Jamestown Public Schools welcomed two big names in education back to the district to talk with parents and teachers in a more intimate venue.
On Wednesday, the Jamestown City Council PTA - a conglomerate of all of JPS' individual PTA groups - hosted an evening with Ken Slentz, deputy commissioner of the Office of P-12 Education, and Robert Bennett, NYS Board of Regents chancellor emeritus.
The event marked the second time JPS was visited by Slentz and Bennett, both of whom accompanied NYS Education Department Commissioner John King to Jamestown for a public forum regarding the Common Core Learning Standards in December. Both Slentz and Bennett were highly complimentary of the things they witnessed in Jamestown's classrooms during their previous visit and, according to Superintendent Tim Mains, they had both expressed interest in returning at a later date because of the time constraints under which they had to operate.
"This is just a great opportunity to have an exchange between parents and leadership within the state Education Department," Mains said. "When (Slentz and Bennett) were here before, they had both said they felt the exchange they had with parents was just too short; and this certainly gave them a chance to extend that conversation. And I know that the parents here in Jamestown truly appreciated the opportunity, as well."
A variety of topics were touched upon, including: transition planning, professional development, the Common Core, state assessments and parental engagement with their childrens' education. After brief presentations from both Slentz and Bennett, attendees had an opportunity to ask questions and make comments.
Phil Cammarata, principal at Persell Middle School, thanked Slentz and Bennett for making the trip to Jamestown, and expressed encouragement at the complimentary comments he received based on their classroom observations.
"There are many, many good things happening here. We're not there yet, but we are getting there; and we are getting better," Cammarata said.
Jessie Joy, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, discussed a desire to see continued funding for professional development among Jamestown's faculty, which Bennett likened to the corporate world.
"There are many professions in which employees are required to undergo annual professional development. The biggest companies in America are constantly reinvesting in their employees over and over, and that's what we want to try and accomplish with our teachers in New York state. We want to give them the training they need, so that we can count on them to get students the education they need to go out into the world," Bennett said.
David O'Rourke, superintendent of Erie 2 Cattaraugus-Chautauqua BOCES, brought up the resources being made available to parents to guide them in assisting their children with homework assignments, to which Carm Proctor, Jefferson Middle School principal, discussed a new resource being used by some of her staff.
"Our fifth-grade teachers needed to have some support systems for parents because they had those concerns from parents," Proctor said.
She said fifth-grade teachers at Jefferson are utilizing an initiative through www.educreations.com, whereby a teacher can post a video of themselves working through a homework problem, post it to the website and have parents view the video for help in understanding the concepts presented.
From the standpoint of the Education Department, Slentz said speaking with teachers and parents is intended to serve as a show of solidarity in the implementation of the new standards set before students.
"We want to make sure that people understand that this is an incredible undertaking," Slentz said. "We want to get that understanding across that this is not a punitive measure, this is not something that is being handed down. This is something that we need to collectively undertake to make sure that every one of our kids has the opportunities that the Common Core expects them to have."