EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Last week was a great week to be Dr. Michael Vinella, Principal of East Brunswick High School. Not only did the high school sports teams achieve numerous state and local championships, the Homecoming Dance and game brought a sense of happiness and engagement within the school community, and the Band Festival showed what great hosts our kids and parents can be, Dr.Vinella was nominated by the President of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Debbie Bradley to serve on a statewide panel to address bullying and harassment in the public schools.
Vinella also received a proclamation from Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin and Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak to honor him during National Principals Month as an outstanding leader and educator. The Proclamation noted that Vinella had "demonstrated an uncommon level of vision, inspiration, and compassion" and a "strong character and exceptional determination." He was praised for mentoring new teachers and providing support to those learning to become administrators.
Vinella met in his office last week with EB Assistant Superintendent Louis Figueroa and Assemblyman Karabinchak to discuss the current state of security, safety, and anti-bullying protection in the East Brunswick Schools. The unanimous decision to nominate Vinella for the New Jersey Task Force, a group that will be formed early in 2020, follows the passage of Karabinchak's legislation to establish the Task Force. The bill was signed into law in July.
The bill (A-4848) created an eleven-member task force to examine, evaluate and make recommendations regarding the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. Eight members would be required to have a background in, or special knowledge of, the legal, policy, education, social, or psychological aspects of bullying in public schools. Two members would be appointed by the Senate President, two by the Speaker of the General Assembly, and four by the Governor. The task force would also include two members of the public, one of whom is a family member of a student who has experienced bullying and one of whom is a student over age 17 who has personally experienced bullying.
Said Vinella at the meeting, "Before kids can learn, they have to be secure and safe. That is Job One." Karabinchak expressed pride in the improved level of security in New Jersey's schools, saying, "We are leading the nation in security and are talking about getting more funding from the government to support it." He and Vinella discussed the Level 3 (presence of an armed security officer) in the East Brunswick Schools. "We want our students to be free," said Vinella, "They have to be safe so that they can be free."
Figueroa spoke of the full support that the East Brunswick Board of Education has put behind security and praised the work of Austin Kosik, Director of East Brunswick's Office of Emergency Management and Paul Natalicchio, School Safety/Security Coordinator and their work with student, staff, and community safety.
The conversation then moved to a review of school climate and the impact of technology on the personal relationships among students. Vinella expressed concern about the "digital footprint" left by any student on the internet. His thoughts were echoed by Karabinchak who said, " All the big corporate people I know check social media when considering hiring someone. Sometimes, people might have to explain something that happened ten years ago." Figueroa added that "Teaching about social media and the emotional value of what you do every day is important." He concurred with Vinella who was also worried about students who "Express their thoughts on social media before they process information."
The principal was quick to praise the 12 counselors at EBHS, along with other Student Assistance support systems, that provide safe places, support, and encouragement for students at the high school. Figueroa said, "Counselors build relationships with students and that requires consistency. Hiring counselors is really making an investment in our kids."
When asked by Karabinchak about how government could best serve a thriving school system like East Brunswick's, Vinella replied that help needed to "Be elastic, so that successful districts can build on success rather than following mandates that may not apply to them."
Karabinchak then toured EBHS with the two administrators who highlighted increased security and imbedded technology, showing students at work in classes. The Assemblyman has been working in Westfield, NJ and other school districts around the country to "Retrofit 1950s schools to meet 2020s demands."