BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Thursday's Board of Education meeting encompassed a full agenda including the District HIB mid-year report, student achievement measurement data, liaison reports, and administration recommendations including the vote to terminate girls varsity basketball coach Andy Silvagni.
Mary Ann McAdam, district HIB representative, presented the semi-annual HIB report. McAdam noted that there were 59 HIB investigations this year and 17 affirmed HIB incidents which is up by 8 incidents from the 2013 affirmed. She identified the trends of social exclusion in the elementary school level; boy/girl relationships at the middle school level and social media incidents at the high school level.
Superintendent Judy Rattner presented the GL Data Dashboard including what the district uses to define student achievement (e.g. HSPA, AP's, SAT's, ACT scores) along with placeholders for graduation rate, passing rate, attendance, athletic participation and students attending two and four year colleges.
Board Member Paul Beiser raised the question, "How do we know we are doing a good job?"
"Student achievement is our number one priority, how do you define and measure it?" Beiser discussed the fact that the data presented had no comparative value and did not answer his question. "How is this data going to be used to indicate improvement in student achievement, how is this data going to be used to see if we are meeting our goals and statistics, how can we use that data to see if we are meeting our responsibilities and obligations as board members?" asked Beiser.
"I am very proud of what we do. We are a very high performing district," said Rattner "The state QSAC review refers to us as a high performing district because of the grades, because of the programs that we offer, because of the students and their involvement and the achievements they have," said Rattner.
A challenge facing the board is 'student' achievement is unique for each student. The recently released School Performance Report shows a comparison to Peer Schools; which are schools that have similar grade levels and students with similar demographic characteristics, such as the percentage of students qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch, Limited English Proficiency programs or Special Education programs.
"I want to focus on all of the students, not just the academically successful," said Rattner. Discussion on measuring student achievement will continue between the administration and the board.
Superintendent Judy Rattner announced that the NASA project received a $10,000 grant from Johnson and Johnson which will allow the district to move forward with the project, now that they have met the funding requirement. Additional grants including a $2,000 grant from the BHEF along with others have been received according to Rattner. The program has been spearheaded by Ms. Susan Rambetsy, District Science Supervisor. This program will impact students in grades 5 through 12. An experiment will be conducted from the space station in outer space and will be returned to the district to observe the results. This project is planned for October of next year.
The Board approved moving forward with an RFP for the cell phone tower at Gov. Livingston. The goal is to improve cell phone service at the high school and to be a revenue source for the district. The tower would be located behind the varsity baseball field and would likely hold two or three carriers.
Mountainside Board Member Jeane Parker announced, "We have not started negotiating the contract [between Mountainside and the Berkeley Heights School District]." Discussions regarding the contract to 'extend or break-up' will begin in July according to Parker. The decision will be made by May 2015. "You still have us until 2017," said Parker.
"Raising Healthy Children: Knowing how and what to do when things go wrong" will be presented on Monday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at Gov. Livingston Auditorium.
BHEF Annual Teacher Basketball game is Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m.
School calendar has been revised due to recent snow days on Feb. 3 and 5. School will be in session on April 14 and 15.
The next board meeting is on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.