JPS Superintendent Updates Community on District Initiatives


Article Contributed by
Jamestown Public Schools

JPS Superintendent, Bret Apthorpe, announces updates to the district initiatives that were introduced at the “Our Way Forward” presentation to the community on March 2018 at the Robert H. Jackson Center. The district’s initiatives include: launching the Success Academy, summer literacy program, increasing student engagement, modernizing courses and physical plant improvements.
“When I became Jamestown’s Superintendent, I introduced five, student-centered initiatives to the Board of Education for their approval. As it has been just about a year, I wanted to update the community on the progress of the initiatives and where we are headed in the future,” said Dr. Apthorpe.
The JPS Success Academy, at the former Rogers Elementary School, is scheduled to open in September 2019. The Success Academy will welcome Jamestown High School students who are interested in enrolling in CTE (Career Technical Education) course work and project-based classes. The district is currently working on the academic programs for the Success Academy. The Academy will also host Jamestown middle and high school students who may need extra help whether academically, socially or emotionally. The Success Academy will also house local community organizations to help students with any needs to ensure they return to their classrooms ready to learn. The district is currently posting internally for teaching positions at the Success Academy.
Dr. Apthorpe has named Mike McElrath, current JHS Principal, as the principal for the Success Academy beginning on July 1, 2019. Dr. McElrath will remain at Jamestown High School through June 30, 2019. The district will begin a search for a high school principal for the 2019-20 school year.
“The importance of the Success Academy to the students and families of our district required me to choose a seasoned leader to guide it in the right direction,” said Dr. Apthorpe. “Dr. McElrath has exactly the right educational background to lead the Success Academy. From being JHS’ principal to having been JPS’ Director of Middle Schools and Coordinator of School Counselors, he has a unique set of skills in both school management and child-centered learning that includes academic, social and emotional expertise that will help make the Success Academy a realization.”
Dr. McElrath, who has been with the district for 20 years, has been the principal at JHS for eight years. Prior to becoming principal, he was the Director of Middle Schools and Coordinator of Guidance for K- 12. Dr. McElrath has experience in school-to-work transition programs. He was a co-writer on the GEARUP Grant, which worked with local organizations to help JPS middle school students throughout their education to graduation and was on the founding committee of the CEO Scholarship for JHS graduates. He has his master’s degree in counseling/psychology from Temple University and his Doctorate in Curriculum & Teaching from University of North Carolina Greensboro.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help improve the trajectory of our students toward success in school, and in life, by leading the Success Academy," said Dr. McElrath. "I am also looking forward to the challenge of using my high school and middle school background to help address the needs of Jamestown children”
The second district initiative, a district-wide elementary summer reading program, will be named JPS LEAP (Learning Enrichment & Academic Progress). JPS LEAP is for kindergarten through fourth grades in July and August. It is spearheaded by the district and provided in partnership with the YWCA, YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club and other area community-based organizations. JPS LEAP will serve multiple purposes but its primary focus is to develop literacy skills, prevent “summer slide” and provide enrichment opportunities for 600 Jamestown students beginning this summer. The program is currently enrolling students. If a parent is interested in JPS LEAP for their child, please contact your child’s teacher or school’s main office. Jamestown Public Schools is very thankful to the current funders of JPS LEAP for supporting the district’s vision: The Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, The United Way of Southern Chautauqua County and The Lenna Foundation.
In support of our effort to improve student engagement, the district will conduct a survey this spring for students, parents, and staff to share perceptions of the climate and culture of their schools. The survey data will help school leaders to ensure that schools provide a safe, supportive learning environment for all students. The district is also gathering data on the degree to which students are involved in clubs and other extracurricular activities, in order to create a plan to dramatically increase the number of students involved in extracurricular activities, athletics and the arts. The goal is to create higher levels of engagement for all of our students.
Beginning in the fall of 2019, the district will begin developing a long-term curriculum and training transition plan to modernize teaching, technology and courses including providing modern instructional technology and supporting teachers who seek CTE accreditation.
“A large part of this initiative is to re-align our curriculum with college and local labor requirements,” said Dr. Apthorpe. “We know there are very good, well-paying jobs in our local area that cannot find skilled workers. We want to help our students who are interested in heading out into the workforce be ready for those jobs upon graduation.”
The final district initiative has to do with Jamestown Public Schools’ buildings. The district will conduct a NYS mandated Building Condition Survey in 2019-20 school year.
“We have maintained excellent buildings in Jamestown Schools but to continue this tradition we must identify long-term physical plant needs and, a long-term financial plan to take care of those needs. Some areas that we will focus on will be modernizing administrative systems such as phones and defining contemporary learning spaces for our students,” said Dr. Apthorpe.