MILLBURN, NJ - Dr. William Miron, principal of Millburn High School, gave a wide-ranging interview about the current state of affairs as the school year is approaching its end and what to expect next year.
Dr. Miron, himself a graduate of the MHS class of 1974, began his career at Millburn as a math teacher after teaching for several years at Seton Hall Prep. In addition to teaching math, he coached track, wrestling, and football. When asked about the differences between Millburn High when he was a student and the Millburn High of 2015, he laughed and pointed out that there is no longer a smoking patio outside the cafeteria. But he stressed that the community continues to “take pride in its students and the quality of its schools, is still concerned about college admission, and values the intrinsic motivation to do well.”
Dr. Miron expressed compassion for those students in the bottom half of each grade since Millburn pays so much attention to its high achievers. Dr. Miron explains to students that when they return to visit MHS, he doesn’t remember their grades or SAT scores or where they went to college, but what type of people they were. Many students, both those academically accomplished and those who are not often find their interests directed toward the “super music and art programs” MHS offers.
In the past several years a dance program was successfully implemented and has produced a team of dancers that appeared at the 2014 Orange Bowl and in December 2014 performed at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii. Approximately 200 students take computer programming classes and students created a popular after-school robotics group that recently won the First Tech Challenge New Jersey Championship Tournament. According to Dr. Miron, the school day is generally calm, with a bit of chaos at lunch time with the schedule accommodating all grades except the seniors, who are allowed to leave the premises at lunch time. This is a valued privilege and seniors are motivated by the risk of forfeiting it for certain infractions. Students in grades nine through eleven all take eight courses a day, while the seniors take seven. There are no study halls.
Dr. Miron, when asked about the PARCC assessment testing which was introduced to New Jersey and several other states this year, stated that “no one here is pleased with the amount of time the testing takes” because it takes away from hours of education in the classroom. With or without PARCC, Millburn High covers the Common Core Curriculum, which it frequently tweaks to improve the curriculum. Dr. Miron feels that the five days of testing in March and four days of testing in May are excessive. Because it is a new program, there is a lag time and the results will not be known until next year. Dr. Miron explained that the novelty in the format of the on-line testing may not enhance its assessment value. Prior to PARCC testing, New Jersey high school administered the HSPA test, which if students did not attain a proficient evaluation, they were required to take remediation lessons and retake the test. If after that, the students did not attain a proficient level, they could not graduate. The PARCC testing is not used for graduation purposes. Dr. Miron questioned whether students were motivated to take the PARCC testing seriously, since its results would not impact the students in any way.
U.S. News & World Reports recently ranked Millburn as 14th best in New Jersey. Millburn has frequently placed higher in the list. Dr. Miron stated that “I don’t get excited about these ranking systems.” He explained that several of the schools ranked higher than Millburn on the list are private or magnet schools which admit only the top students from the area. This differentiates those schools from a public school such as Millburn which admits all students living in Millburn and Short Hills. He proudly pointed out that MHS produced 93 National Merit Scholars, a record in the school’s history.
Dr. Miron has not yet met the approved candidate for Millburn School Superintendent Dr. Robert Zywicki but expects to do so within the next several weeks. The School Board and the Superintendent are responsible for bond referenda and policies for the district whereas the high school principal is in charge of the day-to-day running of the high school. The relationship between the principal and superintendant will depend on the “personality of the superintendent.” Dr. Miron does not expect any immediate changes as a result of the new superintendent but will be interested in seeing a year from now how the superintendent’s visions will be incorporated into the functioning of the high school. Dr. Miron feels that it is healthy for a school to reexamine itself periodically and the presence of a new superintendent will be an impetus for seeing the school through new eyes.