Edison Middle School to Welcome 560 Central Sixth Graders

Assistant Principal Steve Melendez, left, and Principal Xavier Fitzgerald. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - With one of the highest enrollments in past few years Edison Middle School Central Sixth is preparing to accommodate its 560 new students with an additional fifth team.

Principal Xavier Fitzgerald, now entering his tenth year as principal, told Tap into West Orange that the increase in students has required the additional of a fifth team of teachers and twenty new employees, including nine new hires and 11 transfers. Students are placed on “teams” consisting of teachers in each subject and schedules are developed accordingly. Roosevelt and Liberty middle schools continue the “team” concept in grades 7-8.

A discussion of the impending  PARCC  testing arose. “We’re already teaching common core,” said Fitzgerald. “We’ve been instituting common core curriculum standards for the past two years.”

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Fitzgerald felt Edison was on track with curriculum and that sixth graders had enough familiarity with computers and keyboards to navigate the test.  He expressed concern that computer glitches and issues with the test itself that arose during pilot testing this spring could be a bigger issue.

Two years ago Edison was named a Focus School as the result of a “Largest Within-School Gap (schools with the largest in-school proficiency gap between the highest-performing subgroup and the combined proficiency of the two lowest-performing subgroups).  A Focus School is a school that has room for improvement in areas that are specific to the school. It is expected that EMS will be removed from the New Jersey State Department of Education’s Focus School List for next year.

“We are already doing all the required “Best Practices,” said Fitzgerald. “The state came in and had no complaints.”

“Best practices” refer to teachers and administrators teaching a balanced curriculum, an integrated curriculum, and a differentiated curriculum to meet individual student needs. It also provides ‘active learning’ opportunities for students.

While no one can ever predict what an incoming class size will be, this year’s high enrollment at the Central Sixth has not only required more teachers but more desks and supplies. Both Fitzgerald and Assistant Principal Steve Melendez noted that out of all students graduating from fifth grade in June, there were 23 transfers out of district. Of that number, six left to attend private schools and the rest moved out of district or moved out of the country.

With the addition of a fifth team, Fitzgerald and Melendez expect class sizes of 15-21. EMS will continue to offer parents the opportunity to meet with their child’s team to discuss any issues and concerns.

Fitzgerald discussed the metamorphosis he has gone through over the past ten years. EMS was created to provide a nurturing environment for fifth graders transitioning out of elementary school into a middle school environment. The Central Sixth, an entire school comprised of only sixth graders, is a newer concept that created concern among some parents. They worried about their children making friends who would then go off to another middle school. Over the past ten years, not only have the honors classes at West Orange High School exploded, but friendships formed remained even through seventh and eighth grades and into high school.

"Ten years ago, I was focused on the students and their education,” said Fitzgerald. “Now I have realized that we need to meet and identify not only the needs of the students, but the parents and teachers as well.“

“Middle school is a transition for everyone,” he continued. “We need consistent standards but we realize that parents and students are coming from a school where they have been for years and everyone knows them. And the kids are going through so many changes themselves.”

A Parent-Student Orientation is scheduled for August 27-28 at Edison Middle School. For more information contact the school at 973-669-5360. Principal Fitzgerald’s extension is 28510 and Assistant Principal Melendez’s extension is 28511.







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