MADISON, NJ – The value of extracurricular activities and the demands of class schedules dominated the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, April 4.
High School Principal Gregory Robertson said he is “extremely proud of the extracurricular activities and the things the public does not see.” He said that those activities enhance student achievement, encourage values and beliefs, and inspire and challenge lifelong learning, all part of the district’s mission statement. He said these activities help students develop leadership skills, build strong connections to the school, strengthen relationships between students and adults and help students make decisions about college and careers.
Robertson introduced three students: Owen Matthews, Quinn Fetterly and Carlie Silen. Mathews said her experiences in public speaking, with a class Supreme Court event helped her realize that she loved presenting a speech. Matthews is a senior and will go on to Princeton University, majoring in international and public policy. Fetterly said that because of extracurricular activities, he was able to personalize his education, from symphony orchestra to track to Habitat for Humanity. He described his experience with the Physics Team, building cantilevers and working with like minded thinkers. College interviewers, he said, were impressed with his description of the physics project. The Debate Team, he said, “helped me relearn how to argue, an incredibly important skill and it honed my oratorical skills for the state tournament.”
Silen, a junior, is active with the Special Olympics Club. She works with special needs kids, she said, and that experience has had a positive impact. “It’s a way to make a difference and give back,” she said.
Robertson said there are 36 clubs at the high school, not including athletics. In addition, students often suggest formation of new clubs. “It widens the experience, putting service above self attitude,” he sai of several activities that promote human rights.
Junior School Principal David Coster, assisted by Lori Lubieski-Hutmaker, talked about proposed changes to the school schedule for the coming year. The 59 minute CORE classes would be reduced to 52 minutes, but that would be offset by smaller class size. There would be five sections instead of four. World languages and other electives would also be 52 minutes, rather than the current 40 minutes. Surveys were taken with students, faculty and staff and site visits were made to other schools in the area. A Genesis computer was used to identify curriculum needs. The advisory program would be cut back, he said, as some were antiquated.
“There’s a beauty to our system,” Coster said of the recommendations. “We have to address these issues.” He said the small group instruction will improve the experience for students.”This can be a better schedule for the current population,” he said, adding there had been multiple discussions with teachers on class coverage. He also said that the middle school has increased by 100 students over the last four years and this arrangement will make it possible to meet in smaller groups. Coster said there is flexibility built into the plan and that electives can be adjusted.
Interim Superintendent Richard Noonan announced that a forum on the budget is scheduled for April 19 with the hearing on Tuesday, April 25.