Education

Communication, Curriculum, Rotating Block Schedule all discussed at Nutley Board of Education Meeting

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NUTLEY,  NJ - Save the Date! Nutley Public School District’s ‘Week of Respect’ will be October 2-6, 2017. The announcement was made as part of a presentation by Anti-Bullying Coordinator Joe Capello during the July 24, 2017 public meeting of the Board of Education.

Capello presented results of the district’s HIB self-assessment. The maximum assessment score for each school is 78. Lincoln, Radcliff, Yantacaw, Spring Garden and the High School each scored 76, Washington 75 and Walker Middle 72.

The second presentation of the evening was given by various members of the District’s “Strategic Plan Action Team.”

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Superintendent Dr. Glazer said: “It’s hard to believe we are at the end of our Fifth year of our strategic plan.”

Glazer also informed the attendees that former superintendent Russ Lazovich and Gina Villani, former assistant superintendent, who started the process, were invited and were unable to attend.

Dr. Labrera, the consultant hired by the district to facilitate the process with the former administration, was in the audience. Labrera congratulated the team and added: “Strategic plans generally are dust collectors in a lot of districts. That happens because there is good intent but not clear focus on what matters most. ” Labrera said what he did was to take the districts focus and continued asking questions. Labrera has been working with the Nutley community for six years. “Every year it gets better, more interesting, more positive, because of the way it’s organized and the insistence on this is who we are and this is what we are going to do.”

Glazer said: “We hope he [Labrera] will be joining us as we embark on planning for our next 5 years strategic plan.”

Ken Bania, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment said: “We were structured into six action teams, lead by three or four administrators, working with the whole community driving forward an agenda towards best practices. “  All presenters were district staff members.

The Six Action Teams are:

  1. Character
  2. Communication 
  3. Community 
  4. Competency
  5. Configuration
  6. Curriculum

Regarding ‘Communication’ Nutley High Principal Denis Williams said: “Five years ago, the Nutley School District was pretty much in the Stone Age of communications and I say that respectfully. We have definitely moved on. When we talk about communications it is internal and external.”

District Communications Director Karen Greco, who joined the district in October, shared her initiatives including expansion of social media communications and creation of the “Key Communicators List for the Township of Nutley”: a list of interested citizens who attend BOE meetings, town halls and focus groups.

Competencies were defined as 21st Century skills that make successful people successful. Moving forward it was recommended that ‘competency and character be combined to really develop and revise the social / emotional component on the elementary report card.’

Tracy Eagan, Principal Walker Middle School: “Five years ago we had seven different buildings working in isolation. The purpose of our [Configuration] committee was to align our district K-12. We started by researching best practices in other districts.” The ‘Rotating Block Schedule’ that was investigated will be implemented in September.

The Curriculum Action Team worked to create processes and procedures that make sure the district programs:  are relevant for our students, are substantiated by the latest educational research, are current and follow the standards of the state of NJ, and meet the needs of the students and 5-year curriculum study.

At the completion of the presentation Glazer said: “When I came to the district, what resonated with me is that we are a Township of Nutley. A community of people committed to all our students preK-12. Because our 5 year timeline has come to an end our work has not. Now we need to go back and assess what those current needs are and see how we are going to re-align action teams, how we are going to re-align some of our focus and set new goals for the next five years. We value and need your involvement. As we come to this next phase of planning we hope you will join us again in being part of this process.”

Video of the meeting can be viewed on the District YouTube channel here:

The District Strategic Plan can be read here: http://www.nutleyschools.org/Content2/strategicplan

Chris Oseja reported this year 241 students were enrolled in 22 “Let’s Learn” classes that were held at the High School. The top class was science followed by engineering, coding and cooking.

Thursday Aug 10th the district will host the 3rd meeting for area merchants, restaurant owners and personnel on the new rotating drop schedule and common lunch hour. The agenda will include what was learned during the pilot and from neighboring districts as well as best practices. RSVP to Karen Greco by Aug. 7th  kgreco@nutleynj.org

Administrator Karen Yeamans reported that the district audit is in process and Aug 8th will be the date of delivery of the 1st prize ‘simulator’ won by Mr. Kelly’s TV Media Production students in the statewide competition earlier this year.

The additional state aid received was $142,157.00. A resolution was approved showing that the money was used to enhance programs and software for the students.

Trustee Balsamo reported as part of the Academic report that Kearny Board of Ed requested that the district participate in the renovation of the crew house used by Nutley, Belleville and Kearny. Funds for the renovation are not currently in the budget.

