SUMMIT, NJ – The Board of Education meeting on Thursday, September 23, was a gathering of festivities in addition to protocol. Faculty as well as the public were invited to attend a reception prior to the meeting in honor of the 25th Anniversary of staff members Dr. John Schnedeker, Marilyn Casale, and Fran Priore, as well as newly tenured members on the faculty.
The preceding reception was a casual atmosphere for faculty members to celebrate with friends and faculty in the Summit school community while enjoying a sampling of treats and classical music from the High School’s String Quartet, directed by Barbara Vierschilling.
Players Grace Lee, Chris Chen, Kristen Fedor, and Michael Nitzberg brought a taste of elegance to the library concourse with selections from Bach, Mozart, and Mendelssohn.
Assistant Superintendent of Summit schools Julie Glazer launched the formal beginning of the board meeting with a PowerPoint review of summer programs offered in the district this year. The programs included SNAP (Summer Needs Academic Program), targeted for at-risk, low income students, ESY (Extended School Year Program), designed for students with disabilities and learning needs, and S (Summit Summer Skills), a program for troubled students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.
Overall, the sessions were designed to address the serious loss of academic skills over the summer months by emphasizing individualized attention in reading, writing, and mathematics. The programs also helped close the achievement gap between students on varying academic achievement levels.
Over 25% of Summit Staff members worked over the summer to help out with the events. Glazer emphasized the remarkable success of the program, citing that 20 students brought a failing grade to an A or a B, and 6 students received their high school diploma concluding the summer sessions.
Most of the board meeting was dedicated to honoring newly tenured staff members and the 25th Anniversary of service in the Summit school district by John Schedeker, Marilyn Casale, and Fran Priore. Secretary at Summit High School Fran Priore was unable to join the ceremony due to a previous commitment, but sent her best wishes to those in attendance.
Drama teacher in Summit Middle Schools Ron Wells introduced Marilyn Casale, vocal music teacher in the elementary schools, with a highly entertaining speech that included quotes (occasionally sung) by sources ranging from “The Sound of Music” to “Snow White.” For the finale of his speech, Wells improvised a quote from “Mame.”
“You brought good music back into style, Marilyn,” he said.
Also recognized for 25 years of dedication to education in Summit was Dr. John Schnedeker, director of the district Guidance Department. Jeff Lambert, elementary school guidance and student assistance counselor, gave a sincere and heartfelt speech on his behalf.
“John Schnedecker shows the tenacity to want to help out any and every kid under his tutorage … if he knows he has something to do, he’s not going to stop until it’s complete. And when you’re working with kids, it’s hard to ever get to that point … but Dr. Schnedecker will go the extra mile.”
Moving along to the business aspect of the meeting agenda, the Nepotism Policy was officially approved Thursday night, a topic frequently discussed and debated over the past few months.
The policy prohibits relatives of current faculty members at Summit from working in the same school district as their family members. The intention of enacting such a policy is to avoid favoritism among the academic community.
Also discussed was a necessity to improve communication between Summit staff and the public. The subject immediately sparked rapt attention from everybody in the room.
Board member Gloria M. Ron-Fornes said, “We need to share the good things; by sharing factual things, the community can understand the Summit School District much better.”
“There’s a lot of information the public would benefit from having, so they can make an informed decision,” said board member Celia Colbert.
Concern that lack of communication had a negative impact on the success of the Summit school district appeared an overwhelming sentiment across the board. Members agreed to discuss a formal process to improve communication between staff members and the public at a later date.