Head of MJT new, yet unfamiliar

By Bill Toscano

 

It will be a year of unusual change at Mary J. Tanner School.

All of the school’s teachers, from pre-kindergarten through second grade are back, but long-time principal Kristie Gijanto has retired and has been replaced by Diane Dumas, who was previously principal at Granville Elementary.

Dumas has brought along the four third-grade teachers from GES, and the 68 third-graders who previously would have moved up to GES but are spending another year at MJT.

“It’s not so much about the (standardized) testing, but about how children learn to read,” said Dumas, who is trained in teaching reading and requested the move to the primary school.
“Students in kindergarten to second grade should be learning to read,” she said. “In third grade, if everything is equal, they are reading to learn. If they are on track, they are using their reading skills to learn all about other things.”

Dumas said keeping the students at MJT for another year will allow those who are lagging a better chance to catch up. The reading skills are crucial, because third grade is the first time students take state standardized tests in English and math.

“We don’t want anyone left out,” Dumas said. “We want students reading at grade level. That is our goal.”

The additional students will mean some adjustments, especially since there will be that many more students arriving and leaving school.

“We will have more kids dismissing,” Dumas said. “We’re lucky that parents are very good about following the pickup policies.”

Dumas said there are not many special activities planned at the outset.

“We need to give them a few weeks to get used to the load, to acclimatize to the building and to the routines.”

Prekindergarten and kindergarten students and parents are invited to an open house from 2 to 3 p.m., Tuesday Sept. 4, and kindergarten parents are invited to be at the school when buses arrive at 8:55 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Dumas said she is excited about the amount of work her teachers put in over the summer. “They went to in-service, and they got their rooms ready,” she said. “You know the year officially starts on Sept. 4, but they are in meetings all day, so they have to put in the extra time to get ready.”

She said she is very excited about the new year and had a couple of suggestions for parents.

“We want this to be a really positive experience,” she said. “The more upbeat parents can be, the better. If they are well-rested, that’s even better.”

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