WEST ORANGE, NJ - As part of an ongoing series of articles this week on updates and changes that parents and students can expect in the West Orange Public Schools come September, 9, the West Orange Alternative Press traveled to each school and interviewed all district principals. We've covered West Orange High School and Edison, Liberty and Roosevelt Middle Schools. These schools will see the biggest changes in curriculum and scheduling. But the elementary schools have also been busy, whether painting, polishing, buffing, reconfiguring space, or devising unique educational opportunities for their students. Here's what's been happening in the West Orange Elementary Schools this summer, and some special events for parents and students coming up.
Gregory Elementary School
Principal Michelle Thompson enthusiastically showed us the new sidewalk on the south side of the building and the new benches near the playground donated by the PTA. They had just completed a special tour event for incoming Kindergarten and new students, along with their parents. Fifth graders led them on a tour of the facilities, and the PTA provided a pizza lunch and activities afterwards.
Gregory received a special grant from Bristol Myers Squibb to enhance instructional content in science for the Kindergarten classes. Professional development will be provided for teachers during classes by instructors from Prism Professional Resources.
On September 11 at 8:45, members of the fifth grade Safety Patrol will be inducted in a special ceremony.
As a follow up to last year's incredibly successful "Meet the Author" event, where Erin Hunter (one of the authors of the Warrior series) visited Gregory on the day of the release of The Sun Trail, on Friday, September 20, author and actress Julianne Moore will visit Gregory to read excerpts from her latest children's book "My Mom is a Foreigner But Not to Me." She will also chat with the children and have lunch with a few of them.
Hazel Elementary School
According to Principal Ed Acevedo, this year "communication with the parents" will be a priority focus. In a continuing effort to foster their "Hazel Goes Green in 2013" initiative, parents will receive a folder once a week on Wednesdays with all notices and information. The school will kick off a Twitter account for communication and continue to utilize School Messenger.
In an effort to deal with parking issues at Hazel, the school hopes to convert the blacktop area into parking for teachers and relocate the basketball hoops to the lower area, building up the grassy spot near the playground as well.
Hazel has a new Special Ed teacher, Justin O'Grady, and a new fourth grade teacher, Mike Serino. Fourth grade is already filled to capacity at Hazel. The school can accommodate about 400 students.
On September 9 at 9:00 am, A Continental Breakfast Social will be held in front of the school for Kindergarten parents, followed by a meeting with Principal Acevedo.
Principal Acevedo, along with Principal Marie DeMaio of Washington School, has been asked to participate in a committee at United Presbyterian Church on Old Indian Road on September 20, when the first West Orange showing of the documentary on hunger in America, "A Place at the Table" will be shown.
Mount Pleasant School
Mt. Pleasant School had been closed during the mid 80's and early 90s and only reopened again as an elementary school around 1998. As a result, there has been a great need for upgrades at the school, like a new roof last year, and a complete electrical upgrade this summer.
In addition, Principal Mike Schiavo excitedly took us outside to see the new "Fitness Event" area, where a $23,000 expenditure raised and donated by the PTA, is installed. The area will be utilized by students during gym classes as part of the school district's "health and fitness initiatve". The fitness equipment is created by reprocessed timber and all recycled materials, and the padding and mulch will be laid shortly. Mt. Pleasant will devise a rewards system for its students in conjunction with the Presidential Fitness Awards program. The program offers three fitness levels, and usage is open to the community. Drainage issues have been resolved as well in the playground area.
We were greeted by Principal Joanne Pollara, Guidance Counselor Florence Chirichiello, and 'Dale from Pleasantdale,’ a puppet that Chirichiello will use in counseling sessions, for character education, and dress up days. Also on hand was the new school mascot panther, donated by the fifth grade Class of 2013. The panther will be named via a contest for the students upon their return to school.
On September 9, the Pleasantdale PTA will host their "Coffee and Kleenex" event for Kindergarten parents of students new to the school. "The children do fine, but we've found the parents need a little help on the first day of school." said Principal Pollara. "It is a big milestone in the life of a child and in parenthood. Letting go of your child’s hand at the kindergarten door is exciting because you know this is a big step on the road to find out... but sometimes there are tears- even from mom and dad.”
Pleasantdale will also continue their initiative as a” Bucket Filling" school, based on the book "How Full is Your Bucket" by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. "It helps to teach the concepts of respecting one another by treating each other with kindness and helping one another. We learn how our choices affect others around us," said Pollara.
A new "Kiss and Go Lane" is being constructed on Stanford Ave., and will be completed by September 9th as well. New drop-off procedures have been provided to parents in their August mailing. A School Messenger reminder will also be generated prior to the opening of school.
Redwood School, along with Gregory, have the two largest school elementary school populations in the district, and this year is no exception. Redwood will be welcoming almost 600 students on September 9, which has required some clever space reconfiguration on the part of the school.
Principal Barbara Kivlon showed us the teacher's room/lounge area, which was repainted and 'redone' by donations from the graduating fifth grade class. New tables, chairs, refrigerators, microwave, coffee maker and more, were waiting for set up.
The floors of the 'old' gym, which doubles as the auditorium and lunch area for students, was completely refurbished and look like new.
Principal Kivlon also shared the big news that Redwood School was named fifth in the state for closing the achievement gap among black students, and third in the state for their peer group for 2011-2012, according to JerseyCAN.
St. Cloud School
Principal Eric Price was pleased to share that St. Cloud school was also named in the JerseyCan statistics, ranking 10th in the state for closing the achievement gap among black students from 2011-2012. St. Cloud also placed in the top 10% in a National Math Competition comprised of 850 schools nationwide. 50% of St. Cloud students tested above proficient in the 2012 NJ Ask in math, which Price attributed to Everyday Math 3.
There are five new staff hires due to retirements.
St. Cloud School received an $800.00 Beautification Grant from NJ Slowfood, and students, along with high school students, planted gardens outside the school that include basil, mint, rosemary, cilantro, oregano, cabbage, strawberries, collard greens, onions, cauliflower and broccoli. "We'll use the garden as a learning tool for our K-5 students" said Price. "Math students can calculate space in the planters; history students can discuss farming in NJ, including the Lenape Indians, and students will learn about seeds and more in science classes."
The PTA donated a new awning for the entrance to the building, along with 10 IPads, which will move around the school on an IPad cart. New flooring was installed in the Kindergarten classrooms and the slate roof was repaired, along with some of the asphalt outside the building.
Principal Marie DeMaio was pleased to share that Washington School has received a $20,000 government "Fresh Fruits and Vegetables grant." Twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Washington students receive different fruits and vegetables to try, which is distributed through Sodexo, the district's food vendor. "This gives students the opportunity to try things they might not have tried otherwise" said DeMaio.
In addition, Washington, the original "Green School" has continued monitor its garden, planted by Kindergarten and fifth grade students and teachers. Principal DeMaio, along with Principal Acevedo, will be participating in the "A Place at the Table" event at United Presbyterian Church on September 20. (More information on that event will be published in the near future.)
Guidance Counselor Renee Wells will be working with Washington School's new "Peace Ambassadors," upper classmen that will reach out to the younger students and work with them to teach about anti-bullying and getting along.
All the Elementary Schools are excited to debut the new K-5 Social Studies curriculum "My World."