By Virgina Calistro
New Haven Public Schools Communications Intern
The dog days of summer may be with us, but you won’t catch any of New Haven’s newly appointed principals lounging by the pool.
Instead, they spent the third week of July at the Board of Education’s New Leaders Induction, also known as the “New Principals Boot Camp.” The program, intended to help prepare new administrators with the practices and plans they’ll need to lead dynamic and successful schools, is now in its third year of operation and under the leadership of freshly appointed Director of Talent, Michael Crocco.
The principals gathered at John C. Daniels Middle School to work on the five pillars of school leadership: Vision, Culture Leadership, Instructional Leadership, People Leadership, and Organizational Management. The week’s agenda covers a range of subjects – from a review of Special Education law to a crash course in Social Emotional Learning – all geared towards strengthening administrators’ interactions with their students.
However, the boot camp is not a process the new principals go through alone. Instead, they work collaboratively with leadership teams comprised of teachers, counselors, and academic coaches from their respective schools.
“There is a lot of wisdom in this room,” said new assistant principal for Hill Central School, Tina Mitchell.
Mitchell, who has served at the K-8 school for the past four years as the bilingual leader, said she was looking forward to continuing the school’s “turnaround” effort alongside new head principal Lillian Fontan. This kind of collegiality and collaboration is an essential component to the district’s vision for School Change.
“You can’t lead if you’re not leading with a team,” said Iline Tracey, kick-starting Monday’s afternoon session of planning and team-building. Having managed more than one New Haven school before joining central office as director of instruction and school improvement, Tracey would know.
Running a school requires an “all hands on deck” strategy, emphasized Tracey. By working closely with the leadership teams, new principals are able to ease the transition into the new school year and forge the necessary relationships with their staff to implement change.
Mauro-Sheridan’s new principal Sandra Kalizewski certainly seemed on board. She and her leadership team donned matching school t-shirts as they spent the afternoon consulting, brainstorming, and ultimately creating a clear and concise plan for the first several days of school. Central office staff remained close at hand to answer any questions and provide support.
This degree of cooperation and consultation represents one of the innovative approaches the School Change program has brought to the district since its introduction in 2009. In the past, administrators were often appointed as the sun set on August, prompting a hasty transition that resulted in a messy start to the year.
“If your first day is chaotic, then your first few weeks will be chaotic,” prompted Tracey, “first impressions are lasting and order is critical.” Given that the district’s seven new principals have already received their assignment and each is undergoing training this summer, the new school year is already off to a strong start.
Fair Haven School’s leadership team, including new Assistant Principal Eugene Foreman expressed their shared confidence in a successful start to the new school year.
Thanks to the esprit de corps fostered by the “New Principals Boot Camp,” the end of the dog days of summer will mean the beginning of a happier and more productive transition into the school year for both new students and staff alike.
By Virgina Calistro
New Haven Public Schools Communications Intern
The jump from eighth grade to freshman year is often a daunting one, and a smooth landing can set the tone for a successful high school career.
To this end, district students have the opportunity to take part in a four-week 8th Grade Transition Program. The summer program, which is now in its second year of operation, is designed to prepare students for the challenges of freshman year academically, socially, and emotionally.
During the month of July, students are actively engaged in math and English instruction in an informal setting. The incoming freshman get a head start by working with certified teachers on enrichment projects that touch on material taught during the opening weeks of school.
To aid with the social emotional element of the transition, the program hosts a symposium at which a panel of current high school students reflect on their experiences in high school thus far.
At James Hillhouse High School, one of three sites for the program, this panel featured both rising sophomores and rising seniors. The sophomores talked about their recent freshman experience, while the seniors offered tidbits of wisdom on things they wish they had done differently, namely: remaining focused on their schoolwork.
The most important piece of advice rising freshman Kiana Brown took away was to “come with a positive attitude.” Other students appreciated the advice that they should try to separate out what was important to their peers to what was important to themselves, and to “make learning the priority.”
The rising freshmen were then given an opportunity to meet with the older students and coaches. Kiana chatted with the basketball coach, although the two were already familiar having worked together at summer sport camps.
