LIVINGSTON, NJ — Newly proposed courses for Livingston Public Schools (LPS) were recently presented to the board of education and superintendent, who provided positive feedback on the six new courses that were introduced in the humanities, business and science departments.

Specifically, MaryBeth Kopacz, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Humanities/PD for LPS, and Natalie Topylko, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for STEM/Testing for LPS, presented one new business course, two new science courses and three new humanities courses that would fall under the umbrella of "visual and performing arts" at Livingston High School.

Kopacz explained that in addition to the district’s course requirements to graduate, the curriculum directors look to add courses that “will support students in their paths to college or their career” and to offer “new and exciting courses that students have shown interest in.”

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“We’re always very proud of our course catalog,” said Kopacz. “It’s quite robust, and we’re always looking to add new courses to meet the needs and interests of our diverse learners.”

Three courses under the visual and performing arts umbrella were presented along with a new pathway called the “Theater Arts Pathway,” or “TAP.”

According to Kopacz, there are three requirements under TAP that must be fulfilled in order for a student to complete the pathway and receive a certificate.

“We’re actually very, very excited about this new pathway,” said Kopacz. “It will focus on all aspects of theater arts, including performing, the technical aspects of theater and the production.”

The newly proposed courses include “Theater Arts,” which would be a requirement to complete the pathway, “Dance” and “Piano,” which would be offered as one-semester electives.

In order to complete the Theater Arts Pathway, a student must complete the following requirements:

Requirement One: Over the course of four years, a student must complete three courses entitled Theater Arts, Speech and Drama and Stagecraft I.

Requirement Two: Over the course of four years, a student must complete two of the following semester courses: Dance, Creative Writing, Mural Painting, Chorus, Piano, Stagecraft II, Public Speaking and Debate and Chorus. Kopacz reiterated that the newly proposed courses, which are electives that would be open to all students, include Dance and Piano.

“We do have a dance curriculum, but dance has not been done in several years, so we would really like to reinvent it and make it part of the package for the theater arts pathway and really make it relevant and current,” said Kopacz. “It will be a semester course that will be in lieu of a physical education course for that marking period. It would fall under the same physical education standards, but would also address the dance standards.

“According to the state, we really need to offer courses in four visual and performing arts areas—art, music, dance and theater—so this really would be allowing us to properly offer these courses that students certainly have shown interest in and will build our theater program and will allow us meet the state mandates.”

Regarding the new piano course, Kopacz added that students who have previously taken the high school's guitar course have expressed great interest in similar one-semester options to fulfill their “required year of visual and performing arts.” According to Kopacz, this request came specifically from students who need to fulfill the graduation requirement for visual and performing arts but are not necessarily interested in chorus, orchestra or band.

“So now if [those students] are taking guitar for one semester, they would have the option of taking piano for a second semester,” she said.

Requirement Three: Over the course of four years, a student must participate in the Livingston High School fall drama and/or spring musical at least once per academic year.

In response to the board's inquiry about how auditions might affect a student’s ability to fulfill the third requirement, Kopacz explained students have various ways that they can be involved in these productions without being physically on the stage, such as joining the stage or lighting crew, the pit orchestra and more. 

“Participating doesn’t necessarily mean that they need a lead role,” she said. “We would make sure that they become involved in some way.”

Additional courses presented included:

A new course in the business department entitled “Social Media Marketing” that Topylko said is “meant to address the changes that have been happening in the field of marketing and the way that businesses are responding to the ability to advertise online.”

“It would provide an opportunity to really have a hands-on experience in a contained environment in terms of developing ad campaigns and figuring out how to be responsive to the needs of that particular field,” said Topylko, adding that some business classes are already talking about the importance of social media and that this would be offered as a follow up to the high school’s existing marketing course.

A dual-enrollment anatomy-and-physiology course with the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences school that would provide six credits as a lab course at the high school as well as an optional four credits through Rutgers’ continuing education program for interested students. According to Topylko, the course deals with the structure and function of the human body and would be a continuation of the high school’s health services pathway in the science department.

A sustainability science course that would serve as the final course in the high school’s “sustainability pathway,” according to Topylko. She noted that this course is designed to “provide students with an opportunity to research and be stewards of our environment in the context of […] taking care of the natural environment and figuring out—whether as an engineer or as a pure scientist—ways that we can help build a world that will be mindful of the future and making sure that we are not using our resources mindlessly.”

All board members expressed enthusiasm over the proposed courses and congratulated Kopacz and Topylko on their hard work designing the new pathway.

Kopacz and Topylko took the opportunity to also announce the recent interest from community members in the high school’s inaugural Senior Internship Program. CLICK HERE to learn more about this program and how to get involved.

In other district news, board members also took turns acknowledging some recent events they have attended and were inspired by. Some of those events, along with links to local coverage, included:

To read more from this meeting, click on the headlines below:

Livingston's 12 National Merit Semifinalists Honor Their Most Inspiring K-12 Teacher

Livingston Officials Respond to Public Concerns Over Security of Student Information

Livingston's Dr. George Shen Attends Final Meeting as Board of Education Member