August 22, 2014 at 12:50 AM
WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore is a man in motion. He manages a huge staff of teachers, aides, and administrators as the high school prepares to greet nearly 2,100 new and returning high schoolers on Sept. 4. It’s a daunting task, but Moore and his staff, including Assistant Principals Annette Towson, Kimberly Mancarella, Lesley Chung and Lou Della Pia, are up for the challenge.
TAP into West Orange sat down with Moore and Towson for feedback on the Rotating Drop schedule that debuted in the 2013-2014 school year. In addition, they provided updates on returning programs, new curriculum, building repairs, and much more.
The new block scheduling program of alternating A, B, C, and D days with a school-wide common lunch and longer class periods created huge logistical and physical changes to accommodate the new approach. Those issues were addressed throughout the school year as students quickly settled into their new routine and enjoyed an approximate 45-minute lunch period.
“The Rotating Drop worked well for us last year,” Moore began. “The staff and students acclimated well; we made good use of increased instructional time, and the feedback was positive.”
An additional benefit was a reduction in discipline issues, which normally occurred as students filled the hallways during class changes.
The successful Junior Air Force ROTC program is expanding to include an additional 20 students, bringing the number to approximately 80.
“We’re extremely proud of the program,” noted Moore. “The cadets handle all the flag and citizenship components of our events and recognize our veterans. They are establishing a tradition here at WOHS.”
The Institute of Math and Science (IMS) returns along with the Institute for Humanities (IH) and the new Institute for Citizenship Empowerment (ICE). IH will have a focus on English and History and ICE will focus on politics and diplomatic relations.
Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) also returns with the ROTC, English as a Second Language (ESL) and the revamped Mountaineer Academy.
“Each year we survey the students in the institutes for feedback,” said Towson. “We expanded the institute offerings because not all students fit into IMS.”
Other new course offerings include Sustainable Technologies, Drama, Engineering and Technology, and Forensic Science. Athletics, music, art, and after school clubs are numerous and students are encouraged to get involved to find their niche.
Clearly, preparation for PARCC testing is a huge challenge for the coming school year, and Tap into West Orange believes that will be true of all schools in West Orange that must grapple with online standardized testing for grades 3-11. Moore and Towson acknowledged the complexity of orchestrating testing for 1,500 students on various types of pads, laptops, desktops, books, and tablets; learning how to take the test; having the keyboarding skills to complete the test; and having the technology integrated to accomplish it will be ongoing.
Several repair and capital improvement projects were addressed during the summer hiatus. Compressors were replaced in the Pleasant Valley Way building and a computerized web-based control system was installed in the Tarnoff cafeteria in an effort to "sync" the three buildings and fix the problem of fire alarms going off. Boilers at Conforti and PVW were repaired to address inconsistent heat issues. Landscaping, field maintenance, parking lot and sidewalk repair were completed.
The leaking roof in the Library Media Center was repaired, with additional roof repair/replacement down the road. The district is expected to begin an electrical study in an effort to switch to district-wide LED lighting.
Annette Towson, who works closely with Moore on scheduling and curriculum, enthused about the various opportunities offered to students throughout the year. “Some of our students went to the NYC Ballet, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rutgers School of Engineering and Stevens Institute,” she noted.
“This year will have even more requirements for our students to attend special science lectures.”
As the high school continues to move into a more data-driven arena, ongoing surveys, feedback and adaptations are the norm. Courses and curriculum must always be evaluated and changed to meet the needs of the students.
“We’re always striving to improve here at the high school,” said Towson. “You’re not doing your job if everything is status quo.”
(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles previewing the 2014-2015 school year in West Orange Public Schools.)