TOWNSHEND — Windham Central Supervisory Union is welcoming a colleague back to Vermont this summer.
Jen McKusick worked in the Windham Southeast Supervisory for 11 years but took a job in Greenfield, Mass., last year. She went from being a principal at Oak Grove Elementary School to being assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and professional development in the Greenfield public schools.
"My wanting to go to Windham Central has a lot to do with their focus on just curriculum and instruction, not all the other pieces," she said. "It seems contrite, but putting an 'assistant superintendent' on the title meant more politics and paperwork."
Windham Central Superintendent Steven John and his successor Dover School Principal Bill Anton announced McKusick's accepting the appointment as director of curriculum, instruction, assessment and technology on April 27. She's set to begin July 1.
The position changed slightly in name and scope since Matt Martyn held it previously. He will be taking on the role of principal in Dover after serving as director of technology and professional development at the WCSU. He has been employed by the supervisory union for 21 years.
"I think Matt (Martyn) really focused on technology integration but he also focused on hardware, software and did a lot of the tech support in the classrooms," said McKusick. "One of the things he explained to me was that a lot of his job was getting things set up."
Martyn would bring laptops, white boards and other technology into classrooms. Then he would spend time getting teachers comfortable with it.
Technology integration is "one piece of a bigger puzzle" for McKusick, she said, explaining that she will be looking at standards around Common Core, Next Generation Science and State Quality, along with grade level expectations. But, she pointed, these are only frameworks.
"It's not, 'Here you're reading material,'" she said. "It's not just what teachers teach but what students need to learn."
Helping administrators support teachers with instruction will be another piece of the puzzle. McKusick plans on using data, not just from test scores, to inform her assessments and make adjustments to instruction.
Aligning the curriculum across the districts within the supervisory and finding commonalities between all the schools is also one of McKusick's goal. Windham Central covers the Leland & Gray Union High School districts of Jamaica, Townshend, Newfane and Brookline, but also Dover, Marlboro and Stratton. The last three schools offer choice to its students.
"Each school has its own feel and community spirit," McKusick said. "We need to recognize and celebrate that in each town but also realize core instruction makes sense."
McKusick and Anton knew each other through the Vermont Principals Association. When test scores at Oak Grove improved, McKusick's phone rang. It was Anton.
"He called me to congratulate me. I thought, 'What a great colleague,'" said McKusick. "So knowing he was taking the superintendency — no offense to Steven (John) — but I saw new energy and a bright guy, and an opportunity to be part of a team. I'm glad to be back in Vermont."
John and Anton said McKusick was chosen for the position out of a pool of highly qualified applicants.
As word of McKusick's joining Windham Central got around, Anton said many of his principal and superintendent colleagues have reached out to let him know how fortunate he is.
"They have emphasized her strengths of collaboration, wisdom and joy," he said. "I am thrilled be able to collaborate with such a well-respected colleague. I am looking forward to seeing what our supervisory union can accomplish in the coming years."
The gains made at Oak Grove, said McKusick of the school she served as principal at for five years, were so not just about great New England Common Assessment Program or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium scores.
"It was way more about stuff we did locally," she said.
McKusick did not wait weeks for test results before making necessary changes, she said. Other data would assist before then.
McKusick looked at parent surveys and the climate of the school. Likewise, students and teachers shared their feelings.
"There's a lot of good in place already at Windham Central. It will be about helping managing those pieces," said McKusick, who earned her doctorate degree in education, research, policy and administration at the University of Massachusetts.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.