Summit Community Members "Speak Up" Regarding Curriculum Changes in Summit's Public Schools

People partake in refreshments before the meeting
Melanie Wilson, President of Speak Up Summit, addresses the crowd.
Dr. Nathan Parker talks with other members of Summit before the event.
Concerned parents and citizens attend the Speak Up Summit event on Saturday Morning.
Left to Right: Nathan Parker, Melanie Wilson and Paul Sears at the event.
Laura Coburn listens to the speaker at the Speak Up Summit event

SUMMIT, NJ - On Saturday, January 23, 2010, members of the Summit community attended a meeting organized by Speak Up Summit to address curriculum changes at the high school level.

An open forum and exchange of ideas was on the agenda for the day. As was expressed by many in attendance, not only do the parents of Summit want to know about the curriculum changes, but the administrators and Board Members want everyone to know the changes that are taking place. Many members of the community were present, including Dr. Philip Eisner, a former member of the Summit Board of Education and an environmental columnist for The Alternative Press, and Melanie Wilson, organizer of the event and President of Speak Up Summit.

The event began at 9:30 a.m. with Wilson, who has been organizing events for the past three years, speaking briefly about the common goals for the forum. "One of the goals of Speak Up Summit is to inform the public so that people have the information that they need to effectuate change," said Wilson. "By having all of the administrators here with teachers and parents on a Saturday morning, they are sharing ideas. There is always a lot of hearsay that's going on and people only get bits and pieces of the story."

Wilson also mentioned how and why meetings like this are needed for the success of a healthy community: "One of the most important parts of today was giving the administrators a chance to get feedback from the parents and from the community so they can see what the concerns are. We had a lot of scientists and mathematicians here today and they are the best people to discern what is wrong with physics in 9th Grade or [the impact of] taking away an Honors class." said Wilson.

One of the topics on the agenda that spurred quite a bit of discussion was changes to the English Program. Wilson commented about the curriculum change: "Taking away Honors English was seen as a dumbing down of the curriculum...I think that today it was explained that it wasn't. This change gives students a chance to learn at their own level."

Dr. Nathan N. Parker, Superintendent for Summit Schools, attended and spoke at the event.  He opened up the forum with a brief introduction: "I think that the district's in great shape."  "I don't take credit for that but the district has fabulous parent support," he said. 

Parker then went on to speak about how Summit is the only school district he knows that looks three years ahead regarding curriculum changes. He said, "The focus points outlined here today were put together last March by about 85 people…it really represents a cross section of the community." During his speech, Parker also mentioned that about 26 percent of Summit's graduates attend some of the most competitive colleges in the nation.

Dr. Parkers' speech emphasized the importance and relevancy of the Arts Programs in Summit and how it is one of the most advanced programs he has ever seen.  Dr. Parker also said, "The quality of people who are with kids day in and day out in Summit is important…the superintendent is much, much less important in my opinion." 

After the event, Dr. Parker shared his thoughts about the forum: "It's a great chance for the community to come together with our staff to speak about important aspects that effect the students' educations."  He continued, "I thought it was a remarkable discussion and it's such a remarkable group of community members who care so much about their kid's education."

Those in attendance were made aware of the new half million dollar Media Literary Studio at the High School and how the staff is being trained in iMovie to help the students with the program. The attendees were also informed of the 13 million dollar boiler system recently installed in the schools.

At 10:00 a.m., Mr. Toby spoke about the Math and Science program. His main agenda was to inform the parents about the 2-year Algebra program that will be starting in 8th Grade. Students that attend this program will move into Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus later on in high school. Mr. Toby's speech concluded with information about how the students will ultimately be able to take Multi-Variable Trigonometry at the high school level.

Several questions and concerns from the audience arose including from Dan Meyers, father of two daughters in Summit, who stated that some students will have to "drop down" to accommodate the Math Curriculum changes. Another question from Nancy Gorman asked whether Algebra I or Algebra I Enriched will be available next year. 

The concerns raised by the parents were alluding to possible problems adjusting for the students currently involved in the school's math programs.

Summit High School Principal Paul Sears spoke at length regarding the Language Arts Program. He said that until the changes that were recently proposed there was no clear distinction among the lower levels of English. He said that now, students will ultimately have "a concrete level of confidence" to move on to a high level of Language Arts.

Several members at the event discussed the changes in Physics and Biology. Many speakers spoke on the topic and came to the conclusion that the curriculum changes are open for further discussion in the weeks and months ahead. One member of the panel stressed the need for field experience to be instituted in the curriculum for the benefit of the Science students.

The event ended just before noon with many members of the audience coming away with a better perspective about the new curriculum changes at Summit High School. Parents and citizens are encouraged to contact the high school for copies of the paper work discussed at the forum or to speak with any of the members of administration or the Board at future Board Meetings.

To learn more about upcoming events for Speak Up Summit, please contact Melanie Wilson on Facebook under "Speak Up Summit", or contact the Summit Board of Education.

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