RANDOLPH, NJ - Many parents and students visited the Board of Education again on Tuesday; this week, they supported Peter Cervona, third grade teacher at Ironia, and Ken Morris, the assistant girls’ track coach.
“Since we had such a large crowd the last time we met, I want to highlight that the football coach is currently being rehired under this motion, as well,” said President Al Matos, referring to the personnel motion with the 2017-2018 school year contracts for over 400 teachers.
During the Superintendent’s Report, Jenn Fano provided a summary of the teacher evaluation process required by New Jersey and explained the rating levels for teachers.
While the board assured the public they were renewing Peter Cervona’s contract, parents spoke up against the “ineffective” rating he received during this year’s evaluation.
“Teacher practice is what’s observed in the classroom via trained administrators,” Fano described. “Teachers in non-tested areas have their teacher practice counting for 85% of their evaluation, and 15% of their evaluation is made up of the Student Growth Objectives which are measured by a pre-assessment and then growth over time.”
“In the tested areas, teachers in grades 4-8 in math and language arts, they have three components to create their 100%,” Fano continued. “55% teacher practice, 15% student growth objective, and then 30% is made up of their median [student growth percentile].”
The teacher is evaluated on seven qualities -- professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment of learning, learning environment, professionalism and student achievement. Every year, the staff member receives the rubric and comments from the classroom observations. After reviewing, they can refute or clarify any of those comments, Fano explained.
“The expectation for each of these standards at the end or sum of the evaluation, is that every staff member achieve an ‘effective’ rating,” Fano concluded. “It’s a four-point scale, and ‘effective’ is a three.”
Parent Stacy White opened the comments in favor of Cervona, saying “I urge you to look at the test scores of his students when he was in 4th and 5th grade. It’s a little frustrating that now he’s in 3rd grade and he doesn’t have the impact of the test scores of his students going into his review process, because I think historically if you look back, you’ll see how well his students did in the testing.”
Student Brian Murphy reminded the board that he had never attended board meetings in the past, “and I’ve been to two in the past three weeks to support very beloved, not just teachers, but figures in the community. It’s really disheartening to me, honestly.”
While Murphy did not have Cervona as a teacher, he shared a story of working with Cervona in the 5th grade microscope unit.
“Now, I’m on the Randolph Varsity football team; I am over 280 lbs... but my 7th grade sister still cleans up bugs in my room,” Murphy laughed. “A couple days in [to the microscope unit], I found out we would be looking at bugs’ legs, and this was horrifying for me… I was very upset, and I said to myself this wasn’t an option; I can’t do this... He didn’t respond with ‘man up.’ He said ‘let’s do it together. I’ll do it with you.’”
Heather Murphy, Brian’s sister and former 5th grade student of Cervona, spoke next. “I can say that, without a doubt, he was my favorite teacher in all my years at Ironia,” Heather said. “I had very high expectations for myself, and he helped me reach those expectations.”
Parent Roseanne Fleming detailed her son’s 5th grade year when he missed many days of school due to illness.
“Aiden was on home instruction, but Mr. Cervona went above and beyond to continually work with Aiden. He spent his free time all through the year to make sure he fully understood the material and grasped the concepts,” she said. “Mr. Cervona instilled in Aiden the importance of academic success which he still carries with him today… Aiden graduated 8th grade with highest academics honors -- straight A’s all three years.”
Nine other parents spoke of the classroom environment Cervona created and his help with transitioning their children to the middle school workload.
“We’re glad to hear the quality of teaching for Mr. Cervona,” Matos concluded. “[The performance rating] is usually a very personal thing and confidential, so I’m not sure how that rating got out, if that’s the rating.”
During Board Correspondence, board member Anne Standridge read two emails from girls’ track members, Evelyn Swayze and Amanda Houston, supporting Ken Morris’s work as assistant coach.
“We are mid-distance runners, and we have both worked with Coach Morris individually. He has pushed us to our limits and made us successful,” Standridge read. “He brings positive energy to the practices and new ideas for getting us faster. We think he should stay at Randolph High School, because he is an asset to the community… When we have problems, we have turned to him to help us. He made things better and provided us with great motivation to help us succeed.”
Student Council Representative, Alyssa Horwitz, spoke as a track member and read a letter from her teammates, Jordyn Kranis and Meghan O’Malley.
“[Coach Morris] always has the most optimistic outlook on every bad situation, and he always makes time for us, whether it is with school work, sports or advice,” Horwitz read. “Also, this was the first year in Randolph history where Randolph girls won all four jumping events… Coach Morris is our only jumping coach, and he clearly had a huge impact on helping the team win these four events this year.”
Luke Suttile, the boys' track coach, reminded the board that he and Morris grew up competing on Randolph Track.
“Everything that has been given to him, he has gone into wholeheartedly,” Sutille said. “High school is a tough place to be for a student a lot of times, and a lot of things I’ve seen him do... have directly affected the well-being, the learning environment, the happiness of the students here.”
After hearing these comments, Matos replied, “I do want to clarify one thing, real quick. You don’t have to be a teacher in Randolph in order to be a coach.”