Jay Boxwell


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Superintendent’s Report

CRANFORD, NJ - Superintendent's report for the meeting of February 27, 2017

Grace Chen and Mallory Vollbrecht have moved on to be National Merit Finalists!  This is an outstanding achievement by both students.  Their collect academic and school accomplishments have placed them amongst the top students in the nation.
Julia Flimonczuk, a tenth grader, and member of the Youth Orchestra of the New Jersey Youth Symphony, will be performing at the National Association For Music Education (NAFME) Eastern Division Biennial Conference on April 6, 2017. 

Maddie Swanson, a student in Liz Chandler’s sixth grade language arts class at OAS, won the Westfield Women's Club Short Story and Poetry Contest for her story The Suitcase.  Selected for writing the best story in her age group, Maddie will now compete at the state level. 

OAS is pleased to announce that two students were winners in the VFW District 5 (Union County) level of the Patriot's Pen Essay Writing Contest: first place, Nora O'Connell a student in Ann McGovern’s eighth grade process writing and literature class and second place, Cassandra LaMastra a student in Michael Seaman’s eighth grade process writing and literature class. Nora’s essay, based on this year’s theme “The America I Believe In” was entered in the VFW Department of New Jersey (State) competition with the other twenty district (county) winners. From the over 5,700 essay entered into the VFW Patriot’s Pen essay competition, Nora came in second place in the State of New Jersey.  Congratulations to OAS eighth grade student Caroline Anderson whose poem was published in the NYU Langone Center's February edition of FACES, their monthly e-newsletter.

Congratulations to seventh grade CAMP student Ali Karim on winning the Union County Teens Arts Contest. According to his art teacher Maria Polyviou, Ali’s entry was a self-portrait painting. His work was selected from over a hundred entries throughout the county; he was one of six to represent Union County at the State House in Trenton at the 2017 State exhibit to be held at the State House, from March 24 to March 31.

During the winter season, the Winter Track Pole Vault Relay team captured the Group 3 State Championship Title.  This two-person relay team consisted of Trey Pascual and Mark Lynch.  Trey went on to win an Individual Sectional Title in the Pole Vault.

The Varsity Wrestling team won the Conference, County, and State Sectional Tournament while the JV team also captured a Union County Championship.  Coach Pat Gorman and Coach Justin Bonitatis both received Coach of the Year honors at the District Tournament where four wrestlers including Anthony Capece, Chris Scorese, Tom DiGiovanni and Alex Esposito all won Individual District Titles.

The Girls JV Basketball Team won its Semi Final County game this past weekend and will play in the Union County Finals on Friday at Kean.

The Cranford Cougars Competition Cheerleading Team took first-place at the Impact Cheer Challenge held at St. John Vianney High School in Holmdel on February 12, 2017.

The Hillside Avenue School community would like to recognize Megan Reid, grade four teacher,  who was named HAS 2015-2016 NJ Educator of the Year and Matthew Fichter, seventh grade science teacher,  who was named Educator of the Year by the Azure Masada Lodge.
Congratulations to CHS teacher Rich Bell who is one of the two 2017 NJ National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)  Educator Award recipients.  This is award is given to educators who encourage high school women's interest and participation in technology pursuits. 

The personal learning and blended learning cohorts continued their work in their online courses and continued to collaborate to provide personal learning experiences to students and engage them in authentic projects that appeal to their interests. The personal learning cohort continued to receive coaching support and participated in an empathy map activity as a follow up to their design thinking training.  Partnerships are being explored with other districts interested in doing similar work such as Mine Hill and Springfield. Planning is underway for site visits as well as for next year’s cohorts.

Assistant Superintendent Liz Azukas continued to facilitate the “Leading Blended Teachers” online course for administrators and the team met on February 23 to discuss what they had learned and participate in some face to face professional development.

The Office of C&I is collaborating with the Department of Special Services to discuss professional development needs for the special education teachers as well as to plan for the development and implementation of an RTI program in the district. Research is currently underway.

