While many of us are still enjoying lazy days at the beach, administrators and staff at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island are busy cleaning, waxing floors, painting walls and preparing the school for opening day on Sep. 5. The JCDSRI faculty has been working hard this summer too, participating in professional development workshops and trainings, as well as completing a schoolwide summer reading assignment on positive classroom management. Indeed, many changes and improvements are in store for the community as JCDSRI (formally Alperin Schechter Day School) begins its 39th year.
The biggest change by far is welcoming Andrea Katzman as the new Head of School. Last year, Katzman was the principal, and prior to that she was lead teacher in PreK and teacher mentor. With her deep knowledge of progressive pedagogy, expertise in creating and executing social-emotional curricula as well as nurturing partnerships across communities, she has been excitedly received by staff and parents.
JCDSRI welcomes a new Judaics teacher to its faculty, Michelle Raskin. With a master’s in teaching from the Pardes Educators Program with Hebrew College and a BA from University of California, Berkeley, Michelle brings expansive Jewish knowledge and a creative approach to teaching to her fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. She has studied at various seminaries in Jerusalem and has extensive curriculum-writing experience. She is particularly excited about community building, social-emotional learning and empowering all of her young learners.
Some JCDSRI classrooms will look different to students this fall. The school’s Design Lab is in a new space. Katzman has been extensively researching design spaces with the help of JCDSRI Board member and Brown university professor of design, Ian Gonsher. JCDSRI’s new Design Lab is inspired by the Brown Design Workshop, the Brown Humanity Centered Robotics Lab and the Rhode Island School of Design Nature Lab. Katzman explains that “the reconfiguring of our Design Lab will ensure that it remains accessible and inspiring to young children while reflecting the best practices of professionals.”
The JCDSRI music room also has a new home. The space is bigger and more conducive to making and performing music. The school’s beloved music program will continue to be led by Mike Murdock, not only an outstanding music educator but a professional musician and graduate of the Berklee College of Music. The new music space will easily hold the organs, guitars, ukuleles, percussion and other instruments that Murdock integrates into the music program.
JCDSRI is unveiling a new learning support space. An entire classroom has been transformed into a new Learning Center. Learning support at JCDSRI is directed by Kim Kimball, a teacher and literacy specialist with over 30 years’ experience. Kimball has an MA in Literacy Education as well as an MS in Special Education and a BA in Elementary Education and Psychology. Under Kimball’s direction, the JCDSRI Learning Center will not only further individualize student learning, but will also allow faculty to focus on year-round professional development, including work on differentiated instruction, blended learning and executive functioning skills. The goal of this approach to learning support is to empower the entire faculty by building teachers’ capacities to reach all learners in their classrooms.
With just a few weeks to go before opening day, JCDSRI teachers are beginning to conduct their annual home visits. Every student receives a visit from his or her teacher before school starts. “Home visits, long a part of JCDSRI practice, help students reduce back-to-school anxiety, give teachers a head start on establishing a strong parent-school relationship and help our students arrive ready for success from day one,” explains Jill Davis, director of General Studies.
Parents are busy as well – planning to kick off the new school year with an opening day celebration. The Parent Association’s annual Block Party is a favorite for students, parents and teachers alike. The street is closed off, and children are dismissed on the first day of school to ice cream, a bounce house and a dunk tank while parents get to catch up after the summer break. The mood is always happy and festive, reflecting the joy of reuniting with old friends and welcoming new ones to the school community.
Submitted by the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island