Education

Berkeley Heights Residents Present Petitions Protesting Cell Tower to Board of Education; School Administrators Report on Student Achievement Results

4da2f84e0cac87c2263c_BOEDOUG.jpg
BOE President Doug Reinstein thanked the residents for their input in proposed cell tower and said the school body had taken note of their concerns. Credits: Bobbie Peer
891ecd4f5fd27506cb2c_BOE4.jpg
Credits: Bobbie Peer
79929b8158bb33658a84_BOE3.jpg
78d4e36d359938ea2318_BOE1.jpg
4da2f84e0cac87c2263c_BOEDOUG.jpg

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—A number of residents opposed to the erection of a 130-foot monopole-cellphone tower on property near Governor Livingston High School appeared at Wednesday’s Berkeley Heights Board of Education meeting to question board's actions approving the lease of the tower by the school body.

Wireless Edge, the Verizon affiliate seeking to build the tower, is before the Berkeley Heights Board of Adjustment looking for variances for the project. The zoning board held one of a number of hearings on the proposal on June 23.

At that hearing, also attended by a number of area residents opposed to the tower, Verizon planner David Karlebach said a variance from the requirement to build the tower on township-owned land was not needed because the school body, which owns the proposed tower site, also is a township body. He also said Verizon believes the monopole will have to exceed the maximum-allowed 125-foot height for the monopole in order to allow space for police emergency transmission equipment that would be located on the monopole.

Sign Up for E-News

The education body, at Wednesday’s session adopted amendments to its lease with Verizon providing for maintenance of emergency equipment on the monopole and for equipment of up to four other future vendors on the tower.

Meanwhile, during the public comment portion of the Wednesday meeting, resident Dimitriy Agatanov presented a petition opposing the monopole to board president Doug Reinstein. Another resident presented a second petition to the board president. They said the petitions contained the signatures of more than 400 residents opposed to the project.

Pressed by Agatanov about whether the board would take action to reverse its approval of the Verizon lease, Reinstein said there was no action planned to reverse the lease agreement and he did not believe that was contemplated.

The board leader thanked the residents for their input and said the school body had taken note of their concerns.

The board president added the school board had voted to issue a request for proposals for the monopole lease, bids on the lease fees were submitted and the agreement was approved.

He noted several public meetings of the school board were held prior to the lease approval and public input was solicited at each of those meetings. He estimated that about 40 people had spoken about the issue at those meetings.

Reinstein also said the education body had sent the legally-required notice of the board of adjustment hearings to all owners whose property was within 200 feet of the site—in the area near a football field, soccer field and another athletic field on the Route 78 side of the high school.

He also said the school board had decided the monopole was needed to provide a “predictable and effective” means of communication for school officials during emergencies at high school events.

In response to further resident questions, he said the board also considered “small cell” and “distributive” technologies, but decided neither would meet their needs and decided on the proposed location because it was on the board’s own property, had no plans for use for 25 years and had no other athletic or academic use.

School business administrator Donna Felezola added that the school body had consulted a planner separate from the Verizon planner who was testifying before the zoning board and, also based on that planner’s advice, decided to approve the monopole site location.

Agatonov and other residents implied that Verizon only had considered the technology involved with the monopole and had pressed for implementation of that technology at the site because that met its own needs.

Asked about selection of Verizon as the successful vendor, Reinstein replied that the school board was familiar with Verizon because it had provided other services to the school district.

On another matter, resident Renee Wozny spoke on behalf of her daughter and her grandson, who, Wozny said, has severe autism that causes him to be self-destructive and to attempt to run from facilities in which he is being taken care of.

Wozny said that, due to the special nature of his disability, the needs of her grandson could not be met at the township’s Mountain Park School.

She added her grandson’s needs have been properly met by The Children’s Institute for several years. TCI, which was due to renamed Spectrum 360 on July 1, lists campuses in Livingston and Verona on its website.

Noting that board members had an obligation to provide the appropriate education for children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment, Wozny asked Reinstein how the Berkeley Heights district can help her grandson reach his full potential by insisting that he attend school in the township rather than at TCI.

The board president said that, although the school body symphatized with her situation, they could not reply in public to her request.

On another matter, assistant superintendent of schools Scott McKinney and several district supervisors outlined recent student performance achievements and proposed steps to be taken to improve performance in the future.

In statistics on the data dashboard, a summary through which Berkeley Heights measures itself against school districts it considers similar, Columbia Middle School students rated fourth in participation rates in the English Language Arts (ELA) tests of the newly-instituted PARCC assessments with a rate of 97 percent.

