Education

Berkeley Heights School Board Views $1.2 Million Investment in School Security; Host of New Courses Mapped for Columbia Middle School Students

f4130868222d293ef8d4_IMG_1104.jpg
Columbia Middle School Principal Frank Geiger outlines new course offerings during Thursday's Berkeley Heights Board of Education meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
0732de94eed82a81bc61_IMG_1111.jpg
Anti-Bullying Coordinator Kevin Morra presents the HIB statistics and outlines preventive and educational programs for dealing with HIB Credits: Bob Faszczewski
f4130868222d293ef8d4_IMG_1104.jpg

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—The Berkeley Heights Board of Education, as part of the 2017-2018 budget process, is expected to be presented with a proposal to spend $1,175,200 on security improvements affecting all six of the township’s schools.

Expected to be proposed, in a spending plan due to be discussed at the board’s March 9 meeting, will be $94,500 for security camera upgrades, $110,700 for keyless entry systems and $970,000 for construction of “security vestibules.”

Superintendent of schools Judith Rattner noted at Thursday’s school board meeting that, as a result of the improvements, there will be a keyless entry system at each school that will enable all doors to be kept locked and entry cards will be issued to each staff member.

Sign Up for E-News

The secure vestibule, the superintendent added, will consist of two sets of doors. Visitors will be buzzed into the first set of doors. There will be a window in the vestibule allowing the visitor to communicate with the school staff and, if a visitor needs entrance to the school because, for example, they have an appointment with a specific person in the school, the second set of doors will be unlocked for them.

Also, if a parent, for example, needs to drop off a student lunch or a musical instrument, they will be able to leave the items in the vestibule for pickup.

The school superintendent noted that the cost of the security improvements would be conducted by a lease-purchase agreement spread over five years.

School and township police officials who gave a safety presentation at the board meeting, listed the following key components of the overall school security system:

  • Target hardening—to make the buildings less susceptible to danger.
  • Surveillance systems
  • Secure vestibules
  • Locking systems
  • Building maintenance

Township police chief John DiPasquale added that, in addition to the continued presence of one of his officers as a school district safety officer who establishes a rapport with teachers, other staff and students, other members of the township force conduct periodic walk-throughs of school premises.

Rattner added that police personnel from other communities also conduct joint exercises with Berkeley Heights police in township schools so they will be able to provide coordinated assistance if needed.

Additionally, under state law, the schools are required to conduct one fire drill per month and a school safety/security drill per month in addition to two lockdown drills, two active shooter drills, two non-fire evacuation drills and two bomb threat drills.

Also, each staff member undergoes yearly training and school district crisis response manuals are developed with input from local police, fire and office of emergency management personnel and updated annually.

In addition to the security upgrade measures, board president Douglas Reinstein noted that the school body is looking into options for financing replacement of the track and turf fields at Governor Livingston High School.

Reinstein said both facilities are nearing the end of what is considered their useful lives and it would be more efficient to replace both at the same time to avoid a great deal of disruption in school activities.

The board president added the athletic facilities project possibly could be completed with a lease-purchase agreement similar to that under consideration for the securities improvements, the board could finance the project by taking money out of its capital reserve or the school body could consider what can be done to pay for it within its upcoming budget considering the state-mandated 2 percent cap on spending.

On another matter, Columbia Middle School principal Frank Geiger and members of his staff outlined a number of new courses that will be instituted in the next two years in the sixth through eighth grades.

Geiger noted there will be an increased emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with a new sixth grade course,  and courses will continue to meet state curriculum requirements.

Sixth grade continuing and newly-instituted courses will be computer applications, foundations of art and personal finance, while general music and band, choir and orchestra will remain.

New courses in the seventh and eighth grades will include music and technology, robotics and video game design in addition to offerings in marketing and product design, beginner guitar and, in the eighth grade, an enhanced course in public speaking that will enable those who take it to audition for speaking positions at graduation.

The beginner guitar course, Geiger noted, was developed with the help of education foundation members who had taught the subject matter in a club at the school.

