2013-05-09 / News

Improvement seen at schools with chain of command


Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser at the School Committee’s May 2 meeting read aloud an updated response to the teachers associa­tion’s concerns over the leadership of Superintendent of Schools Mar­cia Lukon.

“In reviewing these documents, we realized that many of the issues cited were the result of the School Committee’s failure to delineate clearly the shift in roles and re­sponsibilities,” Kaiser said.

She was referring to the transi­tion from the former system that had one principal and a full-time superintendent, to the current sys­tem that has a principal at each school and a part-time superinten­dent.

The School Committee took re­sponsibility for any break down in communication.

The letter continued and ad­dressed accusations that Lukon was a detached leader. “It is in our principals, not the superintendent, who are responsible for being in the classrooms and making build­ing based decisions.”

The School Committee also found no evidence of “deceptive budget practices.” The teachers union had made several accusa­tions that the 2013-14 budget con­tained misleading numbers.

Committeewoman Sarah Baines summed up the response saying, “A lot of this is communication is­sues.”

“Communication goes both ways,” said Lukon. “I have to get better.”

Baines then addressed Carole Melucci and Deb DiBiase, the dis­trict’s principals, who were in at­tendance. “Are you finding you’re getting better feedback from teachers?” Baines asked.

“I think if they have a problem, it is clearer now,” answered Me­lucci, who heads Melrose Avenue School.

“Obviously, improving school climate is an ongoing process,” said Committeewomen Julia Held.

Statewide-mandated school changes were also cited as a cause of tension, especially with new evaluations and assessments.

The Jamestown Teachers Asso­ciation originally brought forward its concerns in January. Since that time the School Committee and union have worked together to re­solve the issues.

In other news, the school board watched fifth-graders present ex­amples of “expert projects.” Stu­dents chose a subject, crafted a workshop, and taught the work­shop to their classmates.

Heidi Deirring and Julia Little­field presented “No More Night­mares,” a workshop that taught about dream catchers. Dream catchers are wooden wheels with elaborate string patterns tied across.

During the workshop Julia and Heidi passed out materials and showed committee members how to make their own dream catchers.

“Oh, good job,” said Julia, af­ter seeing Kaiser’s high-quality dream catcher.

However, not every participant was so skilled. “I ran out string,” said a dejected Lukon to much laughter.

After the hands-on segment, the presenters explained that the Ojib­wa tribe created dream catchers under the belief that good dreams slip though the middle, while bad dreams are caught in the dream catcher’s strings.

The girls studied dream catchers because Heidi is 1/16th Cherokee and Julia collects them.

The next presenter was Hannah Coleman, dressed in a full rid­ing kit, whose presentation about horses was titled “Enshanting Al­lie.” Enshanting is the name of the barn Hannah rides at.

“I chose this subject because I love horses,” she said. Hannah ex­plained how to tack a horse, which means getting it ready for riding. She also talked about the appropri­ate wardrobe to wear while riding.

After explaining the barebones of horsemanship, Hannah invited committee members to tack up a saddle she brought. Her class- mates managed to tack on the saddle in one minute. However, Held and Baines managed the task in a mere 27.9 seconds. But Held had an unfair advantage – she rode horses as a child.

At one-point Baines, an English transplant, asked Hannah which style of saddle she preferred, Eng­lish or Western.

“I like English,” she answered.

After the presentations, the School Committee covered several business items.

First, the committee unanimous­ly voted to approve updates to the personnel-assignment policy. The matter had been continued from the last meeting to allow the public a chance to comment. No remarks were made.

Also, third-grade teacher Jayson Juhnowski was selected James­town’s teacher of the year. “I’m very happy to announce our teach­er of the year is Jayson Juhnows­ki,” said Lukon.

Lukon said the process is entire­ly dependent on the teachers. Juh­nowski was selected completely from input from his peers. There will be a reception on June 3.

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