SUMMIT, NJ—Internal assessments of students currently attending kindergarten in Summit -- in large groups, small groups and individuals to determine overall student progress in such areas as reading levels and acquisition of skills in mathematics -- will be among guidelines used by the Summit Board of Education in deciding what the future will hold for the district’s tuition-based full day kindergarten program.

The full day program, which began this year, is open to students whose parents pay the $5,500 tuition.  Those on free or reduced-cost school lunch programs may attend at a reduced tuition paid for through a scholarship program.

During Thursday’s workshop meeting of the school board, members decided to continue with the internal assessment, rather than adding an external assessment conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research from Rutgers University, which would cost the district $30,000 for a “baseline” assessment to measure student performance over the course of one school year.

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The Summit district also would have had the option of continuing the assessment of student performance over the course of two additional years by the Rutgers group.  That continued assessment would have cost the district nothing if funding was received from other sources.  If that funding was not obtained, the Summit district would have to pay for the additional assessment.

In addition to the internal assessment, district education officials will look at basic skills instruction required in the first grade, and the performance of students entering first grade in the Summit schools from kindergarten programs sponsored by private organizations in the area in comparison to the performance of students in the Summit program, to determine the level of academic accomplishment produced.

Also, probably in November, Summit district officials will assess costs to the district of the full day kindergarten program to determine if the tuition-based option is really “cost-neutral” to the district — one of the goals of the program when it was being introduced last year.

There was some debate among board and district officials at the workshop session about whether data gathered from each of the assessment methods would provide the desired results.

Superintendent of schools Dr. Nathan Parker said the Rutgers assessment would determine if the positive effects of full day kindergarten continued to the third grade and beyond.

While board member James Freeman said the Rutgers probably had some value, he added that he would like to know if, in the third year after attending the full day program, students in that program would be better off academically than those in the half day program, which is offered to all Summit public school students.

However, board president Celia Colbert asked how the district could reach that conclusion based on studying only the 40 children enrolled in the full day public school program this year.

Freeman replied that the supporters of full day kindergarten last year were working under the hypothesis that full day kindergarten would improve the performance of those attending that program, and he wanted to know how long that hypothesis would be pursued.

Board member Gloria Ron-Fornes, however, said the comparison of the performance of those in the optional Summit public school full day program with the performance of students from other full day programs would give the district the data it needed to decide whether to continue the optional program.

On another topic, board vice president Katherine Kalin, who chairs the operations committee, reported the committee had heard from Summit High School vice principals Stacy Grimaldi and Michael Lapotasky about their training, through the Summit Police Department and Sergeant Rick Proctor, in the ALICE school security program.

ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.

Kalin said under the new concept in school security, rather than having students and staff members hiding under desks while classroom doors are locked if an intruder is present, one of the first steps is to inform potential victims over the school communications system that an intruder is present.  It is believed an intruder will then assume that police have been called and they, too, are in the school building.

Another step that may be taken to counter and intruder’s attack, Kalin noted, is to have those in the school throw something at him to distract his attention so help can be called, potential victims can evacuate a school or the intruder can be subdued.

Evacuation of students and staff to a safe area would be another positive step, and countering an attack by an intruder would be the last resort, Kalin said.

She noted, however, that Grimaldi, Lapotasky and Proctor, who were much more familiar with the program, were scheduled to demonstrate it at the board’s regular meeting on Thursday, October 16, at 7 p.m., in the high school media center.

In response to a question from David Shanker of 21 Llewellyn Road, Parker said the ultimate decision on whether the ALICE system would be instituted in the city’s schools rested with the school board, but that decision would not be made without input from law enforcement officials at the local, county and other levels of government.

In a related matter, Mariam Zahn of Tulip Street, a leader of the Concern Parents of Summit, said the safety of school children and staff demanded that the city no longer use schools as polling places.

She said the group had gathered 1,000 signatures on a petition requesting the Summit Common Council to move poling places from the school and would present that petition to the council at its November 17 meeting. 

Zahn asked the school officials to be present at that meeting.

Shanker said, however, that removing poling places from the school proved to be challenging, and urged school officials to remove students from schools on election days by scheduling teacher professional education days on the election days.

However, Will Gunther, president of the Lincoln-Hubbard School Parent-Teacher Association, replied that it was wrong to allow strangers into the schools where photographs of students were posted and intruders could compile profiles of the students.

On another matter, Colbert announced the board and the Summit Education Association this week attended separate meetings with a state mediator in an attempt to settle their contract dispute. She added that the parties seemed closer to agreement on some issues but had not settled on an overall agreement.

The next mediation session will be December 15, she said.

In response to a question from Melanie Wilson of SpeakUp Summit, assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe said he had provided board negotiators with a dollar figure the district could use in providing a salary settlement with the SEA, but would not disclose that figure during negotiations.

On another matter, board policy committee chairman David Dietze announced the education body, at its next meeting, was expected to introduce a policy on substance abuse that would allow for students expected of abuse to be suspended from school activities on the first offense and to face mandatory medical and other counseling on the second offense.

He added that current policy calls for mandatory counseling only on the third offense.