NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Board of Education President MaryAdele Wojtowicz announced at last week's meeting that since the students will begin to return for the hybrid model on Oct. 5--provided it is safe to do so--it is the intent of the school board to return to in-person meetings also at that time with safety protocols in place.

Superintendent Damion Macioci noted that upon suggestion of West Essex Regional High School’s principal Caesar Diliberto, that he, Diliberto, the district’s athletic director Anthony Minnella and middle school assistant principal Lisa Tamburri, along with police escort, drove through the four sending districts on a school bus for the first day of school as a way to engage and greet the students.  He reported that they were well-received and did apologize if they woke up residents as they made their way through the communities.

Macioci reported that the additional days of professional development that had been built into the school calendar were beneficial to the staff as they learned to adapt to new technology in preparation for remote learning.  In addition to professional development geared towards technology, topics also presented included: COVID-19 protocols, social and emotional supports, diversity, equity and inclusion, and safety and security trainings.  The superintendent  announced that athletics and extracurricular activities have resumed both virtual and in-person and thanked Minnella and Lisa Swanick commenting that they have created “safe experiences” and commended them on their work noting that they have gone “above and beyond” as they laid the ground work for the activities to resume.

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Macioci reported that since the last meeting in August the district has made “tremendous progress” as it has now received nearly all the COVID-19 protection supplies ordered.  Specifically, he noted that the plexiglass is in and installed, the tents have been received, window units of air conditioning for the middle school are now installed and the final stages of upgrading the electrical panels are taking place.  

Temperature scanners, PPE and disinfecting supplies have been received.  He also confirmed that any staffing issues have been resolved. As far as the HVAC upgraded equipment, including the MERV 13 air filters, as of the meeting’s date, 74 percent of the items have been received and the remaining items are scheduled to be delivered prior to Oct. 5.

The board approved the district goals for the new school year. The goals for 2020-2021 are as follows:

 

  1. Increase Student Growth and Achievement

  • Improve Student Climate and Culture

  • Improve Classroom Instruction (in-person and virtual)

  • Increase Student Learning

  1. Promote the Health and Safety of Students and Staff

  • Upgrade facilities to meet guidelines of the NJDOE & CDC

  • Provide students and staff with personal and protective equipment

  • Implement health and safety procedures for students and staff

  1. Strengthen Communication Among Stakeholders

  • Improve communication between the district/schools & the community

  • Strengthen communication between school-parent, teacher-parent, and administration and staff

  • Increase technology usage among stakeholders to facilitate communications.

 

Ryan Gupta, director of Curriculum, and Instruction presented an update on remote learning confirming that distance learning will be “significantly different then the Spring.”  Gupta confirmed there were some glitches in the system, and the technology department continues to address all issues.  Gupta continued that there are going to be “brain breaks” from the screen throughout the day and thanked everyone for their patience noting that “it would be an understatement to say that this was new for everyone, and we expected some growing pains.”  It is expected that there are learning gaps from March through June and educators are conducting pre-assessments in order to set individual student growth objectives.

Dr. Gina Donlevie, West Essex Middle School principal reported that the first day of school, although virtual, there was a “sense of excitement” and thanked all the teaching and technology staff.  There will be a building tour on Sept. 30 as the district prepares to reopen its doors, that will be identical to what the students may expect when they return to campus, including temperature scans as the students enter the building.

Diliberto thanked the teachers, administration, and board members for their planning throughout the summer.  He confirmed that as the students picked up their textbooks they were exposed to the process and procedures that await them upon their return to the building.  Diliberto took the time to specifically acknowledge Macioci for his efforts.  He commented that “Damion is a friend and a colleague, and I am proud to be a member of your team and stand by your side.”

Under agenda items, the board voted to terminate the contract with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to provide the health insurance for the board’s employees effective Dec. 31, 2020. Multiple personnel items were approved for stipend positions for academic, athletic, and extra-curricular activities.  Language was included in the agenda that provided:  “if the Board or State suspends, restricts or prohibits activities, these appointments shall be rescinded and the advisors shall be paid a prorated amount of their stipend, if any, for services actually rendered.”

The consent agenda under curriculum/special education approved three sites for the Pathway Program which provides opportunities for community-based instruction for classified students.  On Bloom, Ringside Pub and National Life Insurance were approved as job sites for the students.

The next Board of Education meeting will be Oct. 5.