PLAINFIELD, NJ — The Plainfield Board of Education's virtual Work & Study Meeting had a late start Tuesday, but those who waited it out heard about plans for graduation, District plans for new teaching technology, and the approval of the next school year's budget.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Mitchell updated the Board on the latest developments for a virtual graduation that will be held on Monday, June 22; it will include a video presentation and valedictorian speeches. Each graduate will have an online page where families and friends can send wishes and post pictures, and will be available online for six months after the graduation. A committee of student representatives had been formed to evaluate various options.

Arcelius Brickhouse, Executive Director of Secondary Education, said according to student feedback, they really want a traditional graduation but understand that this is the best that can be done at this time. Students will be given their diplomas, caps and gowns at the same time that their devices are returned to the school. The District also plans to highlight college acceptance letters for student recognition.

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Dr. Mitchell discussed two initiatives under Curriculum and Instruction related to technology and planning for the future. Schoology would be implemented to improve the overall virtual learning platform and ensure consistency throughout the District.  According to its website, Schoology is an online learning management system (LMS), to create engaging content, design lessons, and assess student understanding.

Board member Dr. Avonia Richardson-Miller commended the Superintendent on her forward thinking and proactive planning for the fall, which may likely include a component of online learning.

Dr. Mitchell also outlined plans to partner with two other school districts, New Brunswick and Orange, to apply for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive (TSL) Program offered by the United States Department of Education and the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program Grant in collaboration with the University of Maryland. Mitchell was successful in securing a similar grant for $7.1 Million at her former school district, and plans to apply for $10 Million for Plainfield.

According to the meeting agenda detail, the purpose of applying for these grants is to develop and implement a human capital management system that will build both teacher and leader capacity in all three districts. Both grant programs provide funding to increase the number of highly effective educators by supporting the implementation of evidence-based preparation, development, or enhancement opportunities for educators.

The Board also voted to approve the 2020/2021 budget. Board Member Emily Morgan expressed concern over the travel expenses in light of the pandemic.The budget will also be amended for food services and other contracts that will be renegotiated in the fall if, in fact, students are not allowed to return to the schools.

Expenses will be also be amended to include the purchase and stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) from a number of vendors, and the costs associated with additional facility sanitizing processes. Acting Business Administrator Yolanda Koon mentioned they would look to the state for guidance and recommendations with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Board President Cameron Cox also announced an emergency board meeting would be held on Thursday, May 14, noting no action will be taken.

The next Business meeting is scheduled for May 19, and details can be found on the District’s website: http://www.plainfieldnjk12.org.

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