With the school-year starting this week, Principal Donna Tobin and Principal Gary Mazzola are looking forward to another year with offices located just a few steps down the hall.
"It provides more opportunities to have a colleague close by," Mazzola said. "It can be an isolating job, so it is nice to have another person that you can bounce ideas off or monitor issues with."
Most importantly, both Tobin, who begins her second year, and Mazzolla, who begins his eighth year, agree that the two schools need to be on the same page academically.
"We spent a lot of time last year with a lot of collaborative efforts between the two schools," Tobin said. "That will continue this year."
No effort will be more apparent than the new reading program offered by both schools, which will focus on differentiated instruction and technology. The new program, called "Reading Street," also aligns with the Massachusetts framework standards.
Tobin and Mazzola said 13 teachers piloted the program last year and they all recommended it.
"We’ve done all the trainings together across the schools," Tobin said. "The teachers from the Olmsted and the Richardson school trained together so the training and the professional development for all of the teachers was the same. All of the materials they received are the same. We haven’t done as good of a job in the past as bringing them together as a joint faculty."
While both principals are doing their best to ensure that curriculum and academic programs align at both schools, both agreed that the schools have been able to maintain their own identities through different field days, family fun nights and non-academic programs.
"I think that the town has always been able to appreciate that each school has been able to maintain its own identity," Mazzola said. "There are certain things that Olmsted School does that Richardson doesn’t do, and there are certain things that Richardson does that Olmsted doesn’t do, but we try to collaborate on academic things."
Little will change for either school this year in terms of staff. While the school did lose some teachers to the middle school when the district's large fifth grade class moved on to sixth grade, no new teachers were added to either Olmsted or Richardson this year.
District-wide budget cuts did result in the loss of some of both schools' paraprofessionals.
Despite those losses, Tobin said she is looking forward to teachers working together this year. She said she put in extra planning to ensure teachers can work together to target specific student needs.
Additionally, both principals are also looking forward to continuing the tradition of the "safe routes to school" program, which helped earn the district a $392,000 grant to improve infrastructure around the campus.
"We look forward to collaborating on safe routes to school activities like walking recess, walking to school, Massachusetts Walk to School Day, and those types of things to bring the schools together," Mazzola said.
"We're getting to know one another and appreciating each other’s differences and styles and working together in a collaborative process to provide the same opportunities to all Easton students."