Thursday, June 11, 2015

World Class Barnard Staff

    If there is one feeling that is universal during the month of June in schools it’s total disbelief at how quickly the time has gone by!  For this report I have not asked for staff input so I can take a few lines to talk about this incredible year, the work leading up to it, and the amazing people (especially staff) who have made it all happen.  In addition we have had some staff come and go and it is important to recognize those who have left or will be leaving and welcome those who have joined us.

    First and foremost is our very successful Reconfiguration. Going from K-1(am), 1(pm)-2, 3-4, with 5-8 Middle School to K-1, 2-3, 4-5, with 6-8 Middle School has been a tremendous success.  First graders are in the same classroom all day and it’s on the same level as the rest of the homerooms. Second graders have a full day with third graders without the midday transition (and to some extent intrusion) of first graders after lunch. Students in grades 4 and 5 have a self-contained classroom all day with support and co-teaching of Middle School faculty allowing for better preparation for those upper grades.  Speaking of co-teaching, it happens at all grade levels in subjects like science, math, reading, social studies, and technology integration.  With the introduction of VLACS in grades 7 and 8 students prepare for learning in a virtual environment.  This is just a snapshot of the incredible advantages of this change brought about by a thoughtful collaborative process of staff, administration, School Board and parents with frequent communication, feedback, and reflection.  It has been a true demonstration of the faculty taking on a leadership role in design and implementation.

    Special Education has also been a major driving force in this year’s accomplishments.  In her second year as Director or Special Services, Ms. Donabedian has expanded her role administering to the needs of our students receiving services, those being referred or transferring in, and those who qualify for 504 accommodations.  She works closely with staff, parents, and students to provide whatever any student needs whether they on our caseload or not.  We have also added Erin Preston to our staff as a special education teacher and they work together along with Melinda Avellino our guidance counselor, Sherry Lamontagne, speech and language provider, Terry Bowen-Irish, our OT, Laurie Conley, our social worker, and paraprofessionals Joan Orlando and Dianna Parkinson to deliver amazing care to our students and their families.

    Classroom teachers are the foundation of any school’s staff, running the day-to-day delivery of the 3 “R’s” and Barnard’s faculty is un-paralleled.  Tara Moran courageously took on the K-1 position this year after several years teaching 3-4 and has performed admirably with her kids, and their parents.  Kindergarten is the introduction of families to our school and she takes that responsibility and that of preparing for grade 2 very seriously.  As the most senior teacher, AJ Pruett who moved from 1-2 to 2-3, helps understand all that has transpired over the years with different teaching configurations at Barnard and the history behind it all.  She has been with her third graders since grade 1 and reports that they are all very ready for the transition to 4-5. She has also helped Mrs. Moran with understanding the first grade curriculum as well as received the same help in return with grade 3.  Additionally a community member and parent, Karen Bucyk takes turns in both classrooms to provide academic support. Not only is grade 4-5 something totally new here but also the change came with a totally new addition with Lydia Macdonald filling in for Frank Brunette who was granted a second year’s leave of absence. Ms. Macdonald immediately fit into the Barnard Family and we are pleased to have her continue with us while Mr. “B” sadly has moved on to pursue his dream performing his “Sticks and Stones” artist in residence program.  In the Middle School, Drew Szeliga provides math instruction while co-teaching math in 4-5 with Ms. Macdonald and social studies with Mrs. Cestrone.  He is also the genius behind our school schedule juggling instructional time, specials, services and daily operations.  As replacement for Chris Asbell, Carmelina Cestrone has been a welcome addition as science teacher taking on science enrichment in all grades in addition to her Middle School responsibilities in science and social studies.  She has also been instrumental in the process of designing our Science Lab and we look forward to seeing her work her magic in the new facility.  Sara Casassa fulfills the multiple roles as grade 6-8 reading and writing teacher and our newly created Tech Integration Specialist. We were delighted to have her continue as a full-time member of our staff and she is instrumental in having our students publish their work online as well as developing amazing writing and reading skills.
    A school of this size relies heavily on part-time staff and we are blessed to have some wonderful individuals to fill those roles.  When Mrs. Knapp told me about Carol Dugan she said she “could teach a stone to read” and I truly believe it.  She goes from class to class in grades K-6 working with teachers and students and has students in her office individually and in small groups.  She somehow delivers more than a full day of learning in a half-day!  Diane Sheckells is a treasure as an art teacher and she will be greatly missed.  If I had a month to write this there wouldn’t be enough said how she has enriched the lives of our kids!  Lynn Meehan has just completed another great Field Day and all we saw all morning were smiles.  She has adapted her instruction to the changes in classes and taken on health class with our nurse Kira Duford.  Kira has just finished her third year with us and has her finger on the pulse of all out students’ health needs.  Julie Sullivan has recently come on board as our music and band teacher replacing Kathleen Wooten who was forced to leave us due to health concerns.  Julie put on an amazing performance at our Celebration of Learning and hopes to expand our band and perhaps even introduce Chorus.

    Bill Cote as head custodian and Al Pierce as his assistant keep our buildings clean and are always cheerfully willing to take on a project like lowering the “cubbies” in Ms. Macdonald’s room.  Michael Porobunu serves as our computer tech and works tirelessly behind the scenes keeping them all working. Last but certainly not least is my good friend and assistant Denise Jones.  There are not enough words to describe the ways she helps steer this Barnard Ship.  She is always happy to provide information to families and parents and tends to every child’s needs from a skinned knee to calls for a ride home.  I am forever in her debt for her kind assistance and loyalty.

    That about sums it up!  So many ask how I can commute 3 hours a day and it’s people like our Barnard staff, SAU support, the kids, and their families who make every mile a pleasure.  But it is the staff, their support, and assumption of a leadership role that makes it all possible.

Respectfully submitted,

Ken Darsney, (Mr. “D”)

Barnard School Principal

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