2006-08-31 / Front Page

Team of principals ready to welcome kids back to school

By Donna K. Drago

Principal Kathy Almanzor, secretary Isabel Jepson and Asst. Principal Mike Franco prepare for opening day on Tuesday. Principal Kathy Almanzor, secretary Isabel Jepson and Asst. Principal Mike Franco prepare for opening day on Tuesday. Principal Kathy Almanzor and Assistant Principal Mike Franco are ready to get started with the new school year that begins next Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 8:15 a.m.

Almanzor has assumed her new post as principal of both schools and said she plans to split her time with three days at Lawn Avenue and two days at Melrose Avenue. Franco will work an opposite schedule, manning whichever building Almanzor is not in.

Both admit that they will have to get a little time under their belts before they figure out exactly how they will share the leadership roles, but they are committed to the idea that both of them will play a vital role in the lives of Jamestown children in the coming school year.

Franco said he's thrilled by the opportunity to be a leader at the K through grade 8 school system, and he basically sees his role as doing whatever it takes to "make both the teachers and the parents happy."

He plans to regularly pop into classrooms to help out with lessons, and "let teachers know they are appreciated," he said. A teacher himself for 29 years, Franco should know what kinds of support the teaching staff needs.

His jacket reads "Coach Franco," and he sees coaching and teaching as "exactly the same thing." A big, rugged man with a friendly, approachable style, Franco said he looks at himself as "the assistant coach of the Jamestown School team." Using some of the same motivational philosophies as in the field of athletics, Franco said he will encourage "everyone to learn, everyone to participate, everyone to succeed."

Almanzor said that the school custodial staff has spiffed up the buildings, replaced some carpeting, freshened up some paint, and made the buildings sparkle in time for opening day. She credited Lew Kitts and the custodians for their hard work over the summer to put everything in working order.

Franco noted that there is a new waterless urinal in the Lawn Avenue building. A device that saves water by processing waste "without the flush." If it proves to be a successful addition, more of the water savers may be installed throughout the system, Franco said.

On the academic side, Almanzor said that the Lawn school will begin an advisory period once a week in grades 5 through 8. How it works is that a group of about 10 students will be assigned to a teacher/advisor, and they work together for the entire time they are in Lawn school.

Franco, who will head up the advisory program, said it is a way for "every student to feel like they're special," and he admitted that when he participated in a similar program while teaching in South Kingstown, "I felt like they were my special charges."

Almanzor said that the advisory program will be mandated by the state in middle schools, beginning next year, and that it is already a part of all Rhode Island high schools.

Mentoring will be a big part of the system for the fourth year, Almanzor said, adding that adult mentors are always needed at the schools.

Franco said he was excited about the middle school sports program in Jamestown, noting

how lucky the school was to have some wonderful coaches for the teams.

At the middle school level, Franco said, sports are a great way "to introduce the team concept" and give kids a sense of "town pride and school pride." After-school programs in karate, Spanish, yoga, sewing, and other fun activities will begin in early October, Almanzor said. And the after-school day-care program has been taken over by the Newport County YMCA, which will be open from 2:40 to 6 p.m. every school day.

Almanzor said that students are probably already excited about coming back to school next week because at Jamestown "it's always a positive, happy environment."

Franco said his experience is that kids want to come back to a "safe, familiar place."

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