"My daughter's going into the eighth grade, and she couldn't wait to look at her schedule," Gihorski said.
So part of what Gihorski wanted to do when she took over as the middle school principal in January was allow students to view their class schedules before school started and see who their teachers will be.
"We have 15 new faculty members, and eight new paraprofessionals," Gihorski said. "It's a lot."
Those new staff members include a new supervisor for science and math for grades 5 to 8, Seth Korman, and a new full-time student assistance counselor, Alexandra Emr. Frank Wulff will join as the full-time director of Building Safety and Security.
Other new staff members are:
- Stephen Bontempo-Math
- Jillian Brandt- Science
- Brianna Burke-Science
- Tim Casey- English/Language arts
- Ceara Heft- Science
- Stephen Liloia- Social Studies
- Nina Packie-Special Education
- Alicia Russell-English/Language Arts (maternity leave 1/2 year)
- Linda Stambouly-Math
- Michelle Uhler- Choral Music
- John Constantinou-Custodian
- Becky Zielinski- Special Education (maternity leave through October)
"The books are completely hands-on, discovery-based learning," Gihorski said. "They play games, they do projects, and they see math in practice ... They're not just memorizing algorithms."
The new mathematics course will go through a series of books throughout the year, including one which this reporter considers the terribly-named "Accentuate the Negative." Still, Gihorski said, the new STEM supervisor is already familiar with the program, and "it is the most aligned with the Common Core standards" in math.
Math fans will also find a new outlet in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) club, new this year to Chatham Middle School. The PTO and Chatham Education Foundation have been key in promoting STEM opportunities throughout the district in recent months, Gihorski said.
Other new clubs include a digital literary and arts magazine called PawPrints, a Green Team and a Glee Club.
Gihorski was also excited to offer an early walk-through for students and parents last Friday and Monday. Students were able to follow the route they'll take when classes start, meet all their teachers, see the location and size of their lockers and plan for the year.
"This is something new," Gihorski said. "As a parent [in Randolph], Randolph always opened up their school early, and we did it every year. So when I came here I asked when the kids get their schedule, and they said, 'First day of school.'"
Part of that is the different demands that are placed on the middle school vs. Chatham High School. Middle school students do not have open campus, they host several high school teams on their field, they have other options for special education, etc. A lot of the scheduling has to be done by hand, and therefore takes more time.
"This year I asked, 'Would it be too ambitious to get it done by August?' And we were able to do it," Gihorski said.
Enrollment in the school is just about on par with the 2012-13 school year, currently at 957. "The incoming sixth-grade class is slightly smaller than the outgoing eighth-grade, but we have registration still going," Gihorski said. "But it hasn't fluctuated that much."
There will be
The kids are not the only ones with back-to-school pressure. Gihorski closed the school year last year, but since she took over in January, this is her first year opening the school as principal.
"Closing the building, I think, was easier. The last day came, and they went," Gihorski said. "Opening up for school is a little trickier, but luckily I've been able to count on everyone around me. I made a list at the beginning of the summer of things I thought needed to be done, and I sat down with other people, and they said, 'Don't forget about this.'...
"But I'm excited. We're ready," she said.