Each spring, we recognize educators at our high school and intermediate schools who are selected for special recognition for the enthusiasm, caring and dedication they show to their school community every day. This has been an especially challenging year for all. We are glad to be able to honor 12 individuals who have been recognized by students and colleagues for their outstanding efforts. Four of the honorees are high school educators who are recipients of the annual Westfield High School Teacher Awards. Four are intermediate school teachers and recipients of the 23rd Annual Optimist Club Award, which recognizes the importance of teaching at the intermediate level.
The Optimist Club, a not-for-profit service organization that supports youth and the community, presents an award annually to two Westfield intermediate school educators — one each from Edison and Roosevelt. With the award put on hold last year due to COVID-19, a committee — which included Optimist Club members, school district administrators, past award recipients, and me — selected four teachers this year. Additionally, the Optimist Club has created a Special Nurse’s Award for our four intermediate school nurses/health educators for the 2020-2021 school year.
Board President Amy Root welcomed the honorees as they listened to the meeting, recognizing each individually as a slide presentation was shown.
Westfield High School
· Andrew Buckner, School Counselor, Robert and Linda Memorial Award
· Molly Dennis, Science Teacher, PTSO Teacher of the Year
· Nicole Scimone, English Teacher, Above and Beyond Award
· Marie Trzepla, Special Education Teacher, Distinguished Teacher of the Year
Intermediate School Teachers of the Year
· Marc Lazarow, EIS Language Arts Teacher, 2021 Optimist Award
· Kimberly Swenson, EIS Language Arts Teacher, 2021 Optimist Award
· Melissa Czerwinski, RIS Science Teacher, 2021 Optimist Award
· Carine Helwig, RIS Language Arts Teacher, 2021 Optimist Award
Special Intermediate School Nurse’s Award, Optimist Club
· Martha Fico, EIS Nurse/Health Educator
· Patricia Kelly, EIS Nurse/Health Educator
· Christine DeSousa, RIS Nurse/Health Educator
· Sharon Dorry, RIS Nurse/Health Educator
Board members congratulated the award recipients, providing individual examples of how one or more of the honorees had made an impact on their own children.
The Board approved a list of business items and professional services to move forward into the new school year, including existing curricula, textbooks and policies; personnel responsibilities; tax and finance schedules and institutions; legal, auditing and insurance services; state contract vendors; and cooperative educational memberships.
The Board approved the appointment of Crystal Marsh as principal of Wilson Elementary School, effective August 1, 2021. She will succeed Joseph Malanga, who is retiring on July 31. I thanked members of the search committee as I welcomed the appointment of Ms. Marsh, a knowledgeable, talented, and reflective leader who has a deep understanding of instructional strategies, an abundant knowledge of special education, and sophisticated skills in technology who is committed to providing a safe, creative, and nurturing environment for all students.
Ms. Marsh noted that she was “humbled and honored to join this district and the Edison School community as assistant principal almost four years ago," adding "tonight, the same feelings I felt four years ago, in the Board Room at Elm Street, have returned as I am named principal of Wilson Elementary School."
Ms. Marsh stated that in the few days since her name was listed on the Board agenda, her inbox has been flooded with “stories of how wonderful Wilson School is.” She said she “looks forward to building upon the foundation of excellence and sense of community that Mr. Malanga, the staff, students, and families at Wilson have already established so that our students will continue to reach their highest potential, academically, socially and emotionally.”
Facilities Committee Chair Michael Bielen reported that ongoing projects for this summer were discussed at a recent committee meeting, including HVAC upgrades, work at Jefferson and Roosevelt, and renovation of the high school courtyard in recognition of the late Dr. Derrick Nelson.
The Board affirmed my decision on two HIB incidents.
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAMS
The Board approved for second reading the following curricula:
Visual & Performing Arts: Music
6th & 7th Grade Vocal Music
8th Grade Vocal Music
The Board also approved voluntary Intern/Student Teacher candidates for the 2021-2022 school year. Board member Sahar Aziz inquired as to the difference between an intern and student teacher. I noted that a student teacher is usually nearing the end of his/her educational program and may be more experienced while an intern may have more of an observational role and may not be pursuing a teaching position.
Finance Committee Chair Robert Garrison reported that some of the finance resolutions approved are part of the reorganization to hire professionals and contractors for 2021-2022 projects.
Mr. Bielen asked about the delivery of the Pledge of Allegiance by a student during the recent Westfield High School Senior Awards Ceremony. I stated that I had looked into it and am satisfied that the student’s misspeak during the Pledge was unintentional, noting that being the sole voice reciting something during a video meeting when you’re used to having other voices around you in person can throw you off.
Mr. Bielen also noted Governor Murphy’s recent relaxing of outdoor social distancing requirements and inquired about current limits to the number of tickets available to families who plan to attend the Westfield High School graduation. I noted that planning for the high school graduation began months ago, that making adjustments takes time, and that we will follow up on the State’s changes.
Mrs. Root, unable to attend a recent meeting of the Franklin School PTO, said she looks forward to the next one and congratulated PTO members for their work on end-of-the-year activities and support of the school community.
