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.