New Leadership Arrives At The Belle Harbor School

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There’s a sense of excitement and anticipation at PS/MS114 The Belle Harbor School as Interim Acting (IA) Principal Elizabeth Welsome and Assistant Principal Deana Folchetti-Puglin (IA) step into the positions formerly held by Stephen Grill and Barbara Poggioli-Esposito this new school year.

Determined to jump right in and wasting no time, the duo has already started launching new programs.

One of Principal Welsome’s first goals was to get the teachers involved in the Teachers College Writing Initiative in kindergarten through eighth grades. (K-8). Prior to her arrival, a needs assessment indicated the teachers would benefit from a uniform writing curriculum to guide them through all grades.

“I thought this would be a wonderful place to start,” Welsome said. But unfortunately, the first challenge was funding. Much to her disappointment, the school wasn’t eligible for any city or state funding and there wasn’t enough at her disposal to allow participation.

Without funding, her hope for this endeavor appeared grim. It looked like she was going to have to pass on the opportunity.

That’s when the Parents’ Association (PA) stepped in.

“The PA here is amazing,” Welsome said. “It’s only because of their financial support we are able to participate in this program.”

The PA donated enough money to send nine teachers, one from each grade, up to Columbia University for 45 days over the academic year for training in the writing program. 

And the generosity didn’t stop there. The PA even generated money to pay for the substitute teachers while the classroom teachers were out in training.

“This gift for our teachers could not have happened without the support of the PA, and for that we are truly grateful,” Welsome said.

Principal Welsome is also attending Columbia University’s program. “I lead by example,” she said.  “Any unified program like this creates common expectations and we can all be on the same page.

“It’s very important for teachers to have a strong skill set,” she continued.  Principal Welsome praises the teachers at the school as hardworking, and committed to the students and to their own professional development. 

PS/MS 114 has a large special education population, so she knew her assistant principal would need expertise in that realm. After much interviewing, Deana Folchetti-Puglin, with a degree in special education and 11 years experience at PS/MS47 in Broad Channel, seemed to be the perfect candidate.       

“My passion is working with teachers, students and families to offer support and guidance through the special education process,” Folchetti-Puglin said. 

“Our vision is that all of our special education students are educated in the least restrictive environment and have access to the general education curriculum with the appropriate supports and structures in place for each student's academic, social and emotional success,” Folchetti-Puglin said.

Principal Welsome lights up when she talks of the learning environment in the rooms. “I come alive when I get to go into a classroom and watch teachers teach and children learn,” she says.

A love of literacy and love of the academic environment drove Principal Welsome to her next initiative: implementing guided reading groups based on reading levels. 

She’s planning to develop a designated guided reading room with resources for the children and teachers, and she’s considering a program to have the middle school students go into classrooms of the younger children and read to them or with them.

Both Principal Welsome and Assistant Principal Folchetti-Puglin agree that not only is academic success important for students, but having them develop and succeed socially and emotionally is also critical.

In the few short weeks she’s been here, Principal Welsome has implemented an “advisory period” for sixth through eighth grades. This time is reserved for developing students socially, learning communication techniques, career planning, conflict resolution and some college discussion.  It gets them thinking about the future outside the doors of their school.

Another way of nourishing social awareness in the students is introducing the school to the “Dress For a Cause” initiative. Each month a different cause is chosen and discussed. Students and staff then wear a particular color on a particular day and each donate one dollar. This month they proudly raised $803, which was turned into  $50 gift cards that were donated to the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey via Operation Blessing. Next month, it’s pink.

Principal Welsome’s initiatives and ideas of what works come from 26 years of experience in education as a teacher, consultant, adjunct professor in Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education and assistant principal at PS/MS207 in Howard Beach. Accepting the position as principal of PS 114 seemed like the right next step.

“Not only did I make the choice to accept the position for me, but most importantly I had to be sure I was the right choice for the school,” she said.

“Schools have a lot of moving parts,” notes Welsome. “It’s important to have a qualified team working together as I do with Mrs. Folchetti-Puglin and the entire staff here at The Belle Harbor School.”

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