Other measures for Columbia students showed them placing:

  • Seventeeth out of 20 schools among sixth graders in ELA
  • Thirteenth out of 20 among seventh graders in ELA
  • Thirteenth out of 20 among eighth graders in ELA
  • Fourth in participation rates (97 percent) in PARCC math tests
  • Sixteenth out of 20 schools among sixth graders in PARCC math tests
  • Sixteenth out of 20 among seventh graders in PARCC math
  • Eleventh out of 20 among eighth graders in PARCC math
  • Eleventh out of 20 schools for those students taking PARCC algebra I tests
  • Third out of 20 schools for those students taking PARCC geometry tests
  • Sixth out of 20 among those passing the eighth grade NJ ASK science tests
  • First out of 20 among those achieving advance proficiency in eighth grade NJ ASK science tests
  • Eleventh out of 20 in a measurement of “college and career readiness” (this chart reflects the difference between student performance in the Algebra I classroom grades and achievement level on the Algebra I PARCC assessment
  • In Student Growth Percentiles in ELA Columbia students ranked 12th out of 20 (with 44)*
  • In Student Growth Percentiles in math Columbia students ranked 15th out of 20 (with 41)**

*According to materials provided by the administrators at Wednesday’s meeting, “The Student Growth Percentile is the median growth score for all CMS students. A student growth score is calculated by measuring student PAARC scores relative to a similar cohort of students established from the previous year of standardized testing.”

**According to materials provided by the administrators at Wednesday’s meeting, “Ths growth scores this year are difficult to compare with a transition from ASK to PARCC as well as the widely varying participation rates from school to school.”

For the middle school, the administrators at Wednesday’s meeting also presented statistics on final grades and sports and extracurricular activities participation.

They said the following will be done in the near future:

  • Examining transition into the sixth and ninth grades for additional support structures
  • Targeting grades three and six and Algebra I/ELA 10 for PARCC focus areas
  • Utilizing year 2 PAARC results to further identify areas of concern (curriculum, instruction, student cohort)
  • Investigating strategies for supporting student remediation in math and language arts
  • Ongoing implementation of Next Generation Science Standards
  • Gap analysis, curriculum revision and an implementation plan for the New Jersey Student Learning Standards adopted by the state board of education in May.

The data dashboards for Governor Livingston High School showed the following:

  • Gov. Livingston ranked second (with 97 percent) in PARCC ELA test participation rates
  • Gov. Livingston students fifth out of 20 in ninth grade ELA
  • Gov. Livingston students seventh out of 20 in 10th grade ELA
  • Gov. Livingston students sixth out of 20 in 11th grade ELA
  • Gov. Livingston ranked second (with 97 percent) in PARCC math test participation rates
  • Gov. Livingston ranked 13th out of 20 in PARCC-Algebra I
  • Gov. Livingston ranked 13th out of 20 in PARCC-Algebra 2
  • Gov. Livingston ranked 14th out of 20 in PARCC-Geometry
  • Gov. Livingston ranked 14th out of 20 in those passing the state biology competency tests
  • Gov. Livingston ranked 10th out of 20 in those scoring advanced proficiency in the state biology competency tests
  • Gov. Livingston ranked 13th out of 20 in SAT composite scores
  • Gov. Livingston ranked ninth out of 20 in SAT participation rates (92 percent)
  • Gov. Livingston ranked 14th out of 20 in percentages scoring over 1550 on the SATs (with a composite of 1663)
  • Gov. Livingston ranked second out of 20 in college entrance examination participation rates 
  • Gov. Livingston ranked fifth out of 20 in AP test score rankings

Also outlined for the high school were final grades statistics and mean and median GPAs per grade level along with rates of sports and extracurricular activity participation.

The supervisors set similar goals for the high school to those set for the middle school.

The complete results of these achievement assessments are available on the district website and from school officials.

On another matter, strategic plan committee chairwoman Chris Reilly and superintendent of schools Judith Rattner set the following goals—to be accomplished over the next five years:

  • Continuously improve school ranking relating to student achievement and performance—both on an absolute basis
  • Continue to focus investments on leading educational programs, specifically in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math and critical thinking
  • Attract, develop and retain the highest performing educators
  • Improve the overall perception and performance of the district guidance department to better meet the needs of students and parents-particularly in college readiness, parent outreach and university outreach
  • Provide students and staff with a state of the art learning and operating environment by continually assessing and improving the efficient and effective use of technology inside and outside the classroom.

In another action, the board extended Rattner’s contract through June 30, 2019, with her annual 2016-2017 salary at $155,000, plus a “high school increment of $2,500” for a total salary of $157,500.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Pieces of Time: Applause Rings Out In Two Columbia Middle School Classrooms

February 23, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Thursday night, the mass murder of students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, seemed to be on everyone’s mind at the Board of Education meeting.

The board observed a moment of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance for the 17 people killed and 14 wounded in the shooting, as well as ...

Local Advisor Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Roth IRA

BASKING RIDGE, NJ - 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Roth IRA. First made available to American investors in 1998, a Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that is funded with after-tax dollars and provides tax-free growth and income for retirement.

In honor of this significant milestone, Walter Pardo, CEO/Certified Wealth Strategist at Wealth ...