Ms. Azukas met with the elementary grade group leaders to discuss successes and challenges at the K-5 levels and ways to continue to provide support for these teachers.

Ms. Azukas also met with the high school administrative team to discuss a possible CFEE grant application.

The Senior Citizens Advisory Council met on February 14 and showcased the use of the new 3D printer at the high school as well as the work done by students in the Panasonic Design Challenge. The students shared how they use Design Thinking in their work and shared a design journal for the competition. They also demonstrated how they use the 3D printer for prototyping.

The math and literacy coaches will hold their second parent workshop on March 2, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at OAS. Topics include reading strategies focused on comprehension and the progression of the four mathematical operations and fractions.  Coaching continues to support Reading Writing Workshop as well as the use of Envision math for differentiated instruction. Greg Martucci, math coach just completed 90 minute professional development sessions for every K-5 teacher in each elementary building which received positive feedback from teachers. Lorraine Madden,  literacy coach continues to participate in the state-wide literacy leaders coaching network as well as the Paramus coaching group and is often invited to lead PD for these organizations. Teachers have begun implementing a foundations program developed by Ms. Madden at the K-2 level, promoting skill development as well as equity across the district.

The P2E team is holding a parent workshop on gifted children on March 8, 2017 at OAS. They have also invited other gifted teachers from neighboring districts. The P2E teachers continue to provide enrichment support across the elementary schools including grade three math enrichment, grades four and five STEM projects, and grades three, four and five writing enrichment.  
The Office of C&I continues to be enter district curricula into the new OnCourse curriculum builder so teachers can use it in their planning. Currently, there are 232 district courses loaded into the system.

CRANFORD HIGH SCHOOL -The CHS musical The Secret Garden will be performed March 3, 4, and 5.  Get your tickets now.  The students have been working diligently on the stage, sound, lights, costumes, music, and lines in order to prepare for this show.

“Do not forget to support the sports teams as they explode into action during the first full week in March,” remarked Mark Cantagallo, principal.

Finally, testing season is coming!  Students will be reminded to get a lot of rest, relax, focus on setting high expectations, and put together a structured study schedule to best prepare for success.

 University Night organized by Barbara Carroll, Susan Turner, and Jen Hilborn engaged a substantial crowd that was interested in being a part of a prodigious program at CHS.  “Students are eager to join such a long-standing tradition of excellence at CHS,” commented Mark Cantagallo, principal.

ORANGE AVENUE SCHOOL -Fourth graders in Renee Mertz's class participated in Operation Gratitude. Operation Gratitude sends care packages to veterans, first responders, new recruits, wounded heroes, their caregivers, and to individually named U.S. service members deployed overseas. OAS students created heartfelt cards/letters that will be added to care packages sent out by Operation Gratitude. The letters allowed students to thank all of these men and women and to let them know that we care and are thinking about them. Principal Marc Edery remarks, “We have great respect and admiration for our men and women in uniform. Many thanks to Mrs. Mertz and her students for taking the time to recognize the sacrifice that these people make on a daily basis. Such activities are important learning opportunities for students as well.”

 The Orange Avenue School family donated 48 pints of blood, which equates to 40 lifesaving blood donations! This was their 7th annual Blood Drive at OAS. “Great job! Many thanks to Denise Addona for organizing the event!” commented Mr. Edery.

The OAS school community is so excited about the upcoming drama production of Les Miserables. “Under the dedicated leadership of highly skilled directors, OAS students consistently deliver drama performances that surpass all expectations for a middle school production. Come and bring your family and friends, you will be amazed at what our students produce!” remarked Mr. Edery. 