During public comment, Teri Quirk, Nutley Parent Advocacy Group, asked: ‘When the referendum vote will be. September or November?’ Board President Carnicella replied. “At this time, information has been received from the state. Bond counsel has been notified. We have to do a lot of leg work to get to the point where we can move forward with the public and be transparent. I don’t think September is realistic.”

Quirk asked how the public will be notified. Carnicella: “Our goal is to put a presentation out with the findings…where we are, what the state numbers actually came back at, what bond counsel has addressed to us as far as what the numbers will look like and then do a forum for the community.”

Quirk also expressed concern about the district autistic program. She explained that students who started in the program at Radcliff are now going into high school. “Being autistic, it is challenging for them.” She stated that some parents are concerned that their autistic students going into the high school. She stated that some districts have other programs to educate autistic high school students; however, she said ‘there seems to be somewhat of a resistance here’.

“What happens if we have a kid who is a ‘runner’? The district is responsible if he runs out of the building and into traffic? That is a real concern. We have already had issues where the police had to be involved, so we would like for you to consider and recognize that some kids can’t make it in the high school. The high school has done wonderful things for so many children. But there are some kids who would be better off in a specialized setting.”    

Regarding bullying, Quirk asked: What happens if there is an investigation of an altercation involving a student and teacher or administrator vs. a student to student incident? Superintendent Glazer responded. “The process remains the same. There is an investigation and the parent gets a letter with the outcome of the investigation. If the parent does not agree, there is an appeal and then the process goes all the way up to the state.”  

Nutley homeowner Michael Odria stated that his August tax bill was $200 over last year’s bill. Regarding the referendum Odria said:  “I hope you pull back because 74% of the homeowners in this town do not have children in the Nutley public school system. What you are asking us to do is subsidize other people’s children’s education. We need that money for our retirement and health care. Thank you.”

Blaire Rzempoluch commented: “Many of us signed up to be on committees regarding the referendum. We are all curious about when we are going to be contacted.” Attendees and trustees laughed when Carnicella playfully replied. “I’m going to use Charlie’s answer: Soon.”

He continued: “There are a lot of names on that list. It would be just premature to start putting these committees together. “According to Carnicella, the upcoming Town Hall, mentioned earlier in the meeting, will be the time when the committees will be formed. 

Rzempoluch also provided an update on The Nutley Learning Tree, a micro-funding project for district teachers, sponsored by the Nutley Educational Foundation. To date $800.00 has been raised to fully fulfill 6 different wishes including: Activity Bands, Touch Boards, Neat Seats, Kinetic Sand, Chair Socks, Seat Sacks have been fulfilled. - There are two wishes currently waiting for funding: 1. Zero Waste Box for the Green Rangers at Spring Garden School 2. Next Generation Robot for Lincoln School. 

“I encourage everyone to go to the NEF website and look at the wishes. Every contribution helps. We have had donations from parents, grandparents, foundations and community members. Thank you all.”

Donna Ferrara asked the Board to explain a ‘transfer bond’ for $38.5M that was referenced in minutes from May 2016 and 2017. “How does a transfer bond work?”

Karen Yeamans explained that the $38.5M was a bond referendum approved by the Nutley taxpayers in December 2006. “As we are concluding the expending of those funds we are moving money from one project to another. The basic expenditures for roofs, HVAC and window upgrades are complete. We are finishing security projects. The board is allowed to move the funds to accommodate security upgrades. What the board is doing with the resolution is transferring the funds and nothing to do with the proposed future referendum.

Ferraro also expressed concerns about substitute teachers. “In many districts in surrounding towns they are making $100/day.” According to Ferraro, the Nutley district pays subs $75/day and $37.50 for ½ days causing Nutley to lose subs to other districts. Yeamans said: “We are starting to have conversations about the possibility of making sub assignment a full day assignment and using the subs for other things.”

The Board closed the public segment of the meeting and moved to closed Executive Session to discuss property acquisition and personnel. 

Trustee Fred Scalera did not attend the meeting. Scalera is seeking re-election to the Board along with trustees Lisa Danchak-Martin and Nutley Township Engineering/Chief Project Coordinator Salvatore Ferrara

Useful Links:

Nutley Educational Foundation Learning Tree - https://www.nutleyef.org/learningtree

Nutley Board of Education Meeting 2017-07-24

 

 

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