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Dr. JoAnn Susko
Hammarskjold Middle School, 200 Rues Lane, East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Category: Middle School Principal - Central Region

Dr. JoAnn Susko has been principal of Hammarskjold Middle School for 13 years and an educator for nearly 30 years. She began her career in 1972 as a math teacher and also served as a curriculum coordinator, assistant principal and elementary principal before accepting the principalship at Hammarskjold in 1988.

"The mission of our school," she says, "is to provide all our students with an optimum opportunity for growth and a sense of dignity and self-worth. Students are encouraged to question, explore, and create. Striving for excellence is expected and a special concern exists for learning how to get along with one another."

Before her arrival at the middle school, a study of student self esteem showed it to be among the lowest in the district. When readministered after she had established her new programs and new management style, the survey showed dramatic improvement. That, and other achievements have earned the school a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon designation.

Dr. Susko has overseen the creation of many important new programs at Hammarskjold, including the school’s "Character Counts" program. Every Monday, a 22 minute period is dedicated to character education discussion and activities. Staff and students jointly developed all those activities. Dr. Susko notes that actor Tom Selleck, a national spokesman for the Character Counts Coalition, visited the school in October 1995 to emphasize the importance of developing character in the schools.

The school is presently moving forward to instill differentiated instruction techniques for addressing learning styles and multiple intelligences and for more effectively addressing the strengths and weaknesses of each student. Dr. Susko is hoping to be able to use a grant to have Carol Ann Tomlinson site-monitor and assess the school’s strength and weaknesses in accomplishing the goals of differentiated learning.

Dr. Susko makes a point of ensuring that all faculty and department meetings are devoted to advancing the needs of the faculty Ñ and thereby the needs of students. Those sessions are used to address needs as determined through classroom observations and analysis of student achievement.

Staff at Hammarskjold fully recognize the importance of parent and community involvement. "The more frequently we communicate with parents and members of our community," says Dr. Susko. "the more involvement we can expect." To that end, the school sponsors Pare-Aide (Parents as Aides). It also offers the CARE program, a program of after school help for at risk students provided by parents and concerned members of the community. The school has also secured grants for programs from Circuit City (for Character Counts) and from CVC ( pathways through learning.)

Mayor William Neary of East Brunswick said, "I have found JoAnn Susko to have boundless energy and enthusiasm that acts as a lightning rod, instilling loyalty, camaraderie and a cooperative spirit that has resulted in a Blue Ribbon designation and the respect of her staff."