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Principals Create Unique, Fun Activities

Washington Middle School principals issued a photo challenge to their staff to share their dream vacation with students and families. Teacher Jack Iacuzzo’s dream vacation was to surround himself with those he loves.

“Hello, Lincoln family and friends! I’m here to tell you about our school’s next weekly challenge!” said Lincoln Elementary School Principal Katie Russo on Facebook as she walked into the cafeteria. “This is a place that is usually filled with lots of friends. Mrs. Russo misses everyone and the conversations we have during breakfast and lunch. So that brings me to our next challenge. Normally, we have a ‘Fancy Feast’ in the cafeteria with a winning classroom. Since you’ve probably all been very respectful, responsible and safe at home, I think you’ve earned a ‘Fancy Feast.’ Look around the house with your families and figure out how you make your next meal a ‘Fancy Feast?’ Take a photo and we’ll share your ‘Fancy Feast’ on Facebook!”

Russo, like all Jamestown principals, is creating unique, fun and helpful activities to keep the schools connected to their JPS families and staff during this time. In addition to the challenges, Russo has rainbows in every window at Lincoln to bring a smile to families’ faces as they walk by. She also mails birthday letters to students. The Lincoln ducks, “Abe and Mary,” who live outside the school are a popular update on social media too. Staff and families send in pictures when the ducks are spotted.

“As the leaders of our buildings, It is so important for principals to keep staff, parents, and students connected because, even though we are not in school, learning needs to continue,” said Persell Middle School Principal Phil Cammarata. “It is even more essential to stay connected because when this pandemic is over, a lot of learning would be lost if the schools did nothing. I am so proud of the teachers and principals in this district for rising up, meeting, and exceeding this challenge for our students and their parents.”

All of the Jamestown principals are keeping in touch with their families with phone calls, Remind messages, emails, social media and “dropping by” Zoom staff or classroom meetings. JHS Principal Dana Williams is using Facebook to send messages to families including a recent one that showed the empty gym on Battle of the Classes day talking about how much he misses his kids and JHS traditions.

Many principals are taking their traditional morning announcements and putting them on Facebook to help families start their day with a routine they know, including Pledge of Allegiance and announcing birthdays. Bush Elementary School Principal Dan Bracey, Persell Middle School Principal Phil Cammarata and Fletcher Elementary School Principal Maria DeJoy are connecting through Facebook morning announcements. Bracey does a Staff Spotlight where he recognizes a different staff member every day, Spirit Weeks, and weekly challenges for families including taking a picture of a creation they have made at home. Bracey will also complete the creation challenge and if enough families participate, he will do something fun on-line such as having water poured over his head.

“Everyone morning, I do the AM Fletcher announcements where I start the day with the pledge and do some fun activities like the word of the week, fun facts about animals, math problems and even some science,” said DeJoy. “Our students and their families interact with some of the activities and post them on our Facebook page.”

Washington Middle School Principal Melissa Emerson and Assistant Principal Kate Benson have teamed up with staff to host challenges to connect with students and families. The challenges include photo challenges such as: staff sharing their dream vacation or a school wide on-line Kahoot! game via Zoom. They also host an all-school Google Classroom. Posted in the Google Classroom are virtual field trips such as visits to see lions at the Smithsonian National Zoo and polar bears at the San Diego Zoo or exploring the Eiffel Tower. Emerson and Benson also interact with students via comments and posts to questions such as “what do you see the lions doing?” or “what are your thoughts about the Eiffel Tower?”

Jefferson Middle School Principal Leslie Melquist and Assistant Principal Carol Smith are starting weekly meetings with Parent Q and A sessions and connecting with their students by grade level every Friday by Zoom. They also created a fantastic staff video for their kids and families posted on-line. Love and Ring Elementary Schools and Jamestown High School also created wonderful “I miss you” videos for their families.

Principals are also “dropping by” classroom Zoom meetings to see how students and families are getting along with at home learning. Love Elementary School Principal Renee Hartling, JHS Principal Mr. Williams and Assistant Principals, Tom Langworthy and Traci Thompson, also “drop by” teacher’s Zoom meetings to talk to students and families.

Other fun online activities include: Persell Principal Mr. Cammarata and Assistant Principal Amanda Sischo creating a Tik-Tok dance challenge for families too. Ring Elementary School Principal Annette Miller encourages on-line “read alouds” by the staff for their school Facebook page.

Fletcher Elementary School first grader, Hadley Hanson, shows Principal Maria DeJoy, online how she divided the word of the week, “optimistic,” into syllables and synonyms.

In addition to on-line activities, Bush and Love Elementary Schools held wonderful neighborhood caravans with staff driving around their neighborhoods honking their horns, waving to their families as they sat on their porches and shouting greetings. The students and families loved the “parades” and the staff was thrilled to see their kids.

JPS Success Academy Principal Mike McElrath has helped get some great weekly incentives for their families going, like a large pizza delivered to their house based on how often a student connects with staff members and how often they attempt and/or complete an assignment. They also have a Weekly Fitness Challenge offered by Physical Education teacher Maggie Dalton and videos by Kim Earle from Impact posted on their Facebook page. Tech Academy Principal, Cindy Johnson, has been making many phone calls to families and students to reassure and offer assistance to them in any way. As she is a new principal, she also sent out an introductory newsletter where she introduced herself and provided lots of important information that students and families might need during this time.

If any student or family needs to connect with a JPS principal, please find contact information at jpsny.org/contactus. Our principals are ready to help in any way they can during this time.

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