2012-07-19 / News

School panel unanimously approves hiring three teachers

Progress being made with curriculum development
BY ALEXANDER RAEBURN

The School Committee during its July 12 meeting voted all in favor to approve the hiring of three new staff members. Julie Geary, Michele Kennett-Fick and Matthew Juhnowski will begin in the fall.

Geary comes to Jamestown after earning her undergraduate degree at the University of New Hampshire. She received her master’s degree in teaching from Rhode Island College, along with additional credits earned for a concentration in science. Geary spent the last eight years teaching in Taunton, Mass., and will now teach the fourth grade in Jamestown. Superintendent Marcia Lukon spoke about Geary’s credentials with enthusiasm, saying, “We’re very excited that she’s decided to join us.”

Kennett-Fick received a bachelor’s degree from Grand Canyon University. She had previously worked in Jamestown as a longterm substitute. “We’ve been very pleased at what she’s been doing,” said Lukon. Kennett-Fick will now be a part-time special education teacher for the fourth grade.

The third hire, Matthew Juhnowski, arrives in Jamestown with a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College to teach special education. Lukon noted that Juhnowski had a variety of long-term substituting experience. “We think that he fits very well for our requirements for our second-grade special educator who will be working in a co-teaching classroom,” she said.

Lukon also said kindergarten teaching assistant Muriel “Mim” Munro would retire. “We’re very sad,” said Lukon. “She has served for many, many years, and was much loved.” The School Committee members unifi ed in saying that their vote to accept Munro’s retirement was regretful.

Melrose Avenue School Principal Carol Melucci also discussed the continued progress of new curriculum development in the subjects of English and math. Melucci said that along with curriculum director Kathy Almanzor, the two had worked with teachers in each grade at both Jamestown schools. “We developed and began the development of curriculum alignment to the common core standards,” Melucci said.

She added, “The teachers just worked so hard and were so enthusiastic.”

Melucci explained her excitement that the new curriculum would be implemented in the upcoming school year, saying that the school would be fully transitioning to the new concept-based teaching method.

Lukon explained to the School Committee how a concept-based curriculum was different than the previous method. “Typically curriculum has been topic based: We’re going to learn about electricity, or we’re going to learn about the civil war,” she said. “Conceptbased curriculum attempts to bring all of it to a much higher level so that all of the lessons and units are planned around a concept.”

Melucci gave an example from the recent discussions about the teaching plan for the English language arts in the second grade, which involved the concept of a community of readers.

“All of the genres that they’re reading are focused on one big idea and developing depth of understanding of that idea across various disciplines,” said Lukon. “Take conflict – maybe the big idea is conflict. Well, you see confl ict in social studies, but you also see conflict in art with color and light. So, when [students] see the word ‘conflict,’ they’re not just thinking one definition. They’re thinking it could mean a variety of things.”

Lukon also explained that the curriculum transition would move from the model of teaching many units per year, to four. There would be one unit each quarter. “Within those four units for the year you incorporate all of the standards from the common core,” she said. “It’s really exciting work. I think that our kids are just prime to learn to do this kind of thinking at higher levels.”

Committee member B.J. Whitehouse also took time during the facilities report to mention updates taking place at the Lawn Avenue School. The improvements include new floors, a revamp of the science lab, a new integrated sound and alert system, refinishing the gym floor, and new exercise equipment.

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