Merchant to resign as career moves “in another direction”

📸 Courtesy photo

SOUTHBRIDGE — As students look forward to summer vacation, West Street School is now preparing for new leadership in the fall.

Southbridge Public Schools Receiver/Superintendent Jeffrey Villar announced on Tuesday that West Street Principal Elizabeth Merchant will be leaving while Joanne Wilson will be taking the helm of that neighborhood school building.

In a press release, Villar said Merchant had informed him several months ago that she would resign at the end of the current school year “as she found her career moving in another direction.”

Wilson will officially replace Merchant on July 1, leaving her post as principal of Mile Tree Elementary School in Wilbraham. According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mile Tree Elementary School serves 363 pupils in preschool, kindergarten, and Grade 1, as opposed to West Street School’s 334 students in Grades 1-5. Mile Tree Elementary School’s ethnic demographics (84.6 percent White, 7.4 percent Hispanic) are noticeably more homogenous than that of West Street School (35.3 percent White, 61.1 percent Hispanic). Mile Tree Elementary School has 28.1 percent of its student population classified as having high needs, 14.6 percent being economically disadvantaged, 14 percent of students being diagnosed with disabilities, and 3.9 percent are English language learners. Conversely, 84.1 percent of West Street students are classified as having high needs, 72.2 percent are economically disadvantaged, 21 percent have been diagnosed with disabilities, and 27.5 percent are English language learners.

“Ms. Wilson comes to Southbridge Public Schools with many years of experience in elementary instruction and school leadership,” read Tuesday’s announcement. “She has taught elementary school and math at the middle school level and has won awards including the Pioneer Valley Teacher of Excellence Award and the Youens Elementary Teacher of the Year.”

While in Wilbraham, Wilson implemented Tier I and Tier II PBIS supports, a system of positive behavior interventions and supports that has become a focus of Southbridge schools. According to The Springfield Republican, prior to becoming principal at Mile Tree Elementary School, Wilson was an instructional leadership specialist at Elias J. Brookings Elementary School in Springfield, and a teacher in Springfield as far back as 2004. The Springfield Republican also reported Wilson, who began her career as an elementary teacher in Houston, Texas, holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and Springfield’s American International College.

Villar said Wilson “is excited to meet West Street School students and families,” with several opportunities being coordinated over the summer to do so.

Merchant departs after one year as principal at West Street School, having been named in August as the replacement for Kathleen Seifert, who had been promoted to the position of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Southbridge Public Schools.

“Southbridge Public Schools extends its thanks to Ms. Merchant, who has worked tirelessly in the role of West Street School principal for the past year,” read the announcement.

Prior to becoming principal at West Street School, Merchant had worked as an instructional coach in Worcester.

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