Warren Hills Supervisor Named Vice Principal at Summit High School

Members of the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School Bel Canto perform at Thursday's Summit Board of Education meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Summit High School Merit Scholars present books to their favorite teachers. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

SUMMIT, NJ—Michael Lapotasky, supervisor of social studies and language at Warren Hills Regional High School in Washington Township, Warren County, was appointed by the Summit Board of Education on Thursday as a vice principal at Summit High School.

Lapotasky, who holds a bachelor of science degree from East Carolina University and a masters degree from Seton Hall University, will take the place of Anthony Akey, who resigned early this year.

The new vice principal, who is expected to join the Summit staff on Febuary 21, will received a salary of $100,500, prorated, and his contract will run until June 30, 2014.

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In other business, the board approved a modified block schedule for the high school, pending progress on the study of the feasibility of the program and negotiations.

During a November 21 presentation to the board on block scheduling high school principal Paul Sears said block scheduling will allow more flexibility of instruction and the freeing up for more classrooms for general instructions spaces which are needed.

Under block scheduling, he noted, students will not go to classes in every one of their subjects everyday, but will have longer periods, lasting one hour four days a week and 43 minutes on the last day of the school week.

Also, instead of the current staggered lunch schedule, students and teachers will have a common one-hour lunch, with half of that time actually spent on lunch and the remaining half free for consultation with teachers, participating in some in-school clubs and other activities. It also will leave more room for social interaction, he said.

Also at Thursday's meeting, Sears gave a presentation on this year's academic performance at the high school.

He noted that Summit is one of 443 public high schools in New Jersey and about 26,000 public high schools in the United States. Nationwide there are about 37,000 high schools.

Citing August 2012 rankings by four different media outlets, he pointed out that New Jersey Monthly had Summit 15th in the state and 14th among public high schools, with Newsweek placing it 38th in the state and 461st nationally, US News and World Report listing it as New Jersey's 18th and 251st in the nation, and The Washington Post ranking it as 12th in the Garden State and 662nd nationally.

Sears said the methodologies of the various media outlets differ from one another so it is difficult to draw many solid conclusions from these rankings.

He did, however, point proudly to the performance of Summit students in the Scholastic Aptitude Test, with the city school, during 2013, pulling in an average of 562 in writing and language arts, 579 in math and 551 in verbal and critical reading, compared with a national average of around 500.

The previous year saw the Hilltoppers with an average of 558 in writing, 578 in math and 554 in verbal, and, in 2011, averages of 568, 588 and 564, respectively, in the three categories.

In advanced placement testing, with a standard nationwide curriculum and based on rigorous college courses, the high school principal noted that 650 tests were given in Summit in 2013, compared to 611 in 2012 and 518 in 211. In 2013 there were 346 test takers compared to 301 in 2012 and 285 the prior year. Those scoring three or above in the tests, where the highest score is five, numbered 549 in 2013, 514 in 2012 and 448 in 2011.

In college attendance, 94.5 percent of Summit students went on to higher education in 2013, with 77.9 percent getting into the “most competitive,” “highly competitive” or “very competitive” colleges. In 2012 the numbers were 94.3 percent and 65.7 percent, and, in 2011, 97.7 and 70 percent.

The statistics that perhaps drew the most controversy in Sears' presentation were those concerning comparison with schools often ranked with Summit based on socio-economic factors.

Summit, with 12.2 percent of its students receiving free and reduced lunches—often used as a measure of socio-economic standing, had a 5.2 percent increase in SAT scores from 2008 through 2012 and an average score of 1713 in 2012.

Millburn, with .8 percent in the free and reduced lunch program, had a 3.2 percent increase and an average score of 1857; New Providence numbers were 2.1, ,1 and 1742, and those for Ridgewood were 2.8, 2.9 and 1778.

Responding to a question from board member James Freeman, Sears said, based on the percentage of free and reduced lunch program participants as a measure of socioeconomic diversity, it looked like Summit was outperforming Millburn.

He believed part of the difference was due to the fact that Summit, with its more diverse population, has to offer a more diverse selection of programs than a more homogeneous community such as Millburn.

However, both Freeman and resident David Shanker pressed for a “disaggregation” of statistics involving those receiving free and reduced lunches because they felt this would give a clearer picture of how Summit did against other districts such as Millburn.

Freeman said, for example, he would like to see “if our poor kids beat their poor kids or if our poor kids beat their rich kids.”

Board president Gloria Ron-Fornes said, however, that, although the requested statistics possibly could be obtained, she objected to the “bucketing” of students into “rich” or “poor” categories.

Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker noted, however, that confidentiality restrictions forbade identifying such statistical categories where there were 40 or fewer students involved, such as in Summit.

In a presentation on state testing, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Julie Glazer noted, with the implementation of Common Core standards and the new PAARC testing procedures, there would be far more emphasis on student growth compared to other students at the same grade level statewide.

Although the guidelines still have not been completely clarified and the first results in the new system are not expected until the spring of 2015, she said the trend seems to be away from classifying student achievement in district factor groups based on socio-economics and away from reporting, for example, performance of special education students separately from those in the general education population.

Board vice president Celia Colbert wanted to know if it no longer would be considered important to measure performance among various socio-economic groups and Ron-Fornes said the guidelines were not clear on whether this would be considered important.

Board member Edgar Mokuvos also wanted to know if it would no longer be possible to measure what percentage of students had not met a performance threshold versus those from nearby communities, to which Parker replied that the importance of this was presently unclear but the main emphasis would be on how far student learning had grown from a previous year.

On another matter, David Melcher of 33 Rotary Drive said that the high school's forensics program, which currently receives stipend funding only for Anne Poyner, who runs this speech and debate program, should have district funding it needs for at least one more stipend position.

He said, based on its participation level of about 70 students and its high success rate it deserves the same consideration as sports programs with far less participation and lower success rates.

Although the Summit Education Foundation may fund the additional position, Melcher felt it was important enough to deserve district funding.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Louis Pepe replied the application for the additional position had been submitted along with other extracurricular requests and it would be considered in budget reviews by the board operations committee.

On another matter, due to the fact that Parker has announced his intention to leave the district in 18 months, Shanker said this was too long to have a “lame duck” in this position and called for the district to bring on a new superintendent of schools as soon as possible before Parker departs.

Ron-Fornes replied the search for a superintendent was part of a careful process and preparation, perhaps the most important part of the process, must take as long as necessary.

In an action at Thursday's meeting, the school body voted to send requests for proposals to search firms with expertise in finding school superintendents.







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