He added the robotics course also would evolve from a previous club activity.

In other curriculum news, assistant superintendent of schools Scott McKinney outlined the AP Capstone Program that will be developed over two years at the high school.

The first year would feature AP Seminar, during which students wouldl learn to:

  • Investigate real world topics from multiple perspectives
  • Carefully analyze information, write evidence-based arguments and effectively communicate them.
  • Work independently and with a team to research a topic, develop a written report and deliver a presentation.

Topics slated to be covered include: Aesthetics, democracy, education, the environment, revolution, technology and sustainability.

In AP Research, starting in the fall of 2018, students would:

  • Design, plan, and conduct a year-long mentored, research-based investigation
  • Apply research methods and practices to address a real-world topic selected by the student
  • Write a college-level research paper
  • Present and orally defend research findings methodology.

McKinney said students will take advanced placement tests at the end of each course, and colleges have committed to allowing course completion for advanced placement credit and they also have said they will use course completion as a consideration in their placement processes.

He added out of an original 50 students invited to an initial program presentation based on “AP Potential,” grade point averages, Preliminary Scholastic Aptitute Test scores and other factors, a total of 12 students have been selected to participate in the initial program.

On another topic, district technology supervisor Mike D. Skara listed the following items planned for 2017-2018:

  • Replacement of classroom workstations with 189 Windows HP Elite desktops for $52,920
  • Expanding the Chromebook initiative in the third to fifth grades with 559 Lenovo N22 Chromebboks—$108,446 and $13,500 for secure storage
  • An update of the television production studio with five NOC computers—$6,500
  • Eight Epson BrightLink projectors, for a more interactive and efficient experience than whiteboards—$12,328
  • Adding 25 MacBook Air 13.3 laptops to enable installation and use of IPad applications—$23,725
  • In the sixth to eighth grades, 580 IPad Air 2s with keyboards for $240,700.

In another presentation, district anti-bullying coordinator Kevin Morra presented the report on harassment, intimidation and bullying for the period from September 1 to December 31, 2016.

Investigations totaled 35, compared to 34 in 2015 and 54 in 2014, while HIB incidents increased to 16 overall compared to 12 in the previous two years.

Columbia showed the largest number of investigations, with 19 and the largest number of HIB incidents with 13.

Responding to resident inquiries, Morra said the Columbia incidents were being studied, but district officials wanted to examine statistics over four to five years to determine if the 2016 figures were an anomaly or a trend.

Morra also outlined a number of student training programs and parent instructional programs on state law concering HIB that were being conducted in reponse to the figures.

Complete figures are available in the school district’s central office.

On another matter, the school board introduced a revised policy on public participation at meeting which removed the requirement for residents who speak to give their street address.

Board members agreed to amend the proposed revision to delete a suggestion that those who speak be limited to “objective criticism” of board actions but adding that those with grievances should be urged to go through proper school channels before bringing complaints to the board.

The school body also agreed to change the revision so that students and those under 18 years old who speak at board meetings only would be required to give their first names.

After residents raised questions about live-streaming and recording of public remarks at board meetings, Reinstein noted the Open Public Meetings Act restricted school boards from limiting the recording of public meetings.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Honoring Sacrifice and Service on Memorial Day

May 25, 2018

On Monday, May 28, 2018, our Nation celebrates our most solemn event, Memorial Day.  In Berkeley Heights tradition, we will honor those who sacrificed themselves so that we may continue to live in the greatest country on earth.  I invite all residents to join us for the parade festivities and, most importantly, gather at our Veteran’s Park for a brief ceremony.

America has ...

Logic and Sensible Spending Take Priority

Logic.  It's what people use when endeavoring to complete things in the most sensible order.  Everyone knows that "logic" means sequencing events in a formulaic, predictable manner.  We learned this at a young age, as we observed Star Trek on TV and came to understand why Captain James T. Kirk relied on Spock as his first officer because his strategic plans were ...

