Part 1 of a 3-part series
By M.E. Jones
AYER/SHIRLEY — When Interim Ayer-Shirley Regional School District Superintendent Mary Beth Hamel was appointed to her new part-time job, she already had a full-time job as Curriculum and Professional Development director for the Ayer Public Schools. Now she holds two challenging positions and manages a full calendar that balances both.
In a recent interview, Hamel offered some insight into how she does it and why.
Growing up, she tried not to miss out on anything of interest or importance and might pencil in more than one item in the same space on her calendar. Mostly, she managed to squeeze everything in. “I always wanted to do it all,” she said. She’s no less motivated now. Gifted with an “organized mind,” she tackles paperwork pileups and multiple meetings in similar fashion, by “methodically working through” her tasks, she said.
Highlights from her past to-do list illustrate the point.
Last month, Hamel conducted a professional development day for Ayer and Shirley teachers that covered a lot of ground. Starting with speakers in the high-school auditorium, the itinerary moved on to multiple sessions in the two school buildings. Topics included research skills, accelerated reading and math programs, “Protecting Students in the 21st Century” and “Virtual High School,” to name a few.
Hamel has high hopes for the Virtual High School, an online option that opens a wide variety of electives to students, even in small groups. Hiring new teachers is not required, and scheduling is less complex, eliminating most overhead costs associated with offering conventional courses in classroom settings. The only hurdle is the program membership fee. If the district can come up with the resources, she would favor signing on, she said.
Previously, Hamel orchestrated a summer program that offered for-credit graduate-level courses to teachers in-house. She also puts out a monthly newsletter to keep staff up to date with educational opportunities and tools and the latest teaching and learning trends.
Hamel frequently makes presentations to audiences that range from school committees, teachers and administrators to parents, students and the public, including groups she recently spoke to at middle school open houses in Shirley.
A key architect of the new middle-school model, Hamel shared a big-picture scenario that included an expanded program lineup and plans in the works to further improve the curriculum. The joint middle-school venture, launched this fall in Shirley, precedes the new Ayer-Shirley region by a year.
If organizational aplomb is any indication, Hamel’s busy schedule doesn’t daunt her.
Just before sitting down with a reporter, she wedged in a brief meeting with a teacher. It was part of an ongoing information-gathering task, she explained, preparing for an upcoming meeting of the Regional Leadership Team, 14 administration and staff members from the two districts who meet monthly.