Giving Back: Learn How to Help Victims of Sexual Violence

February 24, 2018

Every year since 1984, trained volunteers with the Union County Rape Crisis Center have helped victims of sexual violence through the emotional, medical and legal aftermath of trauma. New volunteers are welcome to join the next series of training classes beginning on Thursday, March 22.

No previous experience in crisis counseling is necessary.

“Over the years our Rape Crisis Center ...

New Providence High School Presents The Addams Family -Tickets are Now On Sale

The Addams Family, who first came to life in the 1960s television series, will come back to life and take the stage at New Providence High School in March in a comedic musical twist on the classic story and characters.  Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Grandma, Fester, and Lurch, along with new characters and a full cast of Addams Ancestors will bring the creepy, kooky, all together ooky ...

WFP Tax Partners Walks You Through 4 Step Tax Return Process

Over 80% of Tax Returns Have Errors or Missed Deductions. You're Probably Paying More Than Your Fair Share in Taxes

BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Tax returns certainly give a clear picture of the past year, but WFP Tax Partners believes it's wise to strategize for the current year to have a plan for moving forward. 

At your tax appointment, they ...

Reminder: Free Wellness Program for Union County Military Women

All Union County women with military service – veterans, active duty and reserve – are invited to join “Boots 2 Heels,” a free event designed to foster wellness and connect women with resources and guidance for empowerment. Boots 2 Heels will be held on Saturday, February 24 at the Westfield Armory, located at 500 Rahway Avenue in Westfield.

The event is free but ...

Colleen Mahr Has Paid Her Dues, Earned Peoples’ Trust, and Left a Track Record of Success

February 20, 2018

Dear Editor:

As a 26-year-old Scotch Plains resident who cares more about the well-being of our town than about local politics, I am extremely disappointed that the Scotch Plains Democratic Committee leadership has decided to abandon Colleen Mahr in her run for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee.

Mahr, who as Mayor of Fanwood for 15 years has worked closely with Scotch Plains ...

We Need More Women Like Colleen Mahr in Municipal, County and State Government

Dear Editor:

I’m proud to support Colleen Mahr for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee  (UCDC) and am encouraging my Scotch Plains peers to join me.

I was a first time candidate wanting to make a difference in my hometown of Scotch Plains, when Mayor Mahr of neighboring Fanwood stepped in to help me campaign and win my election to be Councilwoman three years ago.

Democratic Party Would Be Making a Big Mistake by Not Recognizing Colleen Mahr's Talents

Dear Editor:

Mayor Colleen Mahr has been a valuable friend to the Township of Cranford. Whether it’s offering advice and assistance during devastating flood cleanup, supporting the Mayor's Council on the Rahway River, or her insight and assistance in meeting our affordable housing obligations, Mayor Mahr is always there for Cranford.

Colleen’s fairness and integrity is ...

Chatham Borough Police Chief Crosson has Retired; Captain Gibbons is Acting Commander

February 12, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - Phil Crosson Jr., who has been a member of the Chatham Borough Police Department since 1992, retired from his position as the police chief on Feb. 1.

"It came on pretty quickly," Crosson said when reached by phone on Sunday. "I was on vacation for six weeks and I bought a business. I came back for one day and retired."

According to Crosson, ...

‘Reefer Madness’ Comes to Chatham Borough Council; Cannabis Advocates Make Pitch for Chatham Marijuana Shop

February 14, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - A group of pro-cannabis activists came to the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night and used the public commentary portion of the meeting to ask the council to support a marijuana dispensary in town.

The advocates, who say they have attended more than 80 town meetings to inform about the benefits of medical cannabis, mentioned the 1936 movie "Reefer ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, February 24

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Sat, February 24, 10:00 AM

Municipal Court Room/Council Chambers, BERKELEY HEIGHTS

Return Berkeley Heights Public Library's Books, ...

Other

Carousel_image_ebabe6d4e0eb6af7bda2_https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-40285364-230483587926-1-original

Sat, February 24, 3:00 PM

White Tiger Dojo, Berkeley Heights

White Tiger Dojo Hosts Trauma Response Seminar: ...

Health & Wellness

Sun, February 25

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Carousel_image_2e2e4830042112095f66_94f09724857a937db1ac_d6404e0a-7afd-4279-b56f-19b0f9b2138c

Sun, February 25, 10:00 AM

Camp Riverbend, Warren

Camp Riverbend Open House

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_8e821e02ba44390d688c_olympics_oh_feb_2018

Sun, February 25, 10:00 AM

Camp Riverbend, Warren

Camp Riverbend "Wacky Winter Olympics" Open House

Arts & Entertainment Other

I've Always Wanted to be a Doctor...Or an English Teacher

Think about the impossibility of the task we lay in front of high school students.  In addition to getting good grades, filling up a resume, finding the right colleges and writing countless admissions essays they also need to decide on their life’s passion at 17 years old...or do they?

As a college admissions representative the first question most students would ask me was whether ...

Now That The Dust Has Settled…Smart Tax Moves In 2018

Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions are capped.  Unfortunately all these changes mean you’ll need more time and energy to ...