Ninety-two Percent of Chatham High’s 2011 Seniors Accepted into Four-Year Colleges; Majority Attend Schools Rated in Top Competitive Tiers

Former Chatham Board of Education member, Alan Routh, talks about the proposed budget at Monday's school board meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

CHATHAM, NJ---Chatham High School’s class of 2011 continued the school’s tradition of continuing into higher education and winning placement into the top-tier colleges.

These were the results presented to the Board of Education of the School District of the Chathams on Monday by Director of School Counseling Julie M. Patterson.

Patterson pointed out that of 245 graduating seniors, 111 males and 115 females, or 92 percent of the class, went on to four-year colleges, while approximately 6 percent chose two-year colleges, with the remainder pursuing other types of higher education institutions or going directly into the workplace after graduation.

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She added that, in the categories of college competitiveness recognized by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, 31 percent of Chatham students were selected by schools rated the most competitive, 19 percent by colleges rated highly competitive, 30 percent by those rated very competitive and 18 percent by those ranked competitive.

The counselor also highlighted the scores of students in the high school on the various achievement tests used to determine college eligibility.

Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Tests, which students in Chatham take in their junior year, help prepare them for the Scholastic Aptitude Test that is used as one of the prime factors for admission by many colleges.

In 2010 and 2011 about 90 percent of those eligible took the tests, while that number has risen to 95 percent for 2012, according to Patterson.

She noted the mean scores for Chatham students in critical reading stood at 54.7 locally in 2010, compared to the national mean score of 46.7. The following year saw the Chatham mean score at 53.5 percent compared to the national mean of 46.9.

In mathematics, the 2010 local mean score was 56.1 compared to 48.8 national, while in 2011 the scores were 54.8 versus 48.2.

Chatham students achieved a mean score of 53 percent in writing in 2010 versus the nation mean score of 45.8. A year later, the national mean was again 45.8, while Chatham stood at 53.2

Results of the PSAT also determine those who garner the various honor levels in the National Merit Scholarship Competition. In this competition in 2011, 19 students were named commended scholars, four were semifinalists and three were finalists.

In addition to the overall Scholastic Aptitude Tests, students often choose to take subject tests in areas such as English, history, mathematics, science and languages to add to their resume when applying for colleges, Patterson said.

The participation rate for 2011 in these tests for Chatham was 38 percent, compared to 17 percent in New Jersey and 19 percent nationally.

Chatham High School’s class of 2011 exceeded the national mean scores in five of the six subject areas of the tests.

Chatham students also take Advanced Placement courses and the tests upon completion of these courses as a measurement of their future aptitude to complete college-level courses.

In 2011, according to the counselor, 91 percent of Chatham students who took AP tests scored 3 or higher where the top score was 5.

Another test used as a guide for admission to college, is the American College Test. Chatham sophomores are permitted to take this test.

In 2010, the composite mean score in the four subject areas of English, mathematics, reading and science, among Chatham students was 25.8 compared to the national composite mean score of 21.0.

The local composite mean score in 2011 was 26.1, compared to the national score of 21.1.

In official action at Monday’s meeting, the board presented an informal summary of its proposed 2012-2013 school budget.

The school body is targeting a spending increase limited to 2.25 percent.

An open public meeting of the board’s Finance Committee and budget discussion is scheduled for Monday, March 12 prior to the regular board meeting.

Budget presentations also will be scheduled for PTO meetings.

The public hearing on the budget is slated for Monday, March 26, and the school election in Chatham this year will be held on Tuesday, April 17.

In connection with that election, Board President Tom Belding announced Monday that only the three incumbents, himself, and members, Lata Kenney and Al Burgunder, had submitted petitions to run this year in time for Monday’s filing deadline.

In connection with the budget, former board member, Alan Routh, urged the school body to give the public as many opportunities as possible to provide input on the budget.

In addition to the scheduled hearings, he supported a presentation to Education Counts, a Chatham organization he said was instrumental in getting past school budgets passed.

Routh also urged the board to make the district’s financial fitness reports available to the public.

In addition, he said the education body, when approaching the budget, should not only aim at dollar figures, but should seek the “right” numbers in terms of what staffing is appropriate for the district.

Moreover, he said the district should aim to replace former high school music instructor, Dorothy C. Kuhn, with a fulltime instructor and the board should use its “banked cap” to help plan for possible expansion of Chatham High School in the future.

Under the New Jersey law that sets a “cap” on school district spending, if a district does not go up to its cap limit it may bank the excess between what it spends and the cap for use in future budgets.

In response to Routh’s comments about the “right” numbers, Belding said the school body did not just “put in numbers” when preparing its spending plans but it did consider the staffing “headcount” needed to meet the needs of the district.

Board Finance Chairman Matthew Gilfillian added the school body had been consulting with its architect to determine whether a second story, with up to six additional classrooms, should be added to the new addition at the high school to meet future expanding enrollment.

He added because Lafayette School is expected to have less enrollment in the future the district may use space in that school to meet some of the needs of the high school.

Belding also said the district may consult with a demographer to project future enrollment figures.

Business Administrator Peter Daquila also told resident Cathy Kelstrom that, although a major renovation of the high school auditorium probably would not be undertaken at this time, the Music Boosters were helping to fund some minor improvements and the facility would be “brought up to code.”

Michael LaSusa, who will become superintendent of schools in July, noted the administration had received resumes from 70 applicants to replace him as assistant superintendent, 20 resumes had received further consideration, about half of the people whose resumes were reviewed further were called in for interviews, four had been called in for second interviews and the two finalists should be selected by Friday, March 2.

He added the final selection should be available for a board vote on Monday, March 26.

In another action at Monday’s meeting, the school body accepted the resignation of Assistant Business Administrator Kristin Kosky, who has accepted a position in Morris Plains.

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