HILLSIDE AVENUE SCHOOL - Brianne Falisi’s kindergarten class was excited to celebrate 100 days of learning! With the help of parent volunteers, the kindergarteners rotated through six different cross curricular stations based on the number 100. They raced to 100 by playing a math game; completed a creative writing booklet centered on the number 100; counted collections by grouping manipulatives into 10s, then decided if the collection has more or less than 100 items; completed a puzzle that has 100 pieces; built the tallest structure possible with 100 red solo cups and created a crown using 100 unique stamps.

Trish Compton and Lori Talbot’s third grade classes have been working very hard on writing informational books with the assistance of Lorraine Madden, literacy coach.  The students reviewed a plethora of mentor texts with LOTS of cool features like speech bubbles, lists, charts, maps, thought
bubbles, timelines etc.  The students then chose a personal interest topic to create their own “How To Book.”  Some of the topics include How to Survive a Home Renovation, How to be the Youngest in a Family, How to be a good Son, How to be a Fashionista, and comically How to Write a How To book.  “They are coming out great; everyone is excited to see the final products,” commented Dr. Curt Fogas, Principal. 

Over the next few weeks students will be diving deep into the layers of the Earth. Matthew Fichter’s students have been exposed to the Earth's dynamic nature throughout the Earth, but as of late, students have been introduced to plate tectonics, the Geologic Time Scale, and the Earth's interior. After learning about how the plates have shifted over the previous 200+ million years to present day, students will apply their knowledge of plate boundaries/movements. In the form of a project, students will create a futuristic map/model of what the Earth's continents will look like hundreds of millions of years into the future. Students will also make inferences about how the new arrangement of the continents would affect trade routes, the world economy, the United States borders, among other world features such as landforms and climate zones. This all-encompassing project ties-in well with the social studies curriculum related to map skills, geography, social issues, and international relations.

The sixth-grade language arts classes, under the guidance of Gayle Colucci, AnneMarie Miller, Lore Walsh and Najiba Sahid, just completed a unit on social issues.  The students read novels in book clubs and responded in their reading journals  how the characters reacted to the social issue they were faced with.  This week, they will begin researching on laptops the social issues that were in their novels and relate it back to how the characters reacted to the social issue and what could have been done differently. 

Joan Pulliam’s seventh grade students have learned that cells are “The Basic Building Blocks of Living Things.”  The studies have included cell theory and looking at plants, animals and protozoa under the microscope to provide evidence to support the theory.  Students will work collaboratively and use Google Drive to create a presentation that explains the cell theory tenets and to provide evidence to support the theory.

When given the opportunity to think of some random acts of kindness, Anne Pollock's Occupational Therapy students turn their ideas in action. Over the course of several weeks, students made close to 100 Valentine's Day cards for the residents at Atria in Cranford. Ms. Pollock shared that it really brightened the residents’ day!

The HAS Mighty Miler Program continues to grow in popularity and participation, even during our winter recess constraints. Parent volunteers and teachers participate and support elementary students every Thursday in the gym during recess with running, walking, skipping, jumping and dancing laps in the gym. The music gets the students excited and more and more students are earning rewards as their miles add up. “26.2 miles is no match for us at HAS!” stated Dr. Fogas.

The HAS Student Council held their annual winter dance on February 10.  DJ'ed by Zachary Shectman, HAS alumni and a current CHS student, the dance was very well attended by middle school students.  Proceeds from the dance will be donated to a local charity.

Under the guidance of Megan Reid, fourth grade teacher and peer leader advisor, the HAS Peer Leadership Program sponsored “Start with Hello Week,” February 6 through the 10. Along with many schools across the country, the peer leaders took a stand against social isolation. They planned activities for each day to encourage others to reach out to new people and take steps to make sure everyone feels included and valued in the school community.

LIVINGSTON AVENUE SCHOOL - There was a mystery at LAS, and the detectives from third grade were on the case. As a culminating activity for the Mystery Unit, the students read statements from Starbelly Sneetch, Hop on Pop, Yertle the Turtle, and Fox in Socks who were the prime suspects. They also reviewed a crime scene as they tried to determine who had made the “Big Mess in the Library.”