I will draw on my experience to deliver a great future for Berkeley Heights

I am impressed with the day-to-day leadership of our Mayor and Town Council and I hope to help them continue to do great work. As I have been doing my research since deciding to run for a seat on our Town Council, I have learned a few things about all the work that has been happening in recent years.  For example, while plans for the Stratton House development were recently announced, our ...

How the Holi Color Festival Came to Summit; Event Planner Shares Her Story

May 21, 2018

Back in India, Holi was a holiday observed by almost all states. The holiday would be declared at all educational institutes and offices. It's a two day spring festival also known as the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over bad, the arrival of spring with the fragrance of flowers in the air and aura of warmth and happiness.

Holi festival is the time ...

Rain Didn't Dampen Our Vision for Art in the Park

The rain did not dampen our vision for Art in the Park!! Columbia Middle School was transformed into an art paradise, filled with an array of artists whose talents are nothing short of magical! The Peppertown Park Art in the Park Committee would like to thank all of the artists who came to our very first Art in the Park event. We are in awe of your creativity and immeasurable talents! You all ...

Union County College President Received Prestigious Award from Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society

May 26, 2018

CRANFORD – Union County College’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin was one of 35 college presidents from throughout the nation to receive a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction during PTK Catalyst 2018, the Society’s annual convention, in Kansas City, Missouri, held from April 19-21.

The award honors college presidents who have demonstrated ...

A Better Summer with the Y: Join by May 31 and Have Your Joiner Fee Waiver!

From now through the end of May, new members joining the Berkeley Heights YMCA will have their joiners fee waived, because at the Y we believe that everyone deserves to reach their health and wellness goals. With a savings of up to $95, you can focus on the perks of being a Berkeley Heights YMCA member:

Unlimited attendance to more than 100 group fitness classes a week
• State of ...

The New Providence 2018 Memorial Day Parade Begins at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 28

The Borough of New Providence and American Legion Post #433 invite all to attend this year’s Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 28, 2018.   The parade will begin at 10:00 a.m., rain or shine, at Springfield and Central avenues. Post 433 and the New Providence Community Activities Department have co-sponsored the town’s Memorial Day Parade for more than 65 years. The parade, ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Cycling Champ Laura Van Gilder Returns to Somerville Memorial Day to Defend Race Title

May 26, 2018

 

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Laura Van Gilder, 54-year-old cycling champion from Cresco, Pa., will return to defend her title at the 75th annual Tour of Somerville on Memorial Day, attempting an unprecedented fifth win in the 25-mile women's race, just one of several races that begin at 10:30 a.m..

The Kugler-Anderson Tour of Somerville, often referred to as the Kentucky Derby of ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, May 31, 11:30 AM

Canoe Brook Country Club, Summit

Fortnightly Club Scholarship Luncheon

Food & Drink Giving Back

Thu, May 31, 1:30 PM

Coppola Ristorante, New Providence

Lunch and Learn: Dental Implants and the ...

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_69a5db118db45d8f5de0_cabaret

Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...

Carousel_image_c9562615f730fddb6122_cabaret

Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_9eff927f48bc74910214_committee

Fri, June 1, 6:00 PM

Senior Center of the Chathams, , Chatham Township

Senior Center of the Chathams Glorious Garden ...

Food & Drink Home & Garden

The Evaluation of the College Search

It’s is a bizarre time of year as a college counselor as I find myself at both the beginning and end of this process.  Sophomores and juniors are excitedly and idealistically starting to consider what will be important to them in a school.  At the same time, while only separated by a year or two, my seniors have all committed within the past month to a school and have spent the ...

How to Design Your Ideal Retirement

Would you like to design your ideal retirement? Where do you begin? First of all, what does retirement mean to you? If you’re in a relationship, does retirement mean the same to you as it does to your partner? Do you know if your “ideal retirement” is affordable or just a pipe dream?

In past generations, retirement planning didn’t involve very much. You stopped work ...

Don’t Make These Three Mistakes About Social Security

Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security should not be your sole source of income in retirement but even comfortable ...