BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - After spending more than 30 years as an educator throughout New Jersey, Berkeley Heights Superintendent Judith Rattner is excited about the future in the district.
Rattner’s career began in 1981 in Chatham where she taught math, English, journalism, accounting, computers and business at the high school. She stayed there for 11 years and moved on to Montvale where she served in supervisor positions, assistant principal and principal at the middle school. In 2000, she became the assistant superintendent in Berkeley Heights and was named superintendent in 2005.
She said each community was different, but overall they were great experiences. Because most of her background was in secondary and high school education, the transition to Berkeley Heights was a bit tough, she said. She said one of her proudest accomplishments as superintendent was creating a referendum to upgrade the facilities.
The past eight years have been amazing and she is glad she made the choice to come to Berkeley Heights. The students, faculty, administration and parents are phenomenal, she said. The teachers are focused, driven and work hard not for themselves, but to help the children succeed, she said.
“They (the students) bring a smile to my face almost every day,” she said.
Some of her goals are to bring more technology into the schools, be fiscally responsible, look at school security and be able to balance the numerous things being put on the district's plate by the Department of Education.
While strategic planning is a major part of the district, implementing new teacher evaluations beginning next year and the recent anti-bullying law will be a challenge, she said. Berkeley Heights already uses the Danielson evaluation module, but Rattner feels the new system isn’t fair to teachers whose classes don’t require standardized testing.
“I think the state is moving a little too quickly particularly with the aspect of student growth tied into the evaluation system,” she said.
The anti-bullying law has the right intentions, but because it is unfunded it puts a heavy burden on the faculty, she said. Furthermore, children in kindergarten and first grade don’t understand the difference between bullying and conflict. Consequently, last year there were a reported 180 incidents with a third being actual bullying. Rattner said she wants to reduce that number.
“I think it has raised people’s consciousness to what’s acceptable,” she said.
In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Rattner said they are looking into improving security in the district. But overall she has a positive outlook on the future of Berkeley Heights and they plan to implement fiber optics and wireless by next school year.