When it comes to running the guidance department this school year, the Board of Education is hoping two heads can be at least as good as one.
After the abrupt resignation of director of student personnel services/guidance K-12 Richard Charwin earlier this month, the Board appointed two individuals to step into his shoes for the year and lead the guidance department. Maureen Mazzarese has been appointed coordinator of K-12 counseling and Christine Hough was appointed as head counselor for grades 9-12.
The appointments came less than a month after the surprising resignation of Charwin, who left on August 5 his position as director of the guidance department to become the pupil personnel services director at Hunterdon Regional High School. Charwin became the , but Dolan said she did not see any common pattern between the departures.
“Every story has been a little different,” she told Patch after the meeting, referring to the reasons Charwin and his predecessors each had for leaving Westfield.
Charwin was not among the handful of departures highlighted by Dolan during the meeting before the Board approved a long list of appointments for the 2011-2012 school year.
Mazzarese will assume a somewhat similar role as the head of guidance, but Dolan said the wording of Mazzarese’s title as “coordinator” – and not “supervisor” or “director” – was deliberate. Mazzarese does not have a certificate that would allow her to supervise, so she will not be supervising counselors. Similarly, Hough does not have a certificate to supervise, and will not be supervising, Dolan said.
When discussing the issue with Patch after the meeting, Dolan said the system of having two individuals fill in for the position vacated by Charwin is a one-year plan for the district. She did not detail any plan or timeframe for a search for Charwin’s long-term replacement, but emphasized that the new set-up is only the plan for this school year and one where Charwin's duties are split between the two appointees.
“The different responsibilities will be divided,” Dolan told Patch.
Dolan listed a handful of coordinator roles that will be included within Mazzarese’s responsibilities. For example, she said that when a parent has a question about a counselor, they will go to Mazzarese. She also said Mazzarese will serve as a spokesperson for the guidance department both for the high school and K-12 capacities.
Hough will handle the organization and documentation duties within the guidance office, including handling the school profile and program of studies and planning college information nights for parents, Dolan said.
Vice president Richard Mattessich asked Dolan if the sum of Mazzarese and Hough’s new responsibilities will equal those that had been the responsibility of Charwin. After some hesitation, Dolan said “Yes.”
Both Mazzarese and Hough will be paid $8,800 for their one-school year assignments.
Dolan said there had been no formal announcement by the Board regarding Charwin’s resignation prior to Tuesday’s meeting simply because there had not been a Board meeting since he left. She said had the resignation occurred during the school year when there are more meetings, there would not have been such a gap, but because it happened during August, several weeks had gone by between his departure and the Board’s appointments of his temporary replacements.
Mazzarese was in attendance to discuss her excitement for her new position. Board member Mitch Stater asked what effect the changes within the guidance department would have on the current high school students, particularly juniors of seniors who have had their individual counselors leave during a crucial time in their college search.
“Counselors come and counselors leave,” she said. “The practicalities about the college process can be easily taught.”
Mazzarese said she could empathize with the situation brought up by Stater, since her children also went through the Westfield school system and one of them had a guidance counselor leave during her later high school years. Still, she said her daughter’s college dreams still came true and is optimistic about the transition being a smooth one for current high school students.
“We could have had a much more chaotic opening,” she said, referring to abrupt departure of Charwin and the recent calamity of Hurricane Irene throwing off the guidance department’s schedules. “The department is absolutely functioning.” Mazzarese said schedules have been sent out earlier than they normally are and that the staff had a one-hour meeting Tuesday morning to ensure they are on schedule for college
“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity and this challenge,” she said.
Among dozens of appointments made, Paul Valenzano was approved as a replacement for Lisnock (who transferred) and Faith Qualshie was approved as a replacement for Thompson (who resigned).
Dolan also confirmed that there will be the same number of guidance counselors in place this school year as last school year.