SUMMIT, NJ – An informal conversation about education issues ranging from state anti-bullying laws to assessment tests went well beyond the hour scheduled in Summit on Saturday afternoon.
Dr. Joseph Ricca, a member of the state anti-bullying task force and superintendent of schools in East Hanover, was the guest at a program arranged by Lisa Allen and hosted by the Summit Republicans. The event took place at Mondo, 426 Springfield Ave. “Education is a hot topic in Summit,” Allen said. “(Ricca) has experience with new, innovative and creative education in his district.”
The most emotional topic proved to be bullying, with one member of the audience sharing her problems with bullying at her school. “It’s our job as an adult to get involved,” Ricca said. He noted that with social media, bullying “has gotten so pervasive that you can’t get away from it.”
Ricca said that the task force is an important step in getting “all the stakeholders,” such as school officials, students and parents, to talk about bullying. “If we can save one kid, then it’s all worth it,” he said.
The group also was interested in Ricca’s views on the Summit School District.
“Summit public schools are tremendous schools,” Ricca responded. “I think you have really, really committed parents and guardians. You have dynamic offerings.” He stressed that community support is essential to establishing and maintaining a quality school district.
He supports standardized testing as a way to assess that quality. “You need to have assessment,” he said, “but you have to recognize that’s one single measure of the total child.”
When the conversation shifted from testing to textbooks, some audience members challenged Ricca on whether technology, such as iPads, led to more effective teaching.
“It’s not necessarily that the iPad is better for reading,” he argued. “It’s the other activities that take place. Kids today are very, very sophisticated.”
The cost of that technology factors into how districts incorporate e-learning, he noted. “You always try to balance the needs to the school district” with what the community can afford, he said.
The conversation ended with a discussion about the size of school districts. Ricca said that larger districts actually have more administrative costs, and they lose something important.
“That smallness lends itself to a sense of community,” he said.