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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Southbridge Public Schools Receivership Activities

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
April 15, 2016


This memo provides the monthly update to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about our work with the Southbridge Public Schools. In March, I appointed Jessica L. Huizenga, Cambridge Public Schools' assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, to be the receiver for the Southbridge Public Schools. I introduced Dr. Huizenga to the Board on March 22. She begins officially as receiver on May 2, 2016. In this memo, I am reporting on:

  • Local Stakeholder Group recommendations;
  • Dr. Huizenga's visits to the district;
  • FY17 budget overview; and
  • School Year 2016-2017 staffing updates.

Local Stakeholder Group

The last meeting of the Southbridge Local Stakeholder Group (LSG) convened on March 28, 2016. Dr. Huizenga and I received the final set of recommendations on April 5, 2016, within the 45-day statutory timeline. Having reviewed the LSG recommendations, we are now developing the Southbridge Level 5 district turnaround plan. We expect to publish the turnaround plan by late June. The LSG recommendations are enclosed with this memo and are also posted on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) website at Current Level 5 Districts web page.

Dr. Huizenga's Visits to the District

Dr. Huizenga will begin her role as receiver on May 2, 2016. In the meantime, she has visited the district on March 31 and April 7, and she plans to make at least one additional visit in April. While in the district, Dr. Huizenga met with central office staff, each principal, and union leadership from all units. She visited and observed classes at each school and participated in a meeting focused on next year's course scheduling for the middle school and high school. She also appeared with Town Manager Ron San Angelo on his Public Access TV show, Celebrating Southbridge, which aired on April 7, 2016. A link to the video can be found on the Southbridge Community Television YouTube channel.

FY17 Budget Overview

District leaders and DESE staff members submitted the draft FY17 school budget to the Town Council on Thursday, March 31. It is available on the district's website. The draft budget was built to align to several key priorities to improve academic outcomes for students in the district. The key priorities were developed as a result of the themes that emerged through the district review, the Southbridge Local Stakeholder Group, ESE-led community conversations, and through discussions with school and district staff. Key budget priorities include the following:

  1. Increase supports for English language learners (ELL);
  2. Address behavior concerns by increasing social emotional supports for students and families;
  3. Improve teaching and learning; and
  4. Improve access to and use of technology.

District leaders and DESE staff will present the FY17 budget draft to the Education Health Services subcommittee of the Southbridge Town Council on April 26.

School Year 2016-2017 Staffing Updates

In my role as interim receiver for Southbridge Public Schools and in consultation with district leaders, DESE staff, and Dr. Huizenga, I have made a few key staffing decisions. All current elementary principals have been invited to return to their respective schools for next year, and the district has begun recruitment for teacher vacancies. Rebecca Sweetman, currently the middle school associate principal, will become the middle school principal. One principal vacancy remains open at the Southbridge High School. A selection team has begun to interview high school principal candidates, and Dr. Huizenga will be involved in the final interview and selection process.

Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston; Ventura Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the Commissioner; and other members of DESE's Southbridge team will be at the Board's April 26 meeting to answer your questions.


Download Word Document
Southbridge Local Stakeholders Group (LSG) Recommendations
Download Word Document
Recomendaciones del Grupo Local de Partes Interesadas de Southbride

Last Updated: April 19, 2016
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