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Students at Jackson Street School in Northampton vie to be principal for a day

R.K. Finn Ryan Road School second graders, front row from left, Pearl Davis, Sandi Hoeckh, Alexis Katz and Sadie Curtin-Adelman, dance what is known as "the Cupid Shuffle,' the school's annual line dance to welcome spring, Friday at the school.

JERREY ROBERTS

R.K. Finn Ryan Road School second graders, front row from left, Pearl Davis, Sandi Hoeckh, Alexis Katz and Sadie Curtin-Adelman, dance what is known as "the Cupid Shuffle,' the school's annual line dance to welcome spring, Friday at the school. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

NORTHAMPTON — While Jackson Street Principal Gwen Agna is traveling in Myanmar for three weeks starting Saturday, a few “celebrity principals” have been lined up to fill in. Among them are English language learner teacher Kathy Malnoski, Superintendent Brian Salzer, Student Services Director Laurie Farkas and other district administrators.

Meanwhile, the school is sponsoring an essay contest for students who want to be principal for a day while Agna is abroad. On Friday, a name will be selected from among students in grades K-5 who submitted answers to the question: “If you could be principal of Jackson Street school for a day, what kind of principal would you be? How would you spend your day?”

Here’s what one third grade student, who was among the first to submit an essay, had to say: “I would like to be principal because I care about other people,” she wrote. “I would keep the school safe, would wave ‘hi’ and visit all classes.”

Agna was born in the southeast Asian country then known as Burma in the early 1950s while her parents, both physicians, were working for the U.S. Public Health Service. Her family returned to their home in Yellow Springs, Ohio when she was a year old.

While Agna doesn’t remember much about living in Asia, “it informed my life because it was a life changing experience for my parents,” she said. It’s been a longtime goal of hers to return to Myanmar while her parents, now in their 80s, can share in news about her travels.

Agna also plans to hold an all-school assembly Friday to share information with students — including baby pictures of herself during the year she lived in Rangoon.

She will be back at Jackson Street April 22 to greet students when they return from spring vacation.

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History day winners

Two Northampton High School juniors were winners in the regional Massachusetts History Day competition held earlier this month at Springfield Technical Community College.

Norma Jean Haynes and Eleanor “Nell” Volkmann won medals for their entries and will go on to compete in the state finals set for April 6 at Stoneham High School. Winners of that contest will earn the right to represent Massachusetts at the National History Day finals in Maryland in June.

The two NHS students worked for five months doing research and creating projects along this year’s National History Day theme, “Turning Points in History, People, Ideas, Events.”

Haynes placed first in the Website division for her project, “Stephen Foster: America’s Songwriter.”

Volkmann won a silver medal in the historical paper division for her entry, “From Back Wards to Back Streets: Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill.”

The mission of National History Day is to improve the teaching and learning of history in middle and high schools. The nonprofit program encourages young people in grades 6-12 to research and create historical projects. This is the 33rd year of the nationwide contest.

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Banking on the (snow)banks

Springtime at R.K. Finn Ryan Road School means another round of the “Last Surviving Snowbank” contest. Students in each class submit predictions about which of the snowbanks near the school playground will last the longest and on which day they will finally melt.

So far, Principal Margaret Riddle reported a shaded snowbank students have dubbed Slushy is winning the most votes.

Another snowbank known as Noodle because of its long, thin shape, is also in the running. “It’s really long and it doesn’t get snow all the time,” one kindergartner explained, in casting their vote.

How did last week’s snowstorm affect this year’s contest?

“It’s a great lesson in the surprises and effects of weather and also what makes the difference between snow, sleet and rain,” Riddle said. “The kids will apply their thinking to the new snowbank configurations.”

Fortunately, she noted, snowbanks around the school remain in the same place, thanks to the work of city snow plows. “They also purposely pile the snow up to be fun for children to play on,” Riddle said.

Winners of the school’s snowbank contest will appreciate that; their prize for making the closest prediction is an extra recess.

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Junior Chefs night

For special repast April 10 at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, the school’s Junior Chefs International Club is hosting an Italian dinner from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Oliver Smith Restaurant on the Locust Street campus. The menu will include pasta stations, chicken marsala, eggplant parmesan, rolls, salad and assorted desserts.

The meal costs $12 for adults, $10 for diners aged 60 and over, $8 for children aged five to 12 and $3 for diners under 5. Tickets are available at the door or at the restaurant. Proceeds will benefit activities of the chefs club.

Legacy Comments1

Ms.Agna really is the best ! My children adore her and look forward to going to school everyday!

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