Berkeley Heights Board of Education Discusses Ways District Helps Students with College Application Process

Joyce Hayes, district director of guidance in Berkeley Heights, talks about how the district helps students and parents prepare for the college admissions process. Her presentation took place at the Thursday, Jan. 24 Board of Education meeting. Credits: Deb Dawson

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Naviance, a web-based college and career search tool used at Governor Livingston, was discussed at the Thursday, Jan. 24 Board of Education meeting.

Joyce Hayes, district director of guidance, talked about the programs in place to help students prepare for, and apply to colleges successfully. Naviance is the main tool in that process.

“It connects academic achievement to post-secondary goals,” she said. It’s where kids look for information on 4-year, 2-year and vocational schools – 4,700 schools are included. It helps students to explore careers and determine interests. The college applications come through this program and are all completed using it; GPAs and SAT scores are entered and the process is complete except for teacher recommendation letters, which the
administration is looking toward including next year.

Parents can also access the program from home.

Board member Dr. Gerard Crisonino said, “Our experience has been very positive.”

Board member Denis Smalley said, “It’s a great thing.”

Hayes also went through the in-school programs to help students with the college process. A panel discussion starts the process for ninth grade students and their parents in early September.

Seniors and their parents are the focus later that month when Dr. Robert Massa of Lafayette College speaks to them about the “Selective College Admissions Process.” Included is a workshop for students in writing their college essays, and a workshop for teachers on how to write college letters of recommendation.

In October comes Financial Aid Night, when College Funding Services of Westfield gives both parents and students an overview of the financial aid process, including how to negotiate with colleges.

In late October at “Junior College Night” the “admissions game” is discussed by Peter Van Buskirk, an author, motivational speaker, and a former dean of admissions. This is an interactive presentation.

In April comes “Tenth Grade College Night: An Introduction and Overview of the College Application Process,” presented by Dr. Randy Doss of Guilford College, NC. This is an afternoon assembly for students and an evening presentation to parents to “kickoff” the application process, and discuss hurdles and strategies.

As of Jan. 24, Hayes said 86 percent of the seniors at Governor Livingston have submitted college applications to their schools of choice using Naviance. She said this is earlier than most students are able to complete the application process.

Also at the meeting, the board unanimously approved a new teacher evaluation system where half of a teacher’s evaluation is based on performance and the second half is based on how the students in his/her class perform. A new principal evaluation system was also approved. Both systems are incompliance with the new NJ Department of Education regulations, Superintendent Judith Rattner said.

Board member John Sincaglia gave a preview of what can be expected in this year’s budget.

“There’s some significant technology items that will be introduced in the budget… There is a major focus on technology, particularly the infrastructure. There’s a technology initiative at the high school.” He did not say what that initiative is, but board member Mary Ann Walsh indicated it relates to the purchase of iPads.

Sincaglia said state aid figures will not be in until Feb. 25 and the board is due to present the budget on Feb. 26. He is unsure of what those figures will be because of the deficit in the state budget due to Hurricane Sandy, but he said the district’s surplus is healthy and will be applied as needed.

According to state law the amount of the budget that comes from taxes can be no more than two percent higher than last year.

Sincaglia also spoke about a refunding bond ordinance on the agenda for Jan. 24. “We want to refinance the bonds (from March 2006) because interest rates have gotten better for people who issue bonds. Savings, as a result of the refinancing, are expected to be well into six figures and may be approaching seven figures.”

The board unanimously approved the refunding bond ordinance which is not to exceed $16.750 million, including up to $200,000 for items of expense, such as bond counsel. McManimon, Scotland and Bauman LLC was retained as bond counsel for the project.

Jeane Parker is the new board representative from Mountainside, replacing Danta Gioia.

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