SUMMIT, NJ - The Hilltop City's citizenry has firmly proclaimed that "Hate Has No Home Here," however the Summit School District has reported that another ugly racially-charged image has -- for the sixth time in the past four-plus months -- been found in a Summit Public School.
Superintendent of Schools June Chang, in his monthly remarks at the April 11 Summit Board of Education Meeting, said that a swastika was found in the sixth floor girls bathroom at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS).
“We did go one month without, but I’m sad that I have to report this,” he said.
Chang said that the swastika was “removed” and that the District would continue to provide educational programming about hate speech. He urged parents to have “dialogues” with their children about these incidents.
All told, since late November of 2018, there have been six known incidents as reported by Summit Public Schools officials:
- Swastikas were found at LCJSMS prior to the 2018 Thanksgiving break.
- Swastikas and "additional offensive drawings" were found at LCJSMS immediately after that same Thanksgiving break.
- Swastikas were found carved into stalls in a boys bathroom at Summit High School, school principal Stacy Grimaldi announced on November 30, 2018.
- Grimaldi disclosed that additional "hateful symbols and words" were found December 10, 2018, in Summit High School bathrooms.
- During the Summit Board of Education meeting this past January, it was reported that two swastikas were recently found at LCJSMS.
- Additional swastikas are found at LCJSMS as disclosed at the April 11 Board meeting.
When the first incident was reported, Chang noted that the Summit Police Department had been notified and that a "police and school-wide investigation is ongoing."
After the latest incident was reported, TAPinto Summit contacted City of Summit Police Chief Robert Weck relative to the status of the now nearly five month-long investigation.
"We continue to work with the District on the ongoing investigation," said Weck.
To date, it has not been publicly disclosed if any alleged or known perpetrators have been identified or disciplined.
Attendance at the April Board meeting was back to more traditional levels, as the large crowds that attended for many months to voice opinions on issues and initiatives such as Full-Day Kindergarten and elementary school class sizes stayed home, but for a handful of parents, community members, and administrators.
In her opening remarks, Board President Deb McCann gave a full synopsis of the responsibilities of the Board and the administration. She said that goal of the Board is to share the District’s “vision, mission, and values” and discussed the three-year focus areas and board goals.
She outlined the hierarchy of the District, the Code of Ethics, and methods for resolution of conflicts. She outlined the five committees of the Board: education, communications, policy, operations, and negotiations.
She talked about “Sunshine Laws,” and the “confusion” people in the District often have about the Board’s ability to discuss issues.
New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act, known as “The Sunshine Law,” ensures that decision-making government bodies, such as the Board of Education, conducts its business publicly. Certain exclusions apply, as did this evening, when the Board met behind closed doors to discuss a personnel matter.
McCann said that this “ensures transparency.”
She said that the recent community input has had “an impact” on District decisions, such as the school calendar.
Education Committee Chair Vanessa Primack gave another update on meetings with Director of Special Education Services Doreen Babis. She said that the committee was getting Babis’ ’“expert thoughts on programs and where we’re doing great and where there is opportunity for improvement.” Primack discussed the importance of “specials” in elementary school for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP): library, physical education, Spanish, music, and art.
She said how important these “specials” are to the development of students with an IEP. This is where the peer groups come together and everyone benefits, she said.
“There is a lot of exciting teaching going on,” she said.
She discussed the upcoming Summit Educational Foundation’s (SEF) grants. She said the grants “make enhancements possible.”
The SEF grants, she said, must “reflect collaborative communication” and must work toward common goals in the schools with are aligned with the District goals at the proper levels. The grants must “mirror the mission and vision of the District,” she said.
She said that this was the largest grant process ever.
The education committee also analyzed the success of the Learning Workshops, by analyzing reading data for 2017-18 and the first half of the current school year. She said that data shows that the initiatives “are working,” specifically for first and second graders. Initiatives were looked at, such as phonic-based work in language arts, “more constructive District-wide exit strategies,” and more professional development to help teachers “get more tools in their toolbox.”
McCann said that she is an avid supporter of reinforcing these skills for the youngest grades. “Early literacy has a place in my heart,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons I joined the Board.”
Operations Committee Chair Chris Bonner said that the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is “on track.”
He said that there is a small projected surplus which will be applied to the fund balance, main reserve account, capital reserve account, and go toward end-of-year purchasing.
He said that Assistant Business Administrator Kathy Sarno will be going out on maternity leave from June 14 through the rest of the calendar year, Emilio Torres, staff accountant, will “fill in.” Torres will receive a stipend for attending evening meetings.
Bonner said that letters went out to the 183 families who paid for tuition-based full-day kindergarten informing them that they will receive a refund now that the District has approved a free, universal, Full-Day program to begin in September. The district will return a total of $91,095.
Bonner said that the Summit High School turf replacement project came in about $30,000 less than was expected.
Parents Guillaume and Amdelise Flavigny told the story of their son, who, after three years at Lincoln-Hubbard was told that he now needed to attend Washington Elementary School due to the fact the home the family resides in is actually located in an area zoned for Washington School.
The Flavignys, from France, will be returning to Europe in a year's time. Their daughter attended Lincoln-Hubbard through fifth grade and is now at LCJSMS.
They requested that their son be allowed to finish this last year at Lincoln-Hubbard.
“An international move is already a big challenge as a family,” Guillaume Flavigny said. Their son, he said, will be “forced to say goodbye in a year from now; we kindly ask you not to force him to say goodbye to his friends and teachers one year in advance.”
After the meeting, Amdelise Flavigny said that she had spoken twice with Lincoln-Hubbard Principal Matt Carlin and Chang. When they did not agree to allow the third grader to attend fourth grade at Lincoln-Hubbard, they took their plea to the Board.
TAPinto Summit asked Chang how the students came to be placed in the wrong school for so many years, He said, ““Some time ago, the children were incorrectly registered at Lincoln-Hubbard Elementary School, and that discrepancy only recently came to light. We handle these rare situations on a case-by-case basis as they arise.”
He said, “We have been, and will to continue to work with the family to come up with positive next steps with the students in mind.”