2012-05-10 / Front Page

Search begins to replace principal at Lawn Avenue School

Kathy Almanzor will leave her post to take over as director of curriculum

KATHY ALMANZOR KATHY ALMANZOR With a unanimous vote, the School Committee decided on May 3 to appoint Kathy Almanzor to the newly created position of director of curriculum, assessment and professional development. Three finalists – out of the 32 applicants for the position – were interviewed before Superintendent Marcia Lukon asked the committee to vote. Almanzor’s appointment will last three years.

Lukon also spoke about the search to fill the position of principal at Lawn Avenue School, which is Almanzor’s current post. “I would like to say to the committee that I will start a principal search immediately because we want to ensure as smooth a transition as possible,” Lukon said. She added that the School Department is lucky to still have Almanzor in the district, since she will be able to help a replacement with a smooth and successful transition.

Following the vote and appointment of Almanzor, Jamestown teachers Leanne Turenne, Amy Simoes, Jennifer Clark, Beverly Green and Nick Alfred spent the workshop segment of the meeting presenting the status of their ongoing work in developing a new “scope-and-sequence” document. The document will be used to better understand specific grade-level goals in the subject of math, which are intended to meet Common Core Standards adopted by Rhode Island in July 2010.

The team is being assisted by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the project is being funded by the federal Department of Education Race to the Top program. Representatives from the Southern Rhode Island Regional Collaborative, comprised of nine southern Rhode Island school districts, are working alongside each other to complete the project.

Simoes, who teaches fourthgrade math, explained the importance of teachers being the ones to develop the new layout for the curriculum. “Research has shown that when teachers have a part in writing the curriculum, they feel more empowered and more invested in the process and in the curriculum,” she said. “It has been lengthy. It has been hard. It has taken us out of our classrooms which is not the best part, but we feel that the work that we’ve been doing is valuable and really important to our district.”

The group presented its recent updates to the document, which identifies goals in math education for each grade level, broken down by quarters with specific intended objectives.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen an intelligible curriculum,” said committee member Sarah Baines. Usually it is so complex that you can’t actually understand it.”

Clark, who teaches fifth grade, explained that it was important to let go of previously held notions in order to adopt the new curriculum objectives. “That was really hard to do sometimes,” she said, “and to let those old things go and know that this is deeper – definitely deeper – into the mathematical thinking and the mathematical practices. That’s the piece of it that is really new. A lot of the content is similar but the idea of the thinking about mathematics, and writing about mathematics, and talking about mathematics, the depth to which we’re going to be doing that was really nice to see.”

Baines also spoke about the issue of boys failing and dropping out of school during their time in high school. She expressed her concerns about education getting “more and more verbal.”

“And that’s the way education’s going now, but it doesn’t necessarily suit boys. I hope everybody’s terribly aware that there is a crisis going on and nobody’s addressing it,” said Baines. “It’s becoming major. It’s impacting our whole society.”

Alfred, who teaches seventh and eighth grade, responded, “I think it’s a culture change that we understand that you have to be able to vocalize what you want, and these boys and girls, someday, they’re going to be leading companies and directing things. They are going to need to get their opinions and their directions across clearly. It has to start here.”

Lukon agreed with the severity of the crisis brought up by Baines, and said that these changes are “about understanding.” She said that it’s about mathematics and how the number system works when it’s used. “I’m really excited about this,” she said.

The group will continue working on these standards in what it calls a living document throughout the summer, during which time grade levels not yet represented will be included in the discussion. Currently the Jamestown team is made up of teachers in kindergarten, first, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth grades.

The changes to meet Common Core Standards will also involve the revamping of the English language arts curriculum, though this objective is still in the planning phase.

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