Darien hires two principals at Tokeneke and Holmes
Two new principals have been hired to replace the current Tokeneke and Holmes principals who will retire at the end of the school year.
Mary Michelson has served as Assistant Principal at Royle School in Darien since 2006. She has demonstrated exemplary leadership in that role, particularly in her work with curriculum, instruction, technology, and professional development. With her guidance and oversight, a balanced literacy program has flourished -- one which incorporates reading, writing, and word study designed to advance individual student learning. Her background and expertise in the area of mathematics have led to an expansion of units of study that stimulate students' higher order thinking skills while still developing accuracy. These curriculum efforts have generated an increased degree of student-centered instruction in the classroom which has been a hallmark of Michelson's tenure in Darien. Her support for teachers in the areas of technology and data driven decision-making has contributed to a spirit of collaboration among the professionals both within and across elementary schools in the district.
Michelson began her teaching career in New Canaan where she taught first and third grades. During her tenure, she served as a grade level instructional leader, cooperating teacher/trainer, and mathematics specialist. She chaired the Child Study Team at East School, and at the district level, Michelson chaired the K-12 Mathematics Curriculum Review Committee, Teacher Induction Program, Tri-State Math Committee. Her work in Darien has included serving on committees for SRBI, science curriculum review, mathematics review and TEAM.
Michelson earned her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire. She received a graduate Master of Arts in Teaching from Sacred Heart University, and Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from Southern Connecticut State University.
Paula Bleakley will be taking over from Geraldine Petrizzi as the new principal at Holmes.
Paula Bleakley has had a distinguished career in education, serving most recently as Principal of Parkway School in Greenwich since 2005. In that role, Bleakley has been recognized for school-based reform that focused on Higher Order Thinking and Inquiry-Based Instruction. She has created a collaborative spirit at Parkway by developing teacher-leaders through the Classroom Walkthrough Initiative as well as in the creation of School-Based Data teams. Her efforts at Parkway have resulted in the development of updated curricula in science and literacy, particularly the Teachers College Reader's and Writer's Workshop programs.
Being able to foster so much collaboration was a high point for Bleakley.
Bleakley said she is most proud of the collaboration among teachers, staff and parents that took place.
"We do things as a community," she said, citing the collaboration and speed in the development of Parkway's science program, in which teachers developed an approach that has children being asked open-ended questions rather than required to memorize material.
"It all happened in a year and a half. That's a very short time for teachers and students to change how they think and engage in scientific studies," Bleakley said.
Bleakley has been instrumental in establishing and cultivating a culture focused on student-centered learning which is supported through an inclusive co-teaching model, integrated use of technology, and a `Responsive Classroom' character education program. In the district, Bleakley has chaired the Elementary Report Card Committee, the Professional Learning Committee, and the TEAM Coordinating Committee. She is a leader who has demonstrated a "passion, commitment, and advocacy for student and adult learners" and actively involves members of the parent community in the life of the school.
Bleakley began her teaching career in Westport, where she taught fourth Grade and served as an Early Intervention specialist. While a teacher in Westport, Bleakley was the gymnastics coach at Darien High School between 1992 and 2000. She was a part-time Assistant Principal in Westport before accepting an Assistant Principal position in Wilton. She returned to King's Highway School in Westport and served as one of the full-time Assistant Principals until 2005. Since 2005, she has been Principal at Parkway.
Bleakley earned her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Connecticut College. She received a graduate Master of Arts in Education from Harvard University, and Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from Southern Connecticut State University.
"I want to acknowledge the leadership of Marylee Fisher and Gerry Petrizzi. They worked collaboratively and across the district to provide what is best for the students of Darien," Superintendent of Schools Stephen Falcone said.