WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

BELCHERTOWN — The Belchertown School Committee gave Superintendent Brian Cameron generally favorable marks in his end-of-year evaluation. The committee discussed the evaluation as part of its June 25 meeting.

At the conclusion of the review process, Cameron received an overall rating of proficient.

“I know sometimes things don’t go our way, but I am very much appreciative of your hard work and just your professionalism and diligence when it comes to our budget,” member Lamikco Magee told Cameron during the meeting.

Overall, on a scale randing from “did not meet” to “exceeded,” most of the committee members rated Cameron as exceeding expectations in his professional practice goals while determining he met his student learning and district improvement goals. Member Amy Lamothe was the lone member to feel he had met but not exeeded professional practice goals, and Magee felt he had not met but had made significant progress toward his district improvement goals.

Cameron was graded proficient or exemplary in instructional leadership, management and operation and family and community engagement. In the evaluation, member Ruby Bansal specifically commended Cameron’s work during the Massachusetts School Building Authority process through which Belchertown Public Schools was seeking to build a new Jabish Brook Middle School, stating he went “above and beyond.”

Voters rejected a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion override necessary to build the proposed 113,900-square-foot school for grades 6-8 by a nearly two-to-one margin during a June 17 special election.

She also noted progress in selecting new curriculum materials and development of a strategic plan.

Magee also commended Cameron, stating in the evaluation, “Brian has ensured the measures utilized to assess student learning, growth, and emotional well-being are consistent, valid, reliable, and in compliance with laws and district policies. He continues to think strategically and exercise fiscal responsibility in managing the school budget. His collaboration with the union in the joint labor management committee has proven beneficial to the School Committee in its decision making process.”

The committee unanimously determined Cameron met his prescribed student learning goal and met or exceeded his professional practice goal of navigating the School Department through the MSBA process. The majority of the committee felt he met his first district improvement goal of developing and implementing action plans as part of the updated Strategic Plan. Magee determined he had not met the expectation but had made significant progress. The board unanimously felt the superintendent had made significant progress in his second district improvement goal focused on creating an inclusive and supportive environment.

The committee members all felt Cameron graded proficient or exemplary in instructional leadership areas of curriculum, instruction, assessment, data-informed decision making and student learning, as well as management and operations creteria including environment Human Resourcnes mangagement and development, scheduling and manageement information systems, laws, ethics anc policies and fiscal systems.

Members found Cameron proficient in family and community engagement, assessing him on engagement, sharing responsibility and communication. Regarding professional culture, the committee found him proficient or exemplary in his commitment to high standards, continuous learning and shared vision. Regarding the aspect of cultural proficiency, Magee and Bansal graded him as needing improvement.

Discussing the culture proficiency item during the meeting, Magee commented that she would like to see a structural approach for the implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

“For example, the Acceptance Program, is wonderful. How do we make sure that doesn’t go away and just becomes a part of what we do?” she said, referring to a club at Chestnut Hill Middle School focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion. Earlier in the meeting, Cameron read several cards from members of the club reflecting its value to them.

“From my experience as a teacher, you have a teacher who is totally dedicated, both feet in, and then that either retires or leaves or, honestly, gets burnt out and then there’s nobody to pick it up … or someone picks it up because because, frankly, they get paid — it’s a club stipend — then they don’t have the training nor the kind of diligence that maybe the previous person had,” she added. “So, something that’s going really, really well, how do we ensure it stays? I know it’s hard sometimes because a lot of it is dependent on how much motivation a teacher has in making sure it goes well.”

She stressed training as a necessity for those advising clubs, noting advisors for some clubs may take on roles similar to those of counselors as they tackle more sensitive issues.

Bansal concurred, “When we have these difficult conversations, there has to be adequate training to facilitate those because it can go really bad really easily.” Bansal noted she gave Cameron a “needs improvement” rating in that regard, stating that while there was good initiative, especially in response to the coronavirus pandemic, student feedback reflected to her the need for the School Department to “re-engage” in its culture-related goals.

Cameron also read to the board a letter required by the Massachusetts School Building Authority informing them as to the reasoning why the town would not be pursuing its proposed Jabish Brook Middle School project. At a June 20 emergency meeting after the effort failed at the June 17 election, the Jabish Brook Building Committee voted to not continue with pursuing the project.

Cameron said he believed the town would be able to receive reimbursment for roughly $40,000 for costs associated with the feasibility study for the proposed project, but he would confirm those numbers for the committee. Bansal asked how much money had been spent on the project leading up to the election to which Gutekenst said she believed it was close to $1 million.