WA Chemistry department faces more change


Kavya Desikan

Howard-Donlin’s former room

Kavya Desikan, Editor

Following Westford Academy chemistry teacher Matthew Howard-Donlin’s last-minute departure from Westford Academy, Curriculum Coordinator Jenny Kravitz and Principal Jim Antonelli sought a replacement to take on Howard-Donlin’s classes. They ultimately found Catherine Erickson, whose resume included teaching and curriculum coordinating in urban education for 15 years.

It was decided following Howard-Donlin’s departure that Erickson would only teach CP Chemistry courses, causing classes to be rearranged in order to accommodate, as Howard-Donlin taught at both the CP and Honors levels.

Erickson assumed full-time teaching at Westford Academy on September 17, 2018. However, on October 12, 2018, she handed in her letter of resignation to Kravtiz and Antonelli. It was at that point that both Kravtiz and Antonelli decided that no replacement would be hired and that they would seek an alternative solution.

“There had already been so much upheaval in those classes, we needed to ensure that those kids were progressing through the content on pace with the other CP Chem classes. So, [Principal Antonelli and I] decided that it would be in the best interest [of the students] to have existing chem teachers pick up those [classes],” said Kravitz.

The chemistry department was more than accommodating, and according to Kravitz, they all stepped up and volunteered to take on an extra class.

“I’m lucky in that I have a really great department. The [chemistry] teachers are no exceptions to that. They, given the situation, they did not hesitate to volunteer to take those extra classes on, really for the benefit of the students,” Kravitz said.

All five teachers in the chemistry department agreed to take on one of Erickson’s courses, and in return will be paid stipends.

Kravitz met with each class personally to discuss the changes in the classroom. She explained there would be no significant changes made to their schedule and that the teachers would be teaching them in the classrooms they were already in with Erickson.

“For the most part, it seemed as though the students were relieved. Because it has been kind of a bumpy ride this year, they were relieved to know that […] they all have teachers that are known to do a good job,” said Kravitz.

All of the students were given diagnostic tests to determine how much of the curriculum they have learned, and it is believed that all of Erickson’s classes will catch up to the other CP classes within a month.

This is by no means a perfect solution, and Kravitz acknowledges that.

“Ideally you want all of your teachers having five classes […] It’s not the perfect solution because it is more stressful for the teachers. It is a lot of extra work, and I commend them for, without hesitation, volunteering because they know what’s good for the kids,” said Kravitz.

As for the future of the department, there will be no search for a teacher to fill in for the rest of the school year. The chemistry department, administration, and Kravtiz agree that what is best for the students is making sure they learn the curriculum in a stable setting, where teachers won’t be going in and out.

“It was a challenging situation given the timing of HD [Howard-Donlin] taking advantage of that opportunity. Of course, we wish him well and it was a great move for him. He was even apologetic about the timing, nobody wanted it to play out that way […] We’re gonna post the position for next year and we’re gonna really take our time to make sure we get in a great, qualified, talented, good fit for our school so that moving forward we continue to have a fully functional and really exceptional department,” said Kravitz, looking forward to the future of the department.