Berkeley Heights School Board Hears of New App That May Help Governor Livingston Parking Situation

Superintendent of schools Judith Rattner and school board president Helen Kirsch review the anti-bullying report at Thursday's board meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—The administration at Governor Livingston High School may have come upon a new Google “app” which will help the school deal with a student parking issue that has dominated township news for some time.

Residents of streets surrounding the school have, for the past few years, complained that students park in front of their homes and block access to driveways and emergency vehicles.

The students, however, say they need to drive to school and have waited for the day when they obtain their driving privileges. They and school officials often have said there is not enough room on the Gov. Livingston campus to accommodate all those who drive to school.

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In efforts to cope with the situation, township officials have placed a number of restrictions on parking on the streets around the school. At Thursday’s board of education meeting, board member John Sincaglia said the Township Council plans to adopt further restrictions in August.

At the meeting, however, new Gov. Livingston principal Robert Nixon said he may have an idea that could provide at least a partial solution.

Nixon said that, on many days, there are about 15 parking spots at the school which, though reserved for students, go unused because those students are not in school.

With the Google system which is being implemented in township schools, he said an app possibly could be used to inform students not chosen by lottery for parking spaces at the school that spaces were empty on a particular day because student lottery winners had informed the school that they would not be in attendance.

In response to board members who felt once the spots opened up a number of students might be “fighting” for the same space, Nixon and superintendent of schools Judith Rattner said the “kinks” in the system could be worked out after the app is tried out during the first semester of next year.

Nixon also said that, in order to get students to use the app, some type of incentive system could be developed.

Board member Doug Reinstein said, however, that the system would only work if empty spaces were counted when the majority of students were in school—not when seniors were allowed to leave the campus for extended lunch periods and other privileges.

On another matter related to township government, Sincaglia noted that the township council had pretty much decided, in its negotiations with Little Flower Church, that the township would build new municipal facilities at the current Park Avenue site, obtain the land being offered to the township by the church and endorse a development of 100 townhouses on that site.

Of that number, Singaglia said, about 20 of the buildings would be set aside for affordable housing.

He added that the township planner had indicated that about 28 school children would be added to township schools from the development.

A resident at the meeting also told the school board that they should carefully watch discussions for payments in lieu of taxes in connection with any redevelopment to see how the township school district was affected.

On another matter, Rattner announced that Nixon would form a committee to decide about the possible renaming of the Gov. Livingston auditorium for the late Ken Stiefel, who was technology director of many Hilltop Players productions at the school for many years.

The auditorium currently is named for Warren Davis, who was superintendent of schools when Gov. Livingston was opened in 1960.

Although board member Bill Cassano said Davis should continue to be honored, he added that the district should consider the fact that the auditorium was named for Davis when the school was part of another district—the Union County Regional High School District No.1—which had nothing to do with the current board.

However, board president Helen Kirsch, a member of one of the original graduating classes at Gov. Livingston, said many residents fondly remembered the school at that time and Davis, and there was no reason to disregard the honor just because the regional district no longer existed.

A possible solution was presented by Gov. Livingston teacher Joseph Voorhees, who turned over to the school body a plan to retain the name of Davis on the auditorium while naming the area of the auditorium that contained the theater for Stiefel.

Cassano said Voorhees’ presentation “swayed” him in his feelings about the renaming.

During a presentation on anti-bullying efforts in the district schools, district coordinator Kevin Morra said the data had remained “fairly consistent,” with investigations for 2014-2015 increasing from 103 to 116 and confirmed cases rising from only 38 to 40 over the period.

Morra pointed to increased training for both new staff members and school safety teams.

However, a member of the public questioned Morra’s statement, pointing to an approximate 17 percent increase in investigations from the second reporting period (January 1 to June 30) of 2014-2015 over the 2013-2014 period.

Although board members and the public indicated they would like to see the reports include more specific references to suspensions and other methods used to deal with reported cases, both Morra and the schools superintendent said the reporting system did not allow for this.

Board members noted, however, that they did have access to more specific data.

In a report on the 1:1 initiative for iPad use at the high school, former Gov. Livingston principal Scott McKinney, who now is assistant superintendent of schools, noted, that:

  • Use by students and teachers is increasing as professional development and the comfort level grows.
  • Teachers are moving instruction using IPads in the classrooms from “enhancement” into “transformation.”
  • Targets for 2015-2016 goals have been established using the baseline data collected during the 2014-2015 school year.

Asked about possible replacement of textbooks by iPads, McKinney said he expected the shift to happen but publishing companies were “holding on for dear life” and some decisions would have to be made when licenses expired in four or five years.

Reinstein also said the district should, in its surveys on iPad usage, include parents and more specific data should be presented on how teachers were improving lessons after iPads were introduced.

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