MADISON, NJ - At the Board of Education meeting on May 14, Superintendent Mark Schwarz welcomed as the first new MHS Assistant Principal Christine Internicola. After a “rigorous and strong process,” she was chosen to be one of four Assistant Principals at the high school, who will each have a set of responsibilities that includes chairing one or more high school departments, supporting a grade level of students, and leading specific aspects of MHS operations (including athletics, activities, facilities, safety and security, scheduling, guidance and college and career planning). Internicola will be aligned with the guidance department.  She was previously the Director of Guidance at Bergenfield High School, Supervisor of Guidance at Henry P. Becton Regional High School in Carlstadt-East Rutherford, and Student Assistance Counselor at Cedar Grove High School. As Schwarz stated in the May 2019 Dodger Digest, under the realigned model, Dr. Frank Santora, Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services, will coordinate district guidance efforts and an MHS Assistant Principal (Internicola) will be responsible for the leadership and administrative functions of the MHS Guidance Office.

On June 6, Schwarz will present the State of the Schools Address to the Madison Community at which time he will discuss the district’s progress and include analysis of a recent survey of parents, students and staff. The survey was completed by 490 participants. The Address will be held on Thursday, June 6, in the MJS Auditorium at 7:00pm.

Michael Zulla, Director of Facilities, was applauded when he advised the Board that electrical supply issues in the MHS auditorium were fixed and would be ready to use for all spring events.  Regarding the implementation of all-day kindergarten, he explained that the creation of new instructional spaces and bathrooms for each kindergarten classroom will begin on Monday, June 24th. Building principals and central office administrators will also be onsite on a regular basis to ensure that the project is completed by mid-August. All buildings will remain open during the construction, although some areas may have limited access for safety reasons.

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John Lapierre, district technology coordinator, advised the Board that the school website calendars can now be viewed at the district and school level. As explained in the May Dodger Digest, to see all of the district events in one calendar, navigate to the district home page and either click on the Calendar quick links button, or scroll down to view the calendar. There is also the option of clicking the “View Calendar” button that is located just below the scrolling calendar and the ability to view an individual school calendar by navigating to one of the school home pages and scrolling down to the calendar section. There is also the ability to click the “View Calendar” button for that school in order to see an expanded view of that school’s calendar. Another feature is the ability to set up an iCal feed to any devices, such as iPhones, Androids, Outlook Calendars and Google Calendars.

There was much discussion of the 2020-2021 calendar and whether the April break should always be the second week of April or should be tied to when Good Friday is on that year’s calendar. Schwarz explained several drivers that go into designing the school calendar including 1) making sure students are in school when its most conducive to learning (i.e. not too hot); 2) students struggle to focus in June after testing so should the year be more frontloaded to August; 3) starting school year earlier to give more time to studying and preparing for the A.P. testing in May. In 2020-2021, Labor Day will be on September 7 and Schwarz opined that beginning the school year after that is “too late because of summer slide.” Student representative to the BOE Nicholas Kitsopoulos opined that “after APs, kids are done. I prefer starting in August because every day makes a difference in preparing for the APs.”  

Board member Dr. Tom Piskula thanked MHS Principal Gregory Robertson and Assistant Principal David Drechsel Jr for being at the meeting and asked them to give themselves credit for raising the reputation of the Madison School District both here and abroad. He asked them to focus on the ratings and rankings to attract people to Madison.

Parent Amy Marinovic thanked Zulla for getting the MHS auditorium in shape in time to host Musicpalooza on May 18. She then expressed dismay at the amount of homework her son is assigned both during the school year and in the summer. She stated that during A.P. week, her son was also assigned a project to complete. This led to a lively discussion of focusing on the whole child, of making sure students have enough time to sleep and be creative, and of teachers’ assigning “silly homework.” As a side note, Marinovic’s son 10th grade son Henry recently headed to the USA Junior Math Olympiad after earning a qualifying score on the AMC 10B and the American Invitational Mathematics Exam. Each year approximately 250 students qualify to participate in the USAJMO, which comprised nine hours of testing over two days and consisted of six questions. Dan Ross, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Personnel, stated that there are many layers to the conversation of stress and competing priorities on students. He stated that “we need to realign our perspectives.”