Tuckerton Elementary School Principal Moving to Bass River Elementary as Superintendent

Aug 29, 2018
Photo by: file photo Pat Johnson Tuckerton Elementary School principal Siobhan Grayson is leaving to take a superintendent position with Bass River Elementary.

The Tuckerton Board of Education was reluctant to accept Principal Siobhan Grayson’s letter of resignation, effective Oct. 16 or earlier if a replacement is found, as they were so fond of her. “We made the right decision four years ago to take you out of the classroom to be principal; you’ve done a wonderful job,” said Board President Trish Horner during the Aug. 27 board of education meeting. “We were blessed to have you, we can’t say enough good things about you, and we wish you the very best at Bass River Elementary.”

“I’m not only losing a professional partner, but I’m losing a friend,” said Superintendent Janet Gangemi. “The requirements for your replacement are: must sing, dance, have a good sense of humor and be a good baker, especially pumpkin rolls.”

“It’s an excellent opportunity for Siobhan,” she added.

Grayson answered that when she moved to Tuckerton in 2008 and started as a substitute teacher she would never have imagined her rise to administrator. “My oldest was in first grade, and now (is) a senior. Before I go down the road I’d like to recognize Mrs. Gangemi, and our prior administrator Mr. Gray, all the board members past and present. I can’t express enough gratitude to them for my teaching and my administrative careers,” she said.

The board moved on to new business, as boards must do. Gangemi gave a presentation on the new “standards-based” report cards that she said are sure to baffle parents who are used to A, B, C and D grading. But a committee of teachers and administrators worked hard to take the language of state bureaucracy and make it easier to understand.

Rather than letter grades, the standards-based grading reports on a child’s “skills set” and lets both teachers and parents focus their efforts on the skills that need improving. “It helps parents understand, these are the things my child is supposed to be learning in this grade. For instance there are 11 standards in math,” she said. “It might be a child is having a problem multiplying with decimals or fractions; then we can give some remediation for that skill.

“Memorization is out the window as far as the state is concerned. Why? Because every child has one of these in their hand (she mimicked a phone) and can look up answers. The emphasis is on being able to demonstrate understanding of concepts.”

“Traditional grading is inconsistent,” she continued. “An A student might be a student who gets good grades but also turns in their homework consistently, has good attendance and has good social skills. These may be important, but they have nothing to do with academic proficiency. So we have broken those things out of the standards and made them a separate part of grading – something we call the Terrapin Tens – being responsible, working collaboratively, handing in homework, etc.”

The other way that traditional grading is inconsistent: Suppose a child has difficulty grasping a particular concept. He or she takes tests and the scores are 20, 55, 60, 70, 84, 92 and 100; when it’s averaged out, the grade is a 71.1, or a D. But he’s learning the concept as he is supposed to be doing; therefore, with the standards-based grading, he will get a 3, or meeting grade level expectancy, Gangemi explained.

The grading on skills goes from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest and 4 the highest. “Getting a 4 is working beyond grade level, and parents should not expect all 4's – it’s going to be hard to get a 4.”

Another thing parents might see on a report card is NA (not applicable). This is because the teacher had not yet taught that particular skill or is in the middle of teaching that skill during a trimester.

Because Gangemi expects some “push back,” she is hosting two sessions on the new report cards, on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. and Sept. 18 at 1 p.m., as well as a quick overview during Back to School Night, Sept. 11.

Gangemi gave a brief explanation of her goals for the 2018-19 year. The first is improving assessments or scores on standardized tests, especially in math. “Our scores have been going down the past two years, and we want to know ‘What’s going on?’

The second goal is to improve attendance. “Our chronic absentee (number) is 33 percent. That means 33 percent of students missed 10 days or more during the year.” Her next goal is to support the standards-based grading system, and the last goal is to institute programs that work on instilling social and emotional competency in students. “Study after study shows that improving behaviors in school equals improved scores and attendance.”

Since Gangemi is also the business administrator for the school, she reported the construction work outside the main entrance is going to be finished by Thursday’s first day of school, and the cost of the improvements will be borne by the subcontractor. The subcontractor mistakenly believed the sidewalk slope to the main entrance could be higher than the standard, and storm drains in the parking lot had to be lowered at his expense.

— Pat Johnson





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