My name is Jeane Parker, and I am running along with Kate Motz for re-election to the Mountainside Board of Education on November 3rd. When I moved to Mountainside in 2004, my daughter started first grade at the just-reopened Beechwood School; she is now a senior at Governor Livingston High School.
Appointed to the board to fill a vacancy in 2011 and elected in 2012, I currently serve on the Curriculum and Community Outreach committees and chair our Strategic Planning Committee. I also am the liaison to the Berkeley Heights BOE, and serve on its Athletic Committee.
The past four years have brought significant change to the Mountainside district, including:
- A $19 million referendum that allowed for much-needed facility upgrades
- A new math curriculum which produced notably higher achievement and proficiency with Deerfield students outperforming neighboring districts
- A new language arts curriculum aligned with Berkeley Heights and used by the top districts in the state
- Dynamic new technology infrastructure along with ChromeBooks and iPads
- Expanded community outreach that includes the Mountainside Messenger, e-alerts, a new website and PowerSchool
- An alternative funding initiative has attracted more than $400,000 in community, private and corporate financing with more in the pipeline
Several of these accomplishments are the result of goals laid out in a 5-year strategic plan that Mrs. Motz and I drafted, with considerable community input, shortly after joining the board. The plan has served as our district roadmap since 2013.
That roadmap also called for improved academic performance. In 2014, Deerfield Middle School ranked among the top 8 percent of all NJ middle schools, a considerable jump from 2013, when it was in the top 20 percent. (Source: schooldigger.com)
At the halfway point in our strategic plan, I see the following as priorities:
- Language Arts Literacy Achievement & Accountability: An unacceptable 17 percent of our middle school students tested only partially proficient in 2014. As we enter the third year of the rollout of a new curriculum, administrative and staff accountability for improved achievement are paramount.
- Student Performance Analysis: Starting with the initial achievement dashboard presented this month, district achievement and progress of middle and high school students must be monitored and analyzed to identify and address issues and ensure ongoing student progress.
- High School Performance: The Berkeley Heights administration has historically held that “all students are Governor Livingston students,” whether they live in Mountainside or Berkeley Heights. I support this philosophy but also believe the Mountainside administration should track and analyze students’ progress after they leave Deerfield. The BH administration recently agreed to our request to release grades, standardized test results and other Mountainside student data, giving our administration an additional avenue of assessing our kids’ performance and identifying potential issues. I also would like to see UCVTS student data added to future dashboards for a comprehensive overview of district achievement.
- NextGen Science: With rising awareness of the need for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, the district has begun planning for the introduction of a Next Generation science curriculum, implementation of which is key to providing 21st century skills.
- Continued Math Achievement: Under a math curriculum instituted with Dr. Lubarsky’s arrival in 2011, Deerfield students have posted higher NJASK passing rates, outperforming Chatham, Madison, Westfield, Berkeley Heights and Summit in some grades. We must continue to aim for increases in proficiency and consistent achievement across all grade levels.
- In-School PSATs: Beginning this year, Deerfield 8th graders will this take the PSAT. In addition to familiarizing students with college prep testing, this initiative provides the administration another tool for identifying curriculum strengths and weaknesses.
- Special Programs: With an increase in anxiety, depression and other emotional issues in middle school, the district needs to seek out student programs that heighten awareness.
- Arts & Sports: Our stellar music program, implemented in the past three years, has brought Deerfield students recognition far outside our district borders. I would like to see the same energy devoted to developing art programs and new sports opportunities through grants and other outside funding.
- Strategic Planning – Our five-year plan expires in 2018, but we have already met nearly every goal laid out in 2013. It is time to begin seeking public input and outlining future goals.
As liaison to the Berkeley Heights BOE and a GL parent, I have been outspoken about issues at the high school, including guidance and college prep, standardized test performance and accountability for student achievement at all learning levels.
With the GL contract up for renewal, I fully supported the Mountainside BOE’s decision to seek alternative high school send-receive relationships through an RFP, and was encouraged by the responses. However, I favor continuing to send Mountainside students to GL -- if it can be accomplished without financially breaking our district. In recent months, members of the Berkeley Heights BOE have expressed a strong commitment to improved achievement, test scores and accountability, all of which will be priorities in a new BH strategic plan initiative announced last week. I would very much like to work with the BH board toward these shared goals.
I have been actively involved in the Mountainside community for more than a decade and believe action, long-term commitment, and real knowledge of our district speak louder than half-baked campaign rhetoric and 11th-hour community glad-handing. On November 3, Mountainside voters have the opportunity to re-elect two dedicated board members with a long history of school and community service and proven record of action, accountability and results. If re-elected, I will continue to bring integrity, passion and energy to making Mountainside the best district it can be.