Through a generous grant from the Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence (CFEE), Colleen McDonald has infused ukuleles into her fifth grade general music classes. The ukuleles have been such a huge success that Ms. McDonald has been working with students at lunchtime to prepare them for a video performance to be shared on the LAS website and with the CFEE. 

On Valentine's Day the students at Livingston Avenue School were invited to an ice cream social held in the gymnasium. The PTA served ice cream and toppings to each grade level. Principal Kevin Deacon overheard a student say, “This is the best ever!” “The event was a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day as a school community.   The students had a great time,” continued Mr. Deacon.

Three Livingston Avenue School teachers, Greg D’Amato, Meghan Curti, and Jillian Guarini, are part of the Personalized Learning Cohort. Through this cohort they have created "Genius Hour" where students study, research, and present concepts that interest them.  Aside from researching, students have also been encouraged to invite a "genius" into the classroom either for an interview or to help with a presentation. During a recent Genius Hour session, they were fortunate enough to have a visit from a local police officer to help add some information to a student-designed presentation. “The students were entranced by the equipment and training required to be a member of the SWAT team. The students were fascinated and thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to a person right in front of them, rather than search for information using Google,” remarked Principal Deacon.


CAP - Students continue to participate in group counseling sessions with Chris Sedlak consisting of discussions about gender identity awareness, interests in life after high school, and personal highs and lows. Students were also asked to make cut-outs of their hands with motivating messages written on them for the “Make a Hand, Lend a Hand” project that the Bezos Family Foundation is sponsoring. The hands will be used to create wreaths and the foundation is donating $1.90 for every hand the students make to youth in Nicaragua and Indonesia. All the students in the group participated and made hand cut-outs and wrote an inspirational and uplifting message. 

Students in Spanish class randomly chose and then completed a research project about a Spanish speaking country. In addition to a general description of the country's location, lifestyle and foods, the students found YouTube videos of the national dance and were able to explain its political landscape. All of the information they found was shared with their classmates and then students received feedback about which facts were the most interesting and why. The second part of the project is to create a travel
brochure, highlighting the various places to visit and activities to do in their country. Students will also make hotel recommendations, list airlines that fly to their country and the estimated travel costs.

Liz McKeon’s class just started reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet is a play about the world of appearances and the difficulty of living in that world. In order to better understand Shakespeare’s language and the different themes and motifs in the play, students are acting out the play. Each student is assigned a character and will “act” as that character throughout.   Ms. McKeon’s class also has break out groups so the students can get together and discuss the scene they just performed. She wants the students to be able to be part of the play, rather than just an outsider simply reading it.

In U. S. I, Greg Oriscello’s students are spending a lot of time on the concept of “balance of power.”  The Founding Fathers of this nation took great care in trying to distribute power equally between the three branches.  President Andrew Jackson increased the power of the Executive Branch when he took on the National Bank and when he vetoed an unprecedented amount of Congressional bills.   Some would argue that he went too far when he famously ignored a Supreme Court decision.  Mr. Oriscello’s students spent time debating whether or not these actions warranted impeachment.  Also, Mr. Oriscello’s students examined Executive Orders issued by both Presidents Obama and Trump.  Did either of these Presidents go too far?  Were any of these Executive Orders unconstitutional?  These are questions that Mr. Oriscello’s students attempted to answer.

Students in math are working with triangles and figuring out sides, areas, and transformations in two dimensions.  Students apply the knowledge of triangles into graph theory and constraint equations.  Students then find levels of cost and profit in an industry using algebra and geometry based on maximums and minimums within the triangle.

In Personal Finance, students took a class trip to the Federal Reserve Bank.  Students learn about banking and how the Fed plays a vital role in the banking system within the United States.  Students also discuss topics such as inflation, discretionary printing of money, and long term problems that exist when the Fed acts irresponsibly. 

