SUMMIT, NJ - Jennifer Ambrose, assistant principal of Alfred E. Zampella School, PS #27 in Jersey City, was unanimously named the Hilltop City’s Director of Elementary Education at the Summit Board of Education’s June workshop session.

The director’s position is one of two created after current assistant superintendent of schools for curriculum and instruction Julie Glazer announced that she will be departing Summit in July to take the reins of the Nutley public schools.

On June 10, the day after the workshop session, the District announced that Donna D'Acunto had been put forth by Superintentent of Schools June Chang for the role of Director of Secondary Education.

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Ambrose will be paid $138,600 annually for the post.

In announcing his recommendation for the selection of Ambrose, Chang said the new director will oversee curriculum and instruction, data analysis, assessments and professional development in pre-k through fifth grade.

Chang noted that the educator has “coordinated the development of curriculum and the improvement of instruction for more than 10 schools. Under her leadership she has fostered instructional innovation and promoted significant academic growth throughout the district.”

He added that Ambrose has worked in the Jersey City schools since 2008 and has been the kindergarten-to-eighth-grade mathematics supervisor and a member of the Division Strategic Support Team.

As Zampella School assistant principal, the Summit superintendent noted, she serves as an instructional leader of the school, analyzing data “to evaluate and improve instructional practices. She monitors professional learning community meetings and provides teachers with support, effective feedback and professional development. In addition, she assists with completing the budget, the Title I school-wide plan and the professional development plan.”

He added that Ambrose’s “experience and knowledge promise to add to our work as a district and her leadership qualities match our needs for this role.

The new director holds a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education and mathematics sciences from Kean University in Union, a master of arts degree in educational leadership from Montclair State University and her certificate in special education from the University of Phoenix. She began her career as a mathematics teacher in Nutley.

On an ongoing concern for the district, Bill Anderson of 22 Cromwell Parkway said that parking on the street by students from Summit High School is causing potential safety hazards for drivers and pedestrians on the street.

High school and city officials, trying to deal with complaints of student parking on a number of streets surrounding the school, have gradually increased parking restrictions on streets in the vicinity of the school, relined parking spaces in school lots and provided for student parking at Tatlock Field.

However, as parking is restricted on one street student drivers often move to other streets.

Anderson noted that 12 residents of his street, which is about a half mile from the high school, recently signed an email asking for the school district to address their concerns,  which include the inability of delivery trucks and emergency vehicles to get down the narrow street because of student parking on both sides.

He added that some students park facing in the wrong direction and close to fire hydrants.

The resident said that, although he and his neighbors appreciate the measures that have been taken to deal with the parking dilemma, some mornings there are an additional 18 to 22 cars on the street.

Anderson said he was not really complaining, but asking for help.

The superintendent of schools said the problem was very difficult to solve. High school principal Stacy Grimaldi has sent emails to students asking them to be more respectful of residents who live near the high school and has made announcements about the situation.

Chang added that parking at Tatlock currently is restricted to seniors and there isn’t much room for additional cars there, although he said he would look into that alternative.

School officials and Anderson agreed the situation has become worse in the last two or three months because many juniors have attained driving age.

Anderson also said he understood some of the challenges may come from the fact that New Jersey law restricts teenage drivers from operating vehicles with more than one additional passenger in the car unless accompanied by a parent or guardian and many high school drivers must transport younger siblings to and from other Summit schools.

He added that police do ticket drivers who park illegally, but even legally parked cars can create access problems on the streets.

Board vice president Richard Hanley suggested that one solution might be to have more students ride their bicycles to school rather than driving.

Hanley said this might be more practical if students did not have to carry backpacks loaded with textbooks. He asked Chang whether the district was increasing efforts to have instructional materials online.

The superintendent replied that some textbook companies do not have their materials fully online, but, when textbooks are replaced, teachers do look to online materials where they can.

He added that more teacher training is needed for online materials and teachers are not yet convinced that available online materials are completely reliable.

Chang praised the district’s 1-on-1 initiative for getting more mobile technology into the hands of students and said there will be a “stark difference” in the increased use of online materials in the next three or four years.

On another matter, Hanley, who now chairs the board’s operations committee, reported that currently the district has about $1.2 million in unencumbered funds left in the budget.

This figure was made possible in part, he said, due to a number of staff retirements and a one-year delay in the effectiveness of some provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.

He added that about $850,000 currently is available for use in the 2017-18 budget.

The operations chairman noted the committee would like to return about $150,000 to the maintenance budget and was considering bringing $300,000 to $350,000 forward to work on a number of projects, such as renovations to the Franklin School teachers’ lounge.

Another matter of continuing concern, he said, is the cost of health care benefits, which is expected to increase again this year without the yearend drop in the increase that the district saw in previous years.

He also said the committee is working on making budget terms more understandable to residents.

On the capital side, Hanley said, city officials have found that hoods on stoves used in the high school home economics program are no longer up to code. He added the committee believes about $100,000 will have to be allocated to bring the hoods into compliance.

He also said the district is looking into creating culinary arts classes that possibly could be run after school hours with costs paid for by residents taking advantage of the classes. 

Hanley also said school officials are working on a plan for a middle school greenhouse, but upgrades to school facilities to accommodate the greenhouse could cost as much as $840,000—without the physical greenhouse structure itself.

Some of the costs could be alleviated, he noted, with use of solar energy and partnering with other districts for some programs.

On another matter, education committee chairwoman Debra McCann reported students in all district grades but the high school had reached the 95 percent participation rates required to meet federal requirements for PARCC testing in 2015 and for tests taken this year.

She said Glazer would report on efforts to close the high school participation gap at the board’s regular meeting on Wednesday, June 15.

McCann said it is believed confusion about graduation requirements caused some of the lower participation rates and ways to better clarify the requirements are being sought.

Board president David Deitze reported the high school graduation would begin at 6 pm on June 23 at Tatlock Field and the middle school graduation would begin at 7 pm on June 21 at Tatlock.

The superintendent reported that the last day of school for the year would be June 21.

Dietze, in his report, also noted that the high school production of Mary Poppins had been named outstanding overall production in the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards.

He added that the award for outstanding actress in a leading role went to Claire Fitzpatrick who played the title role in Mary Poppins.

The board president also noted that eight Summit teachers had been named Union County Teachers of the Year:

Suzanne Shire - Jefferson and Wilson Primary Centers
Courtney Kaczynski - Brayton Elementary
Loreli Stochaj - Franklin Elementary
Janet Gibney - Jefferson Elementary
Carole Stubeck - Lincoln Elementary
Pamela Kinney - Washington Elementary
Daniel King - Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School
Lili Arkin - Summit High School

Dietze also noted that 13 Summit High School students had won Awards of Excellence:

Katherin Recio - Drama
Allison Curley - English
Steven Wichik - Industrial Arts
Yifei Li - Mathematics
Gary West - Physical Education
Nicholas Ritter - Publications
Allison Daney - Science
Jeffrey Berkowitz - Social Studies
Emily Tulsky - Technology
Brooke Murphy- Visual Art
Claire Fitzpatrick - Vocal Music
Patrick Seguin - Vocational Education
Clara Cho - World Language

The superintendent added that Nicholas Ritter and Emily Donahue of Summit High School were honored at the Union County Outstanding Scholars Breakfast. Donohue will attend Tufts University in the Fall while Ritter will attend Princeton University.