The program is part of an effort to alleviate some of the first-day chaos, the ongoing effects of which can cause roadblocks during freshman year.
“I think I’m gonna get lost,” commented recent Conte-West Hills graduate, India Thigpen.
Although students could not be offered a full tour during the symposium session, as Hillhouse is undergoing a transition of its own with the opening of the new IDEA Academy, time spent in the classrooms helps make the adjustment process a more natural one.
“I came to get familiar with the school,” said Tierra Whitaker of Fair Haven. Of course, the trip to Six Flags at the end of the program doesn’t hurt the draw.
Mustapha Lahun, a Barnard School graduate who is looking forward to playing football, basketball and running track, said the program has helped him to learn about the options available for academic support.
“You don’t have to put yourself down if you’re not doing well,” Lahun commented. “Any subject you’re struggling in, there are teachers who will take the time to help you.” He added: “Don’t get frustrated. If you want good grades, it’s always possible to get them.”
High school can be an overwhelming and daunting experience, especially initially. The program helps the incoming students appreciate that while the social, academic, and emotional adjustment may be difficult, there are caring teachers and fellow students who are willing to go out of their way to help.
Click here to view the story in the New Haven Register.
Metropolitan Business Academy Science Teacher Chris Willems has been selected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) as an awardee of the 2014 Robert E. Yager Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award for Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Willems was formally presented with the award at a ceremony Thursday, July 17, at the NSTA National Congress on Science Education in Washington, D.C.
The Robert E. Yager Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes excellence and innovation in the field of science education. The award acknowledges teachers who share Robert Yager's passion for education and continued professional development. It also honors Robert Yager's effort to make excellent science education accessible to students of the 21st century and beyond.
"It is incredibly gratifying that the Association understands and acknowledges the importance of the work done by professional educators," Willems said of being honored. "The monumental task of creating truly child-centered classrooms is completely energizing! I am also thrilled to be in a district that allows me to innovate."
Six awardees are elected annually from different regions and will have exhibited excellence and innovation in the field of science education and embodied the mission statement of NSTA. The individual awardees will each receive a $1,000 award, up to $1,000 for travel expenses to attend the NSTA National Congress on Science Education, and a plaque.
Willems has taught in New Haven since 2003 and has previously been recognized in 2009 as the Connecticut Science Teachers Association Awardee for Excellence in High School Science Teaching and in 2011 as the Connecticut Biology Teacher of the Year. Willems’ essay spoke to his passion of relevant and engaging science learning and of building trusting relationships with students and colleagues.
"We are really proud of Chris and his history of achievement. I commend him for his continued dedication to excellence and to the many students whom he has taught, supported, and encouraged during his career," said Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries.
Richard Therrien, the district's K-12 Science Supervisor, stated, "All of New Haven Public Schools' staff salute Chris on this well-deserved recognition."
Four recent New Haven Public School graduates are teacher interns this summer at the Morse Summer Music Academy. Katherine Roque, Jocelyn Hernandez, Jesus Cortes-Sanchez, and Richard Romero all graduated from the Morse Academy and are now interns this summer where they will earn a small stipend by teaching younger students. In the past, the Morse Summer Music Academy has been taught by graduate students at the Yale school of Music and New Haven Public School teachers; however, Michael Yaffe, the Yale School of Music's Associate Dean, decided that these four students had proven maturity and musical expertise. He believed that the summer program would benefit from their talent and energy and the four interns would gain experience teaching. All four students are New Haven Promise Scholars, and are looking forward to pursuing a degree in music education in the fall.
Click here to read the article in the New Haven Independent.
College Summit, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of youth by connecting them to college, hosted around 55 New Haven students at Yale where the students learned about applying and attending college. They attended workshops and stayed on Yale's campus from Thursday until Sunday. The students learned how to (1) apply for financial aid, (2) create a personal statement, (3) fill out the Common Application, (4) enhance leadership skills, and (5) create a college list. Once the school year begins, these students will coach their peers on what they learned at these workshops.
To view coverage from wtnh click here.