CAMP - During the last few weeks in group counseling,  the middle school students at Lincoln School have focused on anger management/conflict resolution.  Students watched the video, "Blow-Ups and Rage, Learning to Manage Your Anger.”  This was followed by a discussion on identifying anger triggers, identifying cycles related to violence as well as discussing more appropriate ways to express anger at school, at home and in the community.  In another group session, the students played "Anger Bingo."  This game enabled the students to identify and discuss causes of anger, symptoms of anger and consequences of anger.  Again, a discussion was held to identify more appropriate ways to control and cope with anger.

LEAP - Kathy Wright’s reading students have been learning about author’s purpose.  They read a variety of text from different genres and identified the author’s purpose.  They also chose a topic to write about
and came up with beginnings for a writing piece for each purpose.  They then chose one piece to develop. In addition, the students worked on proper use of subject and object pronouns.

There are several math groups in this class based on ability.  Students in the fifth grade group worked on adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators.  Students in the fourth grade group worked on multiplying decimals, and students in the third grade group worked on finding area of rectangles, squares and irregular shapes.

Students are learning about weather and the Earth’s atmosphere.  They watched a video and created a project in which they drew and labeled the layers of the atmosphere. 

Students in Mrs. Wright’s class are working with students in Diana Niemsyk’s class to study famous African Americans for Black History Month.  The students have read about a variety of different famous African Americans, including Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., Lewis Latimer, Jackie Robinson, and Mae Jemison, and worked in pairs to create posters about their famous person.  The students also shared what they learned with the others in the class.  They will be learning about Ruby Bridges this week and will create a character traits poster for Ruby , after watching the Ruby Bridges movie. 

Maria Polyviou’s L.E.A.P. students are working on creating a “Mixed Media Portrait.”  They are learning about collages and portraits first.  Before launching into the collage, however, they will discuss what is needed to make a portrait drawing. There will be a mini lesson on portraits.  The first lesson is focused on realistic proportions, the second on abstracted portraits. Picasso was the exemplar for the second lesson.  Students will also be given a choice as to whether they create a realistic or an abstract portrait.  Students will collage their boards with a variety of printed papers and will begin drawing their portraits on them. To add a visual element of interest, students will think of an adjective to describe an aspect of their personality.  These adjectives will be cut letters from a magazine and glued onto their portraits to enhance the visual element.

Caitlyn Murach's applied music students are currently preparing to perform for the residents of Cranford Hall on February 28, as well as at the Teen Arts Festival on March 16 and 17.  Students will be shredding on guitar to Metallica, tickling the ivories with Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", and dazzling audiences with pieces from the Beatles, Bill Whithers, Guns N' Roses, and more!

LEAP music students are wrapping up their rhythm unit and are about to begin identifying pitches on the treble clef with help from ipad apps such as "noteworks" and "treble cat," analyzing contour of melodies, and performing melodic passages on recorders, xylophones, and boomwhackers.  Fourth and fifth grade students will be beginning their recorder karate unit and will move through a series of "music levels" where they will earn different colored belts each time they analyze and perform a piece correctly!

CAP music students are continuing work in their hip hop unit. Currently students are working on an assignment in which they must answer the question "Should hip hop lyrics be considered a form of poetry?" Students are analyzing songs by Notorious B.I.G, Mos Def, Tupac, and Dead Prez.  Their goal is to find literary devices, recognize the theme/message of the song, describe the language used, determine if the lyrics are rhythmic in nature, discover the form, and finally determine whether or not they think hip hop lyrics should be considered poetic, and if so, is there a decade in which there should be a cutoff.

