BELLOWS FALLS -- The Rockingham School Board accepted, with regret, the resignation of Bellows Falls Middle School Assistant Principal Dale Chenette at a meeting Monday afternoon.
Chenette, in his third year at BFMS, told board members and the Reformer his decision to leave came after a lot of consideration and soul-searching. He will finish the current school year and his resignation will be effective June 30. He said he plans to move to Memphis, Tenn., where he owns a home, and he has some job interviews lined up for the week of spring vacation.
The School Board's three members all expressed their sadness over Chenette's impending departure, but wished him well. Rick Holloway said he and Principal Heidi Lucas-Moccia made a great team and Chairman Jim "Jiggs" McAuliffe told Chenette, who hails from Connecticut, that his work was both refreshing and appreciated.
Before the meeting, Chenette told the Reformer he used to teach in Tennessee and soon got the itch to return to the state. He said there were several reasons for his decision -- and the harsh Vermont winters helped him make up his mind.
"I've been renting out the house the last few years. My tenants are getting ready to move on," he said. "I thought about it and I'm kind of a city person."
He said Memphis has more of a city feel than Vermont. He also said he has an affinity for southern culture. But he was quick to say he loved the time he spent working in Bellows Falls. He started at BFMS the same time as Lucas-Moccia.
"I've enjoyed it. It's a great little community. I've had a lot of support, even after I made my decision. I've had a lot of parents contacting me, wishing me the best, but also asking me to reconsider," he recalled. "I'm very grateful to the community and for their support."
Chenette, 45, told the Reformer the process to replace him will include a committee made up of educators, administrators, parents and community members, though he will not have any part in it. He worked at Riverside Middle School in Springfield prior to taking his job at BFMS.
Lucas-Moccia said she is happy for Chenette, but said he will be missed.
"It will be sad to see him go. He has a great relationship with the students," she said. "He's worked really hard to make (the school) a better place."
Earlier in Monday's meeting, Margo Ghia was appointed the newest member of the School Board, to fill the remainder of a vacant seat until the election next March. No one ran for the seat in March, leaving it empty. Ghia and Colin James submitted letters of interest, which were read aloud by McAuliffe, for the available position and both spoke to the board to lobby for the appointment.
In her letter, Ghia touted her background in education and her experience working with two area nonprofits (including Saxtons River's Main Street Arts, for which she serves as managing director). She said she believes she has numerous attributes that would be helpful with work on the board. James ran for a one-year seat on the board during March's townwide election, but lost to Sherri Arvin, who now sits on the board. In his letter, James said he is still interested in the serving on the board.
"I have lived in the (Windham Northeast Supervisory Union) community my entire life and have gone through the school system," he said in the letter, read by McAuliffe. "For the past three years, I have served as a trustee here in the village of Bellows Falls. I believe my dedication to the community and the schools in this supervisory union make me an ideal candidate to serve on the Rockingham School Board."
Holloway made a motion to appoint Ghia to the seat, though he said he would soon like to see a young person such as James serve on the board. The motion passed unanimously.
Monday's agenda included the acceptance of a bid for security cameras around Bellows Falls Middle School, but it hit a roadblock when School Board member Bill Metcalfe requested to receive a copy of the school's policy regarding usage of security footage. He said he is not opposed to the new cameras, but wants to know the "nuts and bolts" about who can access the footage and under what circumstances are they allowed to do that. Lucas-Moccia, who said there would be 22 cameras (including 18 inside the building), mentioned she would like some clarification, as well. She mentioned, however, the camera's primary purpose is security.
Pelmac Industries, Inc. is the company that will be recommended to the School Board, though the vote to accept the bid was tabled until the meeting on April 21.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.