WESTFIELD — Superintendent Margaret Dolan, Ed.D., announced her retirement at Tuesday night’s board of education meeting. Dr. Dolan began her career in Westfield Public Schools in 1996 as principal of Franklin Elementary School. She then became assistant superintendent for human resources in 2001 and assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and programs in 2005. Dr. Dolan became the district’s first female superintendent in 2007. Her retirement will become effective on July 1, 2021.
“It has been a great honor to serve the Westfield Public Schools,” said Dr. Dolan in a press release following Tuesday’s meeting. During the 14 years she served as superintendent, the district has installed solar panels, upgraded security protocols and equipment, transitioned to standards-based report cards, incorporated “innovative uses of technology,” updated its website, focused on the social and emotional development of students and navigated the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to the release.
“It’s been a heck of a year,” said Board President Amy Root. “And we are so thankful to have had you at the helm.” Many board members mentioned Dr. Dolan’s calm presence as a key part of the district’s ability to persevere during the pandemic. “There is much work to be done between now and June 30th,” Dr. Dolan said. “I will be working hard with the board, the district staff and the parents for the benefit of our students, right up until the last day.”
Part of that work will be the beginning of a $9.85 million heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) project throughout the district. These upgrades were a part of the district’s five-year, long-range facilities plan but have been re-prioritized due to the pandemic. The project is scheduled to roll out in three phases.
Phase one, which has an estimated cost of $4.25 million, will install “enhanced ventilation, air conditioning and upgraded heating systems” in all elementary multipurpose rooms (except for Lincoln Early Childhood Center, which was already updated), according to the presentation made by district architect George Duthie of FVHD Architects and Planners.
The second part of phase one will equip all nurses’ suites with outdoor air variable refrigerant flow systems, which will exhaust 100 percent of the room’s air to the outside and will have high efficiency particulate air filtration. This phase of the project will be completed in summer of 2021. While delays are possible due to Covid-19, Mr. Duthie said he is hopeful that the timeline is achievable.
Phase two, which will be completed in summer of 2022 and cost approximately $2.05 million, will upgrade ventilation systems in rooms used for small group lessons. Phase three will be completed the following summer, cost roughly $3.55 million and focus on upgrades to main offices, guidance suites and faculty rooms. Mr. Duthie said the projected expenditures are “all in numbers” that include foreseeable expenses, such as engineering, electrical and concrete costs. The projections also allow for reasonable inflation in the coming years.
According to Business administrator Dana Sullivan, the project can be financed from capital reserve funds. The district has been able to save money on health insurance over the past few years since it is self-insured, explained Ms. Sullivan. Those savings get transferred into a fund balance and eventually moved to reserve accounts.
“Certainly, phase one will be from capital reserves, and we’re hopeful that all three phases will be able to come from that,” said Ms. Sullivan, but it will ultimately depend on how much the district is able to save.