BLOOMINGDALE AVENUE SCHOOL - The Bloomingdale Avenue staff collaborated to plan a school wide event to celebrate the

100th Day of School.  Due to the snow day, the event took place on February 14.  The activities planned during this celebration were designed to implement the teachers’ research on learning with movement.  Each class participated in activities designed to provide a grade appropriate experience with numbers. The activities included:  Bean Bag Toss-working as a team to reach a score of 100; 100 Foot Relay Races; Tracking “What Can You Do in 100 Seconds?”--- students tracked the number of times they could pass the ball (over/under or elbow to elbow), how many times they completed the polyspot hopscotch course and how many times they hula hooped in 100 seconds; roll to 100-- students rolled the dice and added the two numbers while one child placed manipulatives on the 100 chart, the other students performed a movement activity (Ex: jumping jacks); 100 Chart Relay-- students had to complete a large 100 chart by filling in the missing numbers.  Random numbers were pulled and students in each relay team took turns placing the

number card in the proper position on the 100 Chart.  Up and Down to 100-- 100 cards were split among the students. Students put the cards in order as fast as they could going from 1 to 100 and from 100-1. “These activities not only reinforced number sense and movement through learning, but also supported collaboration and teamwork among the students. This event is a highlight for the students and could not be possible without our parent volunteers. We want to thank the more than 40 volunteers that made this day a memorable event for our students,” commented Lourdes Murphy, principal.

BROOKSIDE PLACE SCHOOL - The New England Patriots pulled off a come from behind win during Super Bowl LI, but the story was a little different for the Brookside Place “Souper Bowl.”  Students were asked to bring in cans of soup and vote for their preferred team by placing their cans in the corresponding team box. In that contest, the Atlanta Falcons were the decisive winners with 235 cans.  The Patriots garnered 111 votes.  All cans were donated to Cranford Family Care, making the Cranford community winners too.   This annual service project is coordinated by the Brookside Place School Student Council.

Beyond the Laces is a children’s story book with an important message. It uses football as a platform to teach children about kindness, determination and perseverance. The co-authors, Rick Young and Bob Salomon, and publisher, Charles Ambrogio, visited with the three BPS fourth grade classes and the three fifth grade classes for a special presentation. The authors not only  discussed the message of the book, but covered the writing process including collaboration, editing, publishing and the effort of guiding a project from conception through completion.  The presentation covered key concepts from both character education and language arts.

February is American Heart Month.  Brookside Place School recognized this important health initiative with several events.  Vanguard Medical Group visited the school on February 3 and offered free blood pressure screenings.  Teachers and staff wore the color red to honor the “Go Red” initiative of the American Heart Association, and school nurse Paula O’Hara coordinated the sale of Go Red pins and bracelets as a fundraiser.  She also provided a heart-healthy oatmeal breakfast for teachers and staff along with the reading of heart related health tips on the morning announcements.  Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in this country, with more than 17 million deaths each year. Prevention and early intervention are keys to staying healthy. On February 22, BPS fourth grade students learned about heart function and heart health when they visited Overlook Medical Center for a class field trip to tour an inflatable heart.

WALNUT AVENUE SCHOOL  - The WAS PTA hosted its annual Family Pajama Bingo night on February 10.  Well over 300 parents and students assembled in the gym for fun filled evening.  Participating parents were encouraged to bring along a set of children’s pajamas to be donated to Cranford Family Care.  The Cranford Cougar also made a surprise appearance to encourage students to participate in the annual Winter Read-a-thon that will run through February 24.  Money raised through the Read-a-thon will be used to improve classroom libraries.

Walnut School’s preschool classes were invited to participate in an activity at Surgents’ Gym in Westfield.  Instructors at Surgents’ introduced children to gymnastic equipment and presented a workout specially designed for their developmental level. The trip also supported one of the preschool themes for February:  Healthy hearts and healthy bodies.

The PTA continued to support the traditional Wee-Deliver Valentine Post Office activity.  Valentine mailboxes were set up throughout the school building and students acted as junior “postmasters” and “mail persons” in order to sort and deliver hundreds of Valentines between February 6 and February 14.
Students also celebrated the 100th day of school on February 14 with a variety of classroom activities.  Posters illustrating the number 100 were prominently displayed in the hallways and many first graders came to school made up to look like centenarians.