  It did note that a “valid Massachusetts license as a Principal (preferably in the middle grades) and a master’s degree in education or related field are required.” 

Reached by email, Superintendent Morris clarified that neither Sweetman nor Smith resigned their post or was terminated, and that they are both welcome to apply for the permanent position(s).  He also indicated that he did not think this possible change in administrative leadership would have an impact on the current study of whether to move 6th grade students to the Middle School. The posting did note this potential shift and indicated that candidates “should have a vision for Middle Level Education that can contribute to that dialogue.”

Regional School Committee members did not comment on nor ask questions about the brief announcement of this search except to inquire about the timeline, which Morris said he would send to members offline.

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  1. How many students are at the middle school? How much are they paid? It’s hard to understand why MS needs 2 principals for 2 grades. Is this done elsewhere?

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