BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — A special relationship. A term used in politics to describe two countries and the unique circumstances that bring them together to cooperate on policy. The United States and Great Britain is the famous example on the international stage. Here, locally in New Jersey, it best describes the relationship between the Berkeley Heights Public Schools (BHPS) and Mountainside School District. 

During the Feb. 25 BHPS Board of Education meeting Mountainside Superintendent Janet Walling was on-hand, alongside Berkeley Heights Superintendent Melisa Varley, to discuss continued collaboration between both districts. 

Governor Livingston High School, the public high school destination for Berkeley Heights students also functions as the current high school for Mountainside’s public-school students. Thursday night’s Superintendent's report was a presentation meant to affirm continued cooperation and shared curriculum “alignment” between Mountainside and Berkeley Heights.

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The partnership is meant to ensure both groups of students have the necessary academic foundation and skill-set when they enter high school together at Governor Livingston. Or, as Board Member Chris Reilly put it on Thursday night, “to make sure we’re all singing off the same song sheet when we hit ninth grade.”

A PowerPoint presentation outlined areas of collaboration and alignment between both districts. The elementary mathematics curriculum was used as an example to show both districts working together to develop “common scope and sequences, and units of study” between both districts, according to presentation. Specialists and faculty from each district work together so that students are developing foundational math skills that mirror the other district. Both Mountainside and Berkeley Heights currently employ the Go Math digital resource to “support implementation of the mathematics curriculum.” 

Collaboration between both districts extends to mathematics in middle school and the subjects contained within English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies “coming a little newer to our collaboration,” noted Janet Walling. 

Civics Returns

A new area of collaboration for both districts will be in the area of Social Studies now that the state has mandated, through its New Jersey Student Learning Standards, a curriculum with a large emphasis on Civics

According to the New Jersey Department of Education’s website, the vision is an "education in social studies fosters a population that:

• Is civic minded, globally aware, and socially responsible.

• Exemplifies fundamental values of American citizenship through active participation in local and global communities.

• Makes informed decisions about local, state, national, and global events based on inquiry and analysis.

• Considers multiple perspectives, values diversity, and promotes cultural understanding.

• Recognizes the implications of an interconnected global economy.

• Appreciates the global dynamics between people, places, and resources.

• Utilizes emerging technologies to communicate and collaborate on career and personal matters with citizens of other world regions.

According to Assistant Superintendent Scott McKinney, the district has been preparing for such changes, especially the shift towards a more civic minded approach to Social Studies.

“We’ve been working on integrating the civics on the 6-12 grade level,” said McKinney. “That’s part of us being ahead of what’s coming out ... There’s not a lot of dramatic changes. A lot of it is adjusting to where some things fall." 

For a recording of the full Feb. 25 BHPS meeting click HERE.

The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for March 18 through the online meeting platform Zoom.