NUTLEY, NJ - On May 24, 2017, parents and stakeholders shuffled between the Extended Day (ED) Focus Group in the Nutley High School Principals’ Conference Room and the District Creative Fair in the High School auditorium. Parents from all elementary schools participated in the 60 minute informal gathering.

Superintendent Dr. Julie Glazer led the discussion that centered on three questions:

  1. What are the strengths of the Extended Day Program?
  2. Where are the opportunities for growth within the Extended Day and Summer Programs?
  3. How can the district better support working parents through programming?

Regarding program STRENGTHS, several parents shared their experiences:

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  • “Drop off and pick up is smooth and safe.”
  • “An affordable program that provides the highest quality level of care.”
  • “Familiar faces and consistent care.”
  • “Respectful of working parents.”

Dr. Glazer shared that what is working well is that the program is being expanded. The District is in the process of looking into adding certified teachers from Essex County Education Services. She said: “While we are expanding the program, for the upcoming year, the program cost will stay the same. Enrollment is complete for the summer program and fall registration has started.”

The district is currently interviewing and anticipates a new ED Director on staff July 1, 2017. Director Maria Cervasio is retiring effective June 30th after 15.5 years.

Rosemary Griesbach, ED bookkeeper, said: “A total of 71 students are enrolled in the 2017 Program. It takes place at the High School in classrooms in the science wing which is ‘cooled’.”  Students enrolled will be entering 1st – 6th grade in the fall. One student will be entering 8th grade. Tuition is $225.00 per week for 1st child $200 per week for each sibling $90 for the 4th of July week (Thurs & Fri) for the 1st child $80 for the 4th of July week (Thurs & Fri) for each sibling. There is a 4-week minimum enrollment.

Program expansions include a new offering at the Middle School. Bezen Hindistan shared that a six-week program for 4-8 grade students is being launched in the fall. During the six workshops, students will actively ‘launch a business’. Lessons include business planning, partnership statements, loan agreements, advertising and marketing. At the completion of the program, student entrepreneurs will sell their products in an actual marketplace, where profits made are theirs to keep and reinvest in their businesses.

Nutley Academic Booster Club’s summer program ‘Let’s Learn’, offers students in grades K-6 fun and educationally challenging classes in cooking, engineering, fashion, sign language, science and more...All instructors are certified teachers. Classes are offered in two morning sessions from June 27 - July 21, Children in the Extended Day program who sign up for Let's Learn will be escorted between the programs.

OPPORTUNITIES for growth included a start time of 7:00am instead of the current 7:15. In response to the suggestion to also expand the end time to 6:30 Dr. Glazer said: “The difficult part is staffing.”

As parents shared several suggestions, Dr. Glazer directed Communications Director Karen Greco to include the ideas as questions for potential ED teachers. A potential interview question: ‘What creative ideas do you have for keeping students engaged when there is limited space?’ Glazer said, “Fresh eyes are a good thing. What do others see that we are missing?”

Several parents expressed the need for indoor and outdoor ‘structured physical activities’ to keep students moving,  as well as adding more learning directed indoor activities. One parent said: “I don’t send my kids anymore because they are so bored. The teachers are tired at the end of the day and put the kids watching the same video over and over.”

One idea shared by NEF President Lorraine Kucinski was Cliffside Park District's Walking Classroom, which combines brisk walks and podcasts on various topics.  The Walking Classroom was founded by a former North Carolina schoolteacher and is based on evidence that exercise pumps up the brain power. New Jersey has ten school districts with walking classrooms that are grant funded. Other programs that combine physical activity and learning used in North Jersey extended day and summer learning offerings include yoga and judo.

Kucinski also shared that the Nutley Educational Foundation recently launched ‘The Nutley Learning Tree’, a funding source for district teachers. In addition, she said NEF will look into grants that are specific to extended day programs.

Requests for more STEM and STEAM and ‘less electronics’ were also made. One parent commented: ‘My kid doesn’t go to the Parks & Rec. summer program because of the amount of electronics.’ It was noted that the District summer programs do not include electronics and for one elementary school’s ‘after school’ program, electronics were allowed after 5pm.

One student from Lincoln Elementary shared: ‘On ‘in days’ we go to the auditorium and are separated. Those kids with electronics sit by the windows and those without electronics watch a movie.’

Homework and other type clubs were recommended for Middle School students who required a different level of supervision and were less likely to be enrolled in ‘after school care.’  Partnering with area YMCAs was suggested.

A ‘Parent-Mentor’ program was suggested as well as an academic tutoring program. Attendees were receptive to the idea of using AP students and members of the High School ‘Future Educators Club’ as tutors.

OPPORTUNITIES for improvement of administration of the ED and summer programs included:

  • Digitizing the process of enrolling and checking in students
  • A parent who works in NY requested contact #s be given to parents of students enrolled in Yantacaw ED. A teacher noted that the phone system at Yantacaw needed updating.
  • It was requested that a 4 day option be added. Currently there are 3 and 5 day options.
  • Reaching out to subs in neighboring districts was suggested to address staffing issues.
  • A few parents commented that they were learning details of the ED and summer programs for the first time and recommended the district increase its marketing efforts.

One parent who asked to remain anonymous said he was disappointed that teachers for the extended day program were allowed to participate in the focus group. While it was appreciated that they were present, it was shared it deterred him and a few other parents from speaking up about changes they would like to see in the programs.

Superintendent Glazer shared that the district is coming to the end of the current five year Strategic Planning process started by the previous administration under the direction of Dr. Librera of West Hudson Associates. Glazer stated the District is once again working with Librera and preparing to start developing the Strategic Plan for the next 5 years. “With the upcoming referendum and proposed changes to schools, Dr. Librera has an interesting view on how these things will impact the new strategic planning process.”

The focus group also engaged in a brief discussion on possible menu changes for the next school year ended with Dr. Glazer sharing that she had requested that the District’s ‘food service’ company conduct a focus group with parents and students.

Reflecting on the focus group participation she said. “I am so impressed the community came out in force and was so candid.” The district Communications Director Karen Greco compiled answers to the three questions contributed during the focus group. The focus group was to provide the district with feedback and those that did not/could not attend have followed up with calls and emails. The district welcomes continued input. Email kgreco@nutleyschools.org

The district intends to commission a ‘traffic and parking study’ prior to other discussion. According to Superintendent Glazer: “We have received much input which has allowed us to know this is a priority.” 

Note: Board of Education Vice President Debbie Russo and members Charlie Kucinski attended the foucs group.  TAPintoNutley will advertise and report on all Referendum related and other focus groups scheduled in the district.

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