When Ann Donnery heard Cheshire was looking for a principal at Darcey School, it almost seemed like the job was tailor-made for her.
With 30 years in early childhood education under her belt, Donnery had worked as a preschool teacher, a special education teacher and in the state’s Birth-to-Three program. She also helped start a Parent Center in East Haven modeled after Darcey’s, where parents can bring concerns about their child’s development, and spent 12 years in New Haven teaching kindergarten.
Darcey, meanwhile, is one of the few public schools in the state that houses all of those different programs under one roof as an Early Childhood Center. The school is home to Cheshire’s kindergarten classes as well as the Stephen August Early Intervention Center, which provides special education services to three-to-five-year-olds in classrooms with their typically developing peers.
“When Darcey became available, I thought it would be a perfect match,” said Donnery. “What more could somebody ask for that truly loves the early childhood community?”
Donnery took over the principal’s office at Darcey in September, replacing longtime and respected Principal Barbara Stern, who retired. She said she is still easing into her role as a first-time building administrator.
“I have to say it’s been a wonderful four months,” Donnery said. “The instructional leader part of the job is what I know and love. It’s the
building operations part that is new to me. But I think it’s all going very, very well. “
Donnery said Darcey has been running well for many years and she has tried not to implement too many changes. One focus this year is a new math curriculum for kindergartners that includes more problem-solving and hands-on work.
Next year, she would like to introduce a “workshop” model for teaching reading, similar to what is used in the elementary schools. The model emphasizes independent reading, student choice and working in small groups.
“We want to give a little more ownership to the students as far as choosing their books and really understanding what is a ‘just right book’ for them,” she said.
Although Cheshire’s kindergartners meet in half-day sessions, the Board of Education has been discussing a move to all-day kindergarten, something Donnery said she would embrace.
“I think the time has come,” Donnery said. “What we want to do in two hours, we can’t possibly do. We really want to foster deeper thinking and exploration.”
She also said transitions are difficult for kindergartners,so being in one place all day would help.
“We have kids coming in here at 12:30 who have already been in day care all morning. They’re tired and we’re expecting to give them the same thing that we’re giving kids in the morning who are bright and fresh. It just doesn’t work.”