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October 25, 2012

Taking the reins at charter school

Beth Delforge builds student thinking skills from school's 'white canvas'

Classes at the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School begin each morning with a meeting, with teachers and their students on all grade levels sitting down to talk and setting the tone for the day.

The meetings let students have a role in setting goals, and the direction for the day, says Beth DelForge, the school’s new director of education. And the “responsive classroom” type of teaching is one of a few new practices brought into the full school’s curriculum by Delforge.

Responsive classroom at its simplest, she says, helps the pupils stay curious, questioning, and engaged.

“When you put that together with really engaging curriculum, that’s when they (teachers) start to move children’s thinking and build critical thinking routines,” Delforge said in an interview Wednesday morning. “That’s my hope for GCA.”

This week, Delforge took the helm of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School. She served as the school’s director of education, essentially a curriculum director, in the schools first weeks of its third year, before Executive Director Tony Blackman resigned.

Blackman cut his own position to help the school survive a stiff budget cut when enrollment dropped from expectations of 180 students to roughly 129. That has left Delforge leading the charter school through its third year.

Gordon Baird, member of the school’s Board of Trustees, said that having Delforge on staff is the only thing that made that the transition work as smoothly as it did. Blackman, who remains on the board, left his full-time position last week.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do that if Beth (Delforge) wasn’t who she is,” Baird said.

The change means that Delforge has moved up to handling everything from bus contracts to dealing with the curriculum – to comforting crying children and, when winter rolls along, deciding whether to call off school.

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