Teacher set to temporarily lead Northampton’s Jackson Street School


Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2020 5:47:23 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A fifth grade teacher who is training to be a school leader has been named Jackson Street School’s interim principal for next school year.

Superintendent John Provost announced earlier this month that he intends to appoint Lauren Brown to temporarily succeed longtime principal Gwen Agna, who will retire at the end of the school year after more than two decades leading the elementary school. The appointment is contingent on Brown completing her internship hours, which she is expected to receive this summer, Provost wrote in a letter to the school parents and guardians.

Brown started working at Jackson Street in the fall and is doing an apprenticeship with Agna as part of the process in obtaining her Massachusetts principal’s license, she said.

Agna said that she’s been impressed with the leadership qualities Brown has shown during her short time at Jackson Street, in terms of “understanding our school and the culture and appreciating it and wanting to continue some of the things we feel have been established and are important to us.”

Agna said Brown also has curriculum experience that will be an asset to the school.

Brown, 38 and originally from Foxborough, has been an elementary school teacher for 16 years. Before moving to Florence and working at Jackson Street, she taught at PS 234, a public school in New York City.

“Even though I’m new to Jackson Street, I’m not new to the ways of Jackson Street,” Brown said. “My school in New York City was a place like Jackson Street where the whole playful, joyful child was prioritized and centered alongside robust, rigorous curriculum with social justice at its heart.”

In the coming year, she said, “My biggest priority is for the feelings of love, safety and inclusion to keep growing. I don’t know what could be more important.”

In his letter, Provost said that Brown has “published on the topics of race, class, gender, and sexuality in pre-K-12 curriculum and on nurturing students to work for social change.”

The district conducted a search for a new principal in the fall, but it did not result in a hire. A search committee narrowed the pool down to two candidates — MaryAnn Bartlett, a fifth grade teacher and assistant director of middle school programs at the Nantucket Lighthouse School, and Walter Huston, principal at the Barnard School in South Hampton, New Hampshire — but both withdrew a day after speaking at a public forum at the school.

After finalists were interviewed, Provost wrote in his letter, “many from the Jackson Street School community have approached me to discuss the potential benefits of appointing an interim principal as part of the transition process. A transitional leader can help to calm the emotional reactions that are a natural consequence of a longtime leader’s departure.”

Next year, Provost plans to do another principal search to find a permanent principal, he said in his letter.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

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