SUMMIT, NJ—Staff members in the Summit public schools who have attained tenure were honored by the Board of Education at its meeting on Tuesday.
Those cited were:
From Brayton School—Gertrudis Lopez-Cohen and Lauren Senko
From Franklin School—Ann Zanelli
From Jefferson School—Graziela Lobato
From Lincoln-Hubbard School—Michelle Hawley, Carole Stubeck, and Ashley Yospin
From Jefferson Primary Center—Lisa Belluzzi, Stefanie DeCarlo, Joy Giamalva, and Melanie Richeda
From Washington School—FJ DeRobertis and Francois Suhr
From the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School—Ann Dooley, Daniel King, Nicole Plumbo, and Amy Wysoczynski
From Summit High School—Laura Cataldi, Emily Dura, and Brian Weinfield
In introducing the honorees, board of education president Celia Colbert said the achievement of tenure in the Summit public schools was particularly significant because the district requires its staff members to meet very rigorous standards.
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The board also cited a number of staff members who recently achieved 25 years of service with the district: Marlene Martini, secretary at Washington; Jorge Mejia, Washington custodian; Judith O’Donnell, a basic skills teacher at Jefferson; Christopher Pacio, a custodian at the high school, and Katherine Webber, a cafeteria worker at the high school.
In addition, board communications chairman James Freeman congratulated the seven Summit High School students, Thomas Ellison, Claudia Hanley, Tabatha Hickman, Douglas Huneke, Alexander Kelser, Benjamin Kelser and Megan Shaw, who have been named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists.
Freeman also announced that the following 14 Summit students were named commended scholars, recognized for their “exceptional academic promise demonstrated by their performance on the qualifying test”: Emily Chin, Charles Gerard, Patrick Gilbert, Alex Ingerman, Micalea Kaplan, Grace Kisner, Patrick Maloney, Seamus McFadden, Connor Murray, Vincent Mutolo, Megan Ophel, Jai Padalkar, Mackenzie Roberts and Liam Stewart.
In addition, he congratulated Summit seniors, Zack Rissman, who attended the Governor's School of Science at Drew University, and Liam Stewart, who attended the Governor's School of Engineering and Technology at Rutgers University, both this summer.
On another topic, Colbert addressed the incident which occurred at the Summit-North Plainfield football game on September 13, resulting in charges of racial taunting by North Plainfield players against Summit players.
The school board president noted that there was a hole in the door separating the home and visitors’ locker rooms in the fieldhouse at Tatlock Park and, beginning with last year’s Summit football team, it had become a good luck practice in Summit to place a banana in that hole. This practice, she said, was one of the ways the Hilltoppers were encouraged to win games. Summit went on to win last year’s state championship.
She said, in no way, when the banana was placed this year at the North Plainfield game, was it meant as a racial insult to the North Plainfield team members, who are predominantly African-American, whereas Summit’s team is predominately Caucasian.
Colbert, who is African-American, said she thoroughly discussed the incident with her two sons, who both have played football for Summit.
The board president also said that the picture of the Summit Football program that had been painted by some people commenting in the media was completely different than accounts of the Football program by present and past Summit High School football players, including Elgin Ravenell, an African American who played football for the Hilltoppers, and was on the team that won a state championship in 2012.
Ravenell, in the September 20 edition of TAPInto North Plainfield, said Summit isn’t and never was a racist town. He said bananas were used as far back as 2012 to block the hole in the door between the two locker rooms to prevent the two teams from spying on each other during game planning. Bananas, he added, were used because Summit coaches only allowed players to consume Gatorade and bananas just prior to games and bananas fit perfectly into the hole in the door.
He also said that he, himself, had placed a banana in the hole during his time with the team.
Summit school officials ordered the hole in the locker room door to be permanently repaired and it was repaired last week.
Colbert said both schools have submitted reports on the incident to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which is investigating the matter, and they do not know when a report would be issued.
She added, while she understands that, in the early history of the United States, bananas were used to equate African-Americans with apes and monkeys, Summit officials have found no basis for a charge that the September 13 incident was meant as racial taunting.
Colbert expressed regret to any North Plainfield players who interpreted the incident as being racially motivated.
On another matter, the education board president, said, since the board and members of the Summit Education Association reached an impasse in their negotiations for a new contract, members of the association, "have continued to conduct themselves in a highly professional manner."
Colbert also encouraged parents who feel that their children have been impacted to contact their respective principal.
She added the next mediation session is scheduled for October 8.
Posters referring to the stalled contract negotiations, and the fact that SEA members continue to fulfill their duties to their students during the talks, were noticed on two cars in the parking lot of the high school during Tuesday’s board meeting.
In his remarks on Tuesday, superintendent of schools Nathan Parker welcomed newly-appointed staff members Nicholas Grimshaw, vice principal at the middle school; Laura Kaplan, school guidance director, and Janice Tierney, the new principal of the primary centers.
Parker also again introduced interim director of human resources Paul Arilotta and former primary school principal Felix Gil, who will become the Franklin School principal on October 1.
He noted that about 98 percent of the district’s parents had attended back-to-school nights and all schools were opened smoothly as the new administrators and new staff members joined the veteran staff members and students on opening day.
He added construction projects in most of the district schools had been completed during the summer within budget and on time.
Work continues inside the middle school, the superintendent added, and work crews have been separated from students throughout the process.
He also said new and more secure entrances have been completed or are in the process of being completed in all schools.
On another matter, resident Lisa Hartman of 53 Edgewood Road wanted an update on the district’s efforts to have elections in the city conducted in facilities other than the schools. She noted that a number of parents had written letters asking that the elections be moved due to a concern for security and student safety.
Parker replied that common council members were somewhat hesitant to remove the elections from the schools, and school officials were scheduled to meet with common council public safety chairman Patrick Hurley on Wednesday. In addition, while the matter is being discussed with council, the superintendent said police officers will be stationed in every school in which an election is to be conducted.
Mayor Ellen Dickson added that the matter of moving election sites is complicated because, for example, many city churches which possibly could host elections also had daycare and preschool classes, and the ultimate decision on polling place locations was up to the Union County Board of Elections.
She noted that, if elections were moved to the fire department the department would have to find an alternate space in which to house its vehicles.