Teachers, administrators ready for students’ return
The lazy days of summer, now in scarce supply, will soon give way to another school year as of 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2, the first day of the 2009-2010 school year.
Some teachers and administrators have persevered through broken air conditioning in heat and humidity to prepare their curriculum and classrooms for Jamestown’s 486 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“School never stops really,” said Kathleen Almanzor, principal of the Lawn Avenue School, which includes grades 5 through 8 – at least not for Jamestown’s 51 teachers. “Teachers are in working, they’ve been in and out all summer planning together as grade-level teams and doing their classrooms,” she said.
Conferences, technology tutorials and the integration of collaborative teaching approaches have kept faculty occupied throughout the summer, according to Almanzor and Melrose School Principal Carole Melucci.
According to both Melucci and Almanzor, enrollment is steady, but just because numbers aren’t increasing, that doesn’t mean the quality of education is leveling off. This year, the Jamestown school district will apply a new strategic plan known as “rigor, relevance and relationships,” which emphasizes the importance of close, trusting relationships between students and teachers, as well as a focus on real-life application of topics taught in the classroom.
Once teachers have built trust and respect with their students, Melucci said, “then kids will take risks, try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes and learn.”
Both Melucci and Almanzor are excited to start a new year with a new focus.
“We all know that such a big piece about kids being successful in school is building successful relationships with their teachers and with each other,” Melucci said.
Along with the new strategic plan, students can also look forward to improved technology and a more interactive teaching experience. Mobile computer labs – also known as laptops – will be available for use in classrooms, much like teachers in past generations would borrow the department television to show educational videos.
Digital SMART Board technology will also be incorporated into the classroom experience, offering teachers a chance to blend traditional teaching techniques with the expectations of today’s technology-dependent society.
Several new faces, along with some that are familiar, will join the staff and faculty this year.
Jamie Ordway will join the second grade co-teaching team as the general education teacher; two years ago, she taught kindergarten at Melrose School.
The co-teaching teams at Melrose School are integrated classrooms where special needs children participate in a traditional classroom setting. Melucci said this is a functional, universal approach that promotes growth and acceptance in children from an early age.
In the fourth grade, Amy Simoes will take on the special education role, co-teaching with general educator Jayson Juhnowski.
In the fifth grade, Jenn Clark will replace Robin Sweet, who retired earlier this year. The sixth grade language arts position will be filled by Laurie George, while returning teacher Tom Carney will be the seventh grade language arts teacher.
Gwen Spence will serve as director of student services, Dr. Lisa Whorley is the new psychologist and Christine Antidormi is the new speech pathologist.
Both Almanzor and Melucci agreed that the new hires are highly qualified individuals with lots of energy to add to Jamestown’s schools.
“We always get excited at this time of year,” Melucci said. “It’s almost September and we’re excited for the kids to come back.”
So far, Jamestown has avoided difficult program cuts like those that other communities are experiencing due to tough economic times.
Teacher contract negotiations are set to open in February 2010, according to Almanzor.
“We’re lucky [that] the community has always historically been very supportive of our schools,” Almanzor said. “The teachers are very dedicated to doing what’s right for the students.”