Mendonsa second Amherst principal to resign


Staff Writers
Thursday, May 19, 2016

AMHERST — A second school principal has resigned in Amherst, effective June 30.

Amherst Regional Middle School Principal Marisa Mendonsa announced her resignation Friday after serving for two years.

That news came after Fort River School Principal Bobbie Finocchio announced her resignation April 1, also after two years. Finocchio said she will step down to be closer to her family in eastern Massachusetts.

“I thank Marisa for her strong instructional leadership and her unwavering focus,” Superintendent Maria Geryk said in an email sent to school community members.

Mendonsa could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

School director of human resources Kathryn Mazur said Mendonsa is resigning for personal reasons.

Interim principal

Patty Bode has been appointed to serve as interim Amherst Regional Middle School principal during the next school year, and Doreen Cunningham is the only finalist under consideration for the permanent job at Fort River.

Mendonsa’s resignation caused the district to shuffle candidates in the running for the Fort River School principal position, offering Bode the interim principal position at the middle school instead of the job she applied for at the elementary school,according to a statement issued Tuesday by Mazur.

Bode “enthusiastically” accepted the appointment and will begin her role as interim principal beginning July 1, according to Mazur. She said the appointment is a “one year assignment” and the next steps to hire a permanent principal “have not been determined.”

Bode taught in Amherst public schools from 1998 to 2006, working as an art teacher first at Wildwood School and then at the middle school.

Bode left the district in 2006 to work as the director of art education at Tufts University. She served as a visiting associate professor at Ohio State University in 2014 and then became the magnet resource teacher for integrating arts at Springfield Conservatory of the Arts.

Fort River candidate

Cunningham is the “sole candidate” now being considered for the principal’s position at Fort River School, according to Mazur.

Geryk and a screening committee made up of faculty, administrators, parents and guardians originally selected three finalists to consider: Cunningham, Bode, and Diane Chamberlain. However, Chamberlain withdrew, citing personal reasons. according to Mazur.

Cunningham was expected to visit the district Thursday to meet with students, staff and administrators.

Most recently, Cunningham worked as the assistant principal for the Capitol Region Education Council in Hartford, Connecticut, according to Mazur’s statement. She has been an educator in Hartford since 1998, working as an elementary classroom teacher, a special education team leader and facilitator, a teacher leader and an intervention specialist.

Parent reacts

Alfie Alschuler, a former Amherst Regional Middle School teacher with two children in the school system, said he feels hopeful because Bode is “eminently qualified” for the job.

But he said another shift in leadership makes him worry there could be a more systemic issue at the middle school.

“The rapid turnover rate is concerning ... there have been so many principals in the past 10 years,” said Alschuler, who taught English and math at the middle school from 2000 to 2013. “But the middle school staff is truly an outstanding, committed, devoted and capable group. They are excelling in spite of all this.”

Mendonsa earned an annual salary of $110,000 and Finocchio was paid $98,430.

Finocchio was hired in March 2014, replacing Monica Hall who became the district’s director of diversity and equity. Mendonsa started in July 2014, replacing Betsy Dinger who returned to teaching.

Sarah Crosby can be reached at scrosby@gazettenet.com. Stephanie Murray can be reached at stephanie murr22@gmail.com.