Education

Nathan Parker to Leave Summit School District in June 2015

Dr. Nathan Parker has been superintendent since 2008.
At Thursday's board of education meeting a member of the Jefferson School Fifth Grade Buddy Program talks about what the program taught her. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

SUMMIT, NJ - The man who has been superintendent of schools in Summit since 2008 announced at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting that he will not seek an extension of his contract when the agreement comes up for renewal on June 30, 2015.

Nathan Parker assumed the top post in the Hilltop City schools on Aug. 18, 2008, joining the city district from Orange, where he was superintendent of schools.

Board President Gloria Ron-Fornes thanked Parker for his service, but reminded the community that the current superintendent will remain in charge of the city’s schools until he leaves in two years.

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Ron-Fornes, adding that Parker’s announcement allows the school body to begin the process of searching for a new superintendent, said the hiring and evaluation of the chief school administrator is “the single most important responsibility of the Board of Education.”

She added that the process must be done by the full board, not by any one committee, and it must be done well.

The school body head noted the search process will involve four stages: Preparation, collection of materials and processing, selection and transition.

First, she said, the education body will conduct a vetting process to select a consultant to assist in the search and, once that consultant is selected, he or she will help the board decide what characteristics and credentials it will seek in a new superintendent.  Community and staff will take part in this preparation stage through surveys, interviews, and meetings.

Ron-Fornes added she did not expect much development of the process until January. However, she also noted that when the board gets to the selection stage discussions will, of necessity, be confidential to respect the privacy of the candidates and the confidentiality of the process.

In a presentation at the meeting, Summit High School principal Paul Sears outlined the school’s impending change from its current class setup to a block scheduling system.

Noting that the school will grow from 1,206 students currently to 1,265 by the 2014-2015 school year, Sears said block scheduling will allow more flexibility of instruction and the freeing up for more classrooms for general instructions spaces which are needed.

Under block scheduling, he noted, students will not go to classes in every one of their subjects everyday, but will have longer periods, lasting one hour four days a week and 43 minutes on the last day of the school week.

Also, instead of the current staggered lunch schedule, students and teachers will have a common one-hour lunch, with half of that time actually spent on lunch and the remaining half free for consultation with teachers, participating in some in-school clubs and other activities. It also will leave more room for social interaction, he said.

Costs for the transition will include $63,840 for additional lunchroom aides, $7,200 for tables with attached chairs to ease the breakdown of the lunch area after the meal and $6,000 for additional service and purchasing areas.

Block scheduling, the principal said, will mean fewer transitions between classes and less stress for both students and teachers because they will have fewer classes to prepare for in a given day.

While students will face fewer assessments each day, he added, teachers will be given a greater ability to balance their assignments.

In response to some concerns expressed by parents, Sears said the new system is not expected to increase the amount of seniors driving away from the campus at lunchtime. He also said seniors have proven how much they appreciate the off-campus privilege and probably would not do anything to jeopardize that standing.

A survey taken among staff this month showed that 62 percent approved of the change while 38 percent favored the current schedules. He said many of the concerns about the new system came from teachers who rotate among the city’s schools who felt block scheduling would not give them enough time to move among the schools, Sears felt this system could be worked out and the reservation of an “E” day on Fridays where students could move among teachers in a number of subject areas would help.

He added further surveys would be conducted among staff and the community in the next few weeks to help in planning the new process.

During a second presentation at the meeting, fifth-graders at Jefferson School, where the meeting was held, spoke about their buddy system with special education students at the school.

The fifth-graders, all of whom volunteered for the program this year, help their buddies with their studies and with social interaction and by sponsoring athletic activities, games and other events.

Members of the program who spoke at Thursday’s meeting said while they were able to teach the younger students they also learned  lessons that will help them later in life when they will have to interact with people of all backgrounds and at all levels.

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