Mrs. Root also noted that the Board has received a question about why Board meetings generally occur on the same night as Town Council meetings, explaining that both the Board and the Town have statutory requirements dictating when meetings need to be held. She said the Board and the Town are mindful of the overlap and continue to update each other.
Board member Leila Morrelli reported on a recent Jefferson PTO meeting, saying that it was nice to hear from principal Dr. Susie Hung that a large percentage of students are receiving in-person, full-day instruction and that enrollment for incoming 1st graders looks good for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Mr. Garrison reminded the public that June is Pride Month and that a reading and a walk were planned by the Town for June 2 in support of the LGBTQ community.
The Board heard from five residents with questions about a return to school in September, the school budget and enrollment, when the new superintendent will interact with the community, and why underclassmen cannot attend the WHS prom. Several Board members and I reiterated that, as we have stated previously, schools will open for full days in September and that we are in good shape in our planning. We do not yet know what the requirement for mask-wearing will be.
We are fortunate that so many people in Westfield are taking vaccination seriously. As to the high school prom, I noted that it is important and that I understand the disappointment of those who cannot attend. It is not for a lack of caring or trying. But this is not a usual year. We had to work in the dark and plan, providing the venue with final numbers of those attending and it was too close to the event to change those numbers. It is still a trying time, we are still transitioning and trying hard to do the best for our students.
Board member Gretchan Ohlig, the parent of a graduating senior, shared her disappointment while stating that there are important lessons about resiliency to be taught. She said she continues to be grateful for the efforts made on behalf of the Class of 2021 and all students.
Mrs. Root noted that a question had been asked previously about when Board meetings will return to in-person, stating that the Board believes the June 15 meeting will be its last virtual meeting as per the governor’s State of Emergency of last year. Unless directed otherwise, she said the Board anticipates returning to in-person meetings at 302 Elm Street in August.
Mrs. Root also reiterated that the new superintendent, Dr. Raymond Gonzalez, will join the district on August 2 and looks forward to reaching out to members of the community but that he has duties to finish up in his current district. Ms. Aziz and Ms. Morrelli stated that the current administration, the Board, and the incoming superintendent remain committed to keeping the public informed.
A recording of the entire Board of Education virtual meeting will be posted on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org under the Board tab.
Congratulations to the cast and crew of “26 Pebbles” for the following 2021 Montclair State University “Foxy Awards:”
· Outstanding Production of a Virtual Play with Significant Editing
· McKenzie Waddell – Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Virtual Play with Significant Editing
· Matthew Meixner – Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Virtual Play with Significant Editing
In posting the good news on social media, WHS Theatre Director Daniel Devlin said he is proud of everyone involved in the production of “26 Pebbles” and reiterated its unprecedented challenges, including rehearsing and performing 100% remotely, via Google Classroom/Meet.
Shooting a 7-under-par 63, Westfield High School senior golfer Colin Summers captured the Tournament of Champions individual title, setting the N-J-S-I-A-A record for lowest score and lowest score relative to par. Colin won the Group 4 individual state title as well. Additionally, the Boys Golf Team won the Group 4 and Tournament of Champions team titles. Congratulations to the team and to Coach Ryan Daly and Assistant Coach Enrico Basso.
This is a reminder that New Jersey’s primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 8. Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools and Wilson Elementary Schools are among Westfield’s polling locations. All students and staff at Edison, Roosevelt and Wilson will be on remote instruction on June 8, returning to in-person learning on June 9. The Union County Board of Elections selects polling locations. I have reached out repeatedly over the years to ask that our schools not be used as polling stations and have been successful in reducing the number of our schools used for this purpose.
A remote learning day for Wilson, Edison and Roosevelt students provides a balance — allowing instruction to continue, ensuring the physical safety of our students, and taking into account COVID restrictions preventing visitors to our buildings during school hours.
The Westfield Education Fund is encouraging families to honor a “hero” teacher of their choice. Nominated teachers will receive two “Pins 4 Heroes” custom-designed by elementary school students, along with a tribute letter, which will include the nominating family’s name. Their name also will be showcased on a Teacher Honor Roll on the WEF website, acknowledging educators who have made a lasting impact on Westfield families. Pins are available with any donation of $25 or more to WEF. All proceeds fund innovation and enhancements in our schools. To learn more and honor a teacher, visit https://westfieldedfund.org/pins.
The deadline for Westfield residents interested in considering a term on the Board of Education is Monday, July 26 by 4 p.m. Nominating petitions should be filed with the Office of the Union County Clerk at 2 Broad Street, Room 113, Elizabeth, NJ 07207. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the County Clerk’s Office at 908-527-4996 for more information or email email@example.com. Information on the board election process, including the New Jersey School Boards Association’s (NJSBA) Candidate Kit, also is posted at www.westfieldnjk12.org under “Board Election” on the Board tab. The Westfield Board of Education will have three open seats in November. The three board members whose terms expire on December 31, 2021 are Robert Garrison, Gretchan Ohlig, and Tara Oporto.
NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING
The next Board of Education virtual meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 15 beginning at 7 p.m. We look forward to a video tribute to recent student achievement in academics, athletics, and the performing arts. The agenda will be posted on Friday, June 11 under the Board tab on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org. Instructions for how to access our virtual Board meetings also can be found on the Board tab.