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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
May 13, 2016


This memo provides the May monthly update to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about our work with the Southbridge Public Schools. In this memo, I am reporting on:

  • Dr. Huizenga's official start as receiver;
  • Staffing update; and
  • Turnaround plan development.

Dr. Huizenga's Official Start as Receiver

As you are aware, on March 22, 2016, I appointed Dr. Jessica Huizenga as the Receiver for Southbridge Public Schools (SPS), and she assumed this role on May 2. In her first week as receiver, Dr. Huizenga visited each school and every classroom in the district. She held her first meeting with principals and district leaders on May 3, and she has already begun engaging with key community stakeholders to increase partnerships that will help the district in its turnaround efforts. I had the pleasure of visiting the district on May 5. I look forward to updating you at the May 24 Board meeting.

Staffing Update

Dr. Huizenga has initiated a strategic campaign to recruit new school-based talent to the district. As part of this effort, she is working with each principal to determine anticipated vacancies, and she is developing a robust recruitment effort involving local colleges, universities, and community partners. Additionally, SPS is hosting its first annual Educator Hiring Fair on May 31 at the Southbridge Middle/High School.

At the district level, Dr. Huizenga has made two important staffing decisions. On May 2, Mr. Jonathan Parent assumed the role of Director of Information Systems and Technology. Born and raised in Southbridge and a 1999 graduate of Southbridge High School, Mr. Parent will be responsible for managing, monitoring, and supporting the network infrastructure, security, and data management. On May 9, Ms. Nicole Murphy assumed the role of Director of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). In this role, Ms. Murphy oversees the district's Tiered Systems of Social and Emotional Supports, including wrap-around services, community partnerships that support SEL district-wide, and counseling and clinical services.

Turnaround Plan Development

Dr. Huizenga and I are working with staff of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop the Southbridge Level 5 district turnaround plan. Consultants from Teachers21, a non-profit organization, are assisting with drafting and editing the document. We expect to publish the turnaround plan before the end of the current school year.

Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, special assistant to the Commissioner, will be at the Board meeting on May 24 to answer your questions.

Last Updated: May 16, 2016
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