The new 40-hour-a-year position of performing arts coordinator has been filled by Megan Catelli, a music teacher at Cole Middle School and daughter of School Committee member Mary Ellen Winters. Nina Reiner, an art teacher, was named the visual arts coordinator. Both positions pay $2,000.
The School Committee votes on every job hire in the district. Winters, who recused herself from the vote at a meeting Sept. 16, was a strong proponent of creating such a position.
Supt. Victor Mercurio said Catelli and Reiner were the only people who applied for the coordinator positions.
Winters, who has served on the committee since 2006 and is running for re-election, also recused herself when Catelli was originally hired in 2011. A School Committee member with a child on the payroll is not new. Matt Records, son of committeewoman Susan Records, was hired as a computer teacher in 2008. Records, elected in 2006, recused herself from that vote. Matt Records is now teaching physical education at Meadowbrook Farms. For the past several years, he has also been hired to coach basketball at East Greenwich High School.
The new arts coordinator positions come in response to a suggestions from Winters and committee member Deidre Gifford, Supt. Victor Mercurio said. School Committee Chairman David Green concurred.
“I was first exposed to the topic of visual and performing arts by Deidre Gifford, shortly after my joining the SC back in 2010,” said Green via email. “She noted, and was supported in conversation by Mary Ellen, that in previous years EGHS enjoyed the benefit of having a staff member who took it upon themselves to aggressively support, provide coordination, and advocate for the program(s). As I understand, this was largely, or totally a volunteer activity – a labor of love for the individual.”
After that teacher left the district, Green said, the arts programs “saw a decline.”
Unlike the other subjects, there is no department head for the arts. The coordinator positions approved in September were seen as a way to provide some support to teachers, in particular in planning for extracurricular activities.
With regard to how Winters’ daughter ended up with the performing arts position, Green said it was on merits alone.
“Mrs. Winters was not involved in any of the steps in this evaluation process, and … recused herself from the vote to approve the superintendent’s recommendation.”