Chauvette: Ehrenworth right choice for supt.

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/13/2022 3:08:29 PM
Modified: 5/13/2022 3:06:52 PM

ATHOL — Athol Royalston Regional School Committee Chair Lee Chauvette told the Athol Daily News Thursday, May 12, that the committee’s choice of Matt Ehrenworth to become the district’s new superintendent — a decision made the previous evening — was a good one. He added that any of the four finalists for the post could have served the district well but noted Ehrenworth — currently the assistant superintendent for the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District — brings an important set of strengths to the ARRSD.

One of those strengths is the initial backing he received from community members who took the time to meet the finalists for the post.

“I received some messages from parents via my Facebook page and by other means fully supporting Matt as a well-rounded candidate who has a lot of business experience, who has a lot of instructional experience,” said Chauvette.

He went on to say that committee member Tammy Duquette, who did a site visit to the Ehrenworth’s current school district as part of the selection process, “Confirmed with the superintendent of Blackstone-Millville that he kind of split the duties with Matt, and the assistant superintendent was quite active in day-to-day district leadership, as well as the business manager. So, although he was the assistant superintendent, he wore a lot of hats. He has a lot of experience.”

Chauvette continued, “I think he is going to be a very refreshing person to come into the district and help continue the work that is ongoing, work that the administrative team is doing. It’s also a good time to look at revamping some of the administrative positions, perhaps.

“I’m not speaking for him, but it may be a good opportunity because we have a curriculum director position open. I believe Molly Superchi is moving on to Narragansett at the end of the school year in a new role. Obviously, we still have Cindy Kennedy — who herself was a finalist (for superintendent) — and her current role and still within the administration. So, I think there’s a good chance to see where we can reposition people to where it makes sense.”

The School Committee chair said Ehrenworth’s budgetary experience is also a plus.

“We need somebody here with budget knowledge,” said Chauvette, “who really can take ahold of — how do we move forward once the grant funding from COVID expires? How do we manage to keep those people, how do we manage to get those positions that we hired from those grant monies back into the general budget?”

Ehrenworth, said Chauvette, obviously made a good impression with other committee members.

“From listening to some of the other committee members, both before and after the meeting, they really liked his personality. They liked his experience in a regional school district. And they liked his hands-on approach. For me, that’s kind of what sold me.”

Ehrenworth’s ‘edge’

Ehrenworth’s experience in a regional district may be what gave him the edge over at least one other finalist, Northampton School Superintendent John Provost.

“Having been on this committee for two decades now,” Chauvette explained, “I just didn’t feel confident that coming from a city into a regional school district — for many reasons — is very different. There’s a complete set of different rules for regional school districts than for a city system. You have a much smaller staff to depend on for budget creation and building management, because a lot of that stuff is done in conjunction with city departments.”

Chauvette added he wanted to hire a superintendent who wouldn’t focus solely on improving the district’s overall classification by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“In the end, I didn’t want to get caught up in the ‘we need to hire a candidate just because of Level 4’ syndrome,” he said. “I think we have to focus on moving the entire district forward. Obviously, instructional leadership is important and critical in dealing with the state right now. But to hire just for that focus really would have been a disservice to the district.”

Asked if there are any initiatives begun by current Superintendent Darcy Fernandes that he hope Ehrenworth can adopt and build upon, Chauvette said, “I do think the classroom effort and the classroom rigor, and moving and motivating the admin team — it’s important to me to continue that. I think we have made some good progress, and now we have to look at the delivery of services within the district.

“So, I think refreshing new ideas and taking a different approach to things will be good for us. I’ve heard repeatedly over the past couple of years — with COVID, etc. — the expectations of the rigor and the effort to get out of Level 4 has been very frustrating to staff because there hasn’t been a great deal of relief from those endeavors.”

Chauvette concluded, “I think we move forward now. We’re kind of out of that struggle. Our kids have had a really tough time readjusting back into the classroom and they’ve lost some of their forward momentum — but that’s not their fault.

“I have nothing but high hopes that we continue on the path we’re on, continue to meet the demands of the turnaround plans, and I fully believe our new hire will certainly achieve the goals we need to meet over the next couple of years.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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