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February 18, 2015

Teacher leaders appointed in three high school departments as pilot project moves forward


teacher leaders pictures
English Department Teacher Leader Annemarie Ihnatoyla

teacher leaders pictures
Social Studies Teacher Leader Peter Melito

teacher leaders pictures
Special Education Teacher Leader Michelle Niro-Booth.

At the February 10 Board of Education meeting, teacher leaders were appointed for the departments of Social Studies, Special Education and English as part of a pilot project. They are: Annemarie Ihnatoyla (English); Peter Melito (Social Studies); and Michelle Niro-Booth (Special Education).

The teacher leader approach grew out of the district-level restructuring that Interim Superintendent John Yagielski has put into place this year. That effort has been focused on ensuring that the district's unequivocal focus is on student learning; providing clear expectations and strong support for teachers; and improving the balance of instructional leadership at all levels.

The teacher leader model is designed to provide continued support and leadership in the high school departments while also giving directors an opportunity to spend more time at the middle and elementary levels.

In January, Assistant High School Principal Mark Treanor, who also worked closely with special education teachers at the high school, was appointed the Director of Student and Staff Support Services and Grades 9-12 English Language Arts and Social Studies Director Eva Jones was named the interim high school principal. This provided an opportunity to pilot the teacher leader concept in these three departments for the remainder of this year.

Under the pilot program, the teacher leaders report directly to the high school administration and are considered members of the high school leadership team. They are responsible for the general, day-to-day leadership of the department, including involving faculty in decision making, facilitating department meetings and goal setting, identifying and leading professional development activities, and promoting best practices in teaching and the use of assessments.

Teacher leaders' teaching assignments are reduced by 0.2 (full-time equivalent) to allow time for this work. The positions come with a stipend of 3 percent of their annual salary.

The teacher leaders were selected through a process that began with nominations by their peers.

"I want to congratulation Annemarie, Peter, and Michelle on their new roles and thank the leadership of the Niskayuna Teachers Association for working collaboratively to establish this pilot," Interim Superintendent John Yagielski said. "We must provide the strongest possible support to our classroom teachers at all levels. I believe that this model can help us in this regard, and I look forward to working with our principals, directors, and teachers to implement, fine-tune, and evaluate this approach for the benefit of students."