By BEN STORROW
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
AMHERST - Matthew Behnke, the principal at Wildwood Elementary School for the past two years, announced Tuesday that he will resign from his position when the school year ends.
In an April 27 letter to Wildwood parents and staff, Behnke cited two factors - a desire to spend more time with his family and a wish to be a teacher again - as the primary reasons for his resignation.
"First it is my preference to return to the classroom in order to effect positive, instructional change to children each day and to pursue personal areas of educational interest within a school community," Behnke wrote. "The second and third reasons are interconnected; that is, the proximity my family lives from this district and my desire to be able to spend more quality time with my young family."
Behnke and his family live in Westfield.
Behnke's announcement makes him the third prominent Amherst school official to resign this school year. Glenda Cresto, the former principal at Amherst Regional Middle School, resigned just four days into the school year in September, saying she was not a "good fit" for the position. Her resignation was followed in March by that of Alberto Rodriguez, superintendent of Amherst schools, after receiving low marks in an assessment of his performance by Amherst teachers and staff. He later negotiated his exit with the School Committee.
The rash of resignations also comes at a time when the constitution of the Amherst school district is in a state of flux. Mark's Meadow Elementary School will close permanently following the end of school in June. Its students will be sent in the fall to other Amherst elementary schools, including Wildwood.
Catherine Sanderson, a School Committee member, acknowledged that Behnke's announcement comes at a time when the district is changing, but expressed optimism that the position could be filled by the summer.
"It is always hard when a principal moves on because it means transitions for family and staff. This is a particularly crucial time, as we will be moving from four elementary schools to three," Sanderson said. "That being said, I have every confidence our interim superintendent will be able to conduct a search for a new principal and, due to the timing of the resignation, I would imagine will have the opportunity to have a new principal in place by the summer."
Past principal searches have usually included the formation of a hiring committee, which recommends finalists to the superintendent, Sanderson said. Principal candidates are often interviewed in a public forum, Sanderson said, before the superintendent makes a final decision.
Behnke came to Amherst in May 2008 from Granville, Conn., where he served as principal of the Granville Village School. Prior to that, he had worked as a special education teacher in Chicopee and as a classroom teacher in Oakland, Calif. His time as Wildwood principal is actually Behnke's second stint in Amherst - he is a graduate of Amherst College.
Maria Geryk, interim superintendent, said she hoped to outline a process for hiring a new principal next week.
"I would like to thank Matt for his service and commitment to our students and our community," she wrote in an email to the Gazette. "I look forward to our continued work over the next two months. We wish him well."
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.