School principal team gears up for school year
The Jamestown School District will open its doors to students next week with new faces and challenges that promise an exciting year. Principal Kathleen Almanzor was all smiles when she introduced co-principal Carole Melucci, who will spend the year working alongside Almanzor.
"We have people from all over, bringing a lot of diversity to the schools," Almanzor said. Educators from places as far away as California and Hawaii, not to mention New England and the South, have flocked to Jamestown to join the staff.
Aspiring principal Melucci also beamed as she talked about her opportunity to help lead the district as an assistant. The native islander has moved from grade school student to grade school teacher to grade school administrator in the course of her life here on the rock. Melucci showed pride in the chance to participate integrally in a place that she has always called home. "I want to bring it (her focus) back to the kids," she said.
Melucci taught second grade, and recently obtained a master's degree in Special Education. She went on to join the Principal Residency Network, an initiative that pairs aspiring principals with mentors in the work of school leadership. The one-year internship is designed to meet the standards of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium.
Almanzor finds the match especially exciting, since she completed a similar internship with Cathy Sipala, the former superintendent of Jamestown Schools. "I like developing leadership within the teaching staff," Almanzor noted.
Almanzor's mentoring influence on Melucci reaches back in history to her grade school years. "I was her eighth grade math teacher," Almanzor revealed with a laugh.
Almanzor and Melucci make up an aggressive team, ready to tackle all demands posed by the schools. A major focus will be to lead the staff in preparation of the School Accountability for Teaching and Learning (SALT) visit in February. The women will organize a district-wide self study, a mock SALT visit with internal staff, and work closely with the School Improvement Team. Documentation on all aspects of school life will be a key element. "It's intense," she nodded. "We need to be open to all possibilities." Both administrators have previously participated in SALT visits, so they exuded confidence. "It's good to get an outside perspective," Almanzor said about the process.
The leaders said they will continue to keep pressure on meeting high standards. One way of challenging high-end learners is through differentiated instruction, a rigorous learning approach that both educators are well-versed in. "We have a full-time math coach who will meet with teachers during their planning time," Almanzor added.
Other goals the co-principals will keep close tabs on are changes in emergency drill procedures, new directives from the state in health and wellness, and discipline.
Almanzor and Melucci agreed the new superintendent, Marsha Lukon, was a good fit for the district, and are looking forward to working closely with her. "We're very lucky to have her," Melucci said. "She's very current."
The leadership team will kick off the school year with a twist. The teacher orientation day, which takes place Sept. 4, will be conducted at Camp Canonicus in Exeter. Events planned for the day will focus on supporting teachers in bringing rigor to the classroom. "We will learn together," Almanzor said.