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Germantown appoints new director of teaching and learning

Amy Belle principal has experience in key subject area

Oct. 15, 2012

Germantown - The School Board last week appointed Amy Belle Elementary School Principal Maria Kucharski as the district's director of teaching and learning for the next year.

The search to replace Jennifer Ganske, who resigned in August, proved difficult, Superintendent Susan Borden said. The right candidate needed to have expert knowledge in 5-year-old kindergarten literacy, which is an area that Kucharski has experience in.

The Germantown School District is adopting a new K5 reading and writing program. The reading and writing adoption is at the forefront for the 2012-13 school year as the district works to align curriculum with state standards.

"The candidate pool at the beginning of the year needed someone who was a K5 literacy expert, which is a huge adoption we spent a lot of money on," Borden said. "We needed someone who can teach teachers how to teach reading and writing. We didn't find that in the candidate pool, so Maria is giving us the gift of her time with her services as the director."

Kucharski will serve as director for the next year before returning to her position as principal at Amy Belle. By then, Borden said, administrators hope to have a more diverse candidate pool to select from in order to fill the position.

To help fill the shoes of Kucharski at the elementary school while she transitions into her new position, the district is looking through applications for a temporary assistant principal.

"We have a very nice applicant pool," Borden said. "I see a lot of talent in it already."

Kucharski's experience in literacy programs is vast. Before working at the Germantown School District, she served as an instruction resource teacher for five years with the Elmbrook School District.

"In this position, I helped coach classroom teachers to implement Writer's Workshop into their classrooms, as well as develop common learning targets in the area of writing for each grade level," she said.

In her last principalship at Magee Elementary School, they partnered with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and were an affiliated school district. This training included summer institutes on best practices in reading and writing, assessment training and yearly lab site visits in district classrooms.

This experience will complement the reading and writing curriculum adoption within the Germantown School District, which the previous director of curriculum and learning helped start. Over the last year and a half, four of the district's reading specialists led a committee of about 25 staff members to research the best practices in reading and writing in relation to the resources used in the classroom. After a review of a long list of learning resources, the district focused its efforts on phonics, word study, vocabulary development and spelling.

A tangible change in the classroom starting this year in relation to the adoption is the implementation of reading materials that are factually and technically based, instead of using only fictional reading materials.

For example, books used will back up the other subjects elementary students are learning about, such as fact-based books on topics such as butterflies, caterpillars and dinosaurs.

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