Evans Steps Down at River Valley Charter School

Tuesday March 05, 2024

Jonnie Lyn Evans in 2021

REGIONAL – The River Valley Charter School is looking for a new director following Jonnie Lyn Evans’ announcement Friday that she will leave the school in June after helping found it 25 years ago and serving in its administration for the last 11 years.
“While there is never a perfect time for a change in leadership, nor will there ever be an ideal time for me to leave the community I love, River Valley has a solid foundation that will keep the magic alive,” Evans wrote to the parents.
“The RVCS staff have earned my respect and gratitude again and again. They are a dedicated and creative group of individuals whose love and commitment to your children is unwavering. I am privileged to have worked with them,” she wrote.
One of only two public charter schools that follow the Montessori style education in Massachusetts, River Valley serves 388 students from kindergarten to eighth grade from Amesbury, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury. Most Montessori schools are private.
Incoming students are selected by lottery with the exception of siblings who are automatically accepted.
The school, located at 2 Perry Way in Newburyport, across Low Street from the Nock Middle School and Molin Upper Elementary School, was founded in 1999 by a group of parents who wanted their children to continue from pre-school in a Montessori environment.
Evans, who was named director in 2019, following the departure of Andy Willemsen, guided the school through the Covid global pandemic.
“She and her team truly made magic happen,” board chair Denise Herrera wrote to the parents. “They stayed true to Montessori, thought outside-of-the-box and brought the students back to school, some attending outdoors. This was the springboard that led to an amazing Place Based Education program.
“Jonnie Lyn has earned the respect of her peers, staff and community through her hard work, dedication, and clear vision of Montessori. I know Jonnie Lyn has a committed team that will continue to ‘Follow the Child’ and carry out the mission of River Valley. We are fortunate.”
In addition to being a founder of the school, Evans wrote, “my three grown children graduated from here. I have been connected to River Valley in one role or another for half my lifetime!”
She told the staff and parents that she is stepping down as director to focus more of her energy and attention on her family. “I have three aging parents and am ‘Jojo’ to four beautiful grandchildren. Future employment for me will be a position that requires less time, so I can live my personal values — family first.”
River Valley was notified recently that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has earned its fifth charter renewal, which Evans wrote: “validates RVCS’ success as a preeminent K-8 Montessori school operating in the public-school sector.
In 2021, the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce named Evans its educator of the year.
Herrera announced to the staff and parents that a search committee, headed by vice chair Albert Ting, will begin this month identifying candidates for the next director. It will employ a professional search firm. She predicted that the process will take several months.
The Montessori style of teaching was created by Dr. Maria Montessori, who studied as an engineer before becoming the first Italian female physician followed by her decision to become an educator. Based on her observations of students, Montessori experimented with allowing children have free choice of materials, uninterrupted work and freedom of movement and activity within the limits of their environment.
Montessori saw independence as the aim of education, and the role of the teacher as an observer and director of children’s innate psychological development.
At River Valley, the Montessori model educates students in multi-age classrooms (grades 1-3, grades 4-6 and 7 and 8 are together. Kindergarten is one grade. Every K-6 classroom has two teachers who provide small group instruction to children based on their individual needs.
Evans said children are taught independence, critical thinking and creative problem solving. Competition is de-emphasized and cooperative, team-based work is encouraged.

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