Summit High's National Merit Scholar Program Honorees ‘Book’ Their Favorite Teachers; Greenhouse, Culinary Arts Projects Detailed

Teammates: Summit's National Merit Scholarship winners with their favorite teachers.

SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Board of Education started the New Year with a flourish, as the 33 students honored by the National Merit Scholarship program, all seniors at Summit High School, continued the Hilltop City’s long tradition of having each of the students present their favorite teacher with a book.

The students, honored as a result of their junior year PSAT scores, and their teachers each chose to honor were Introduced by Summit High School Principal Stacy Grimaldi. They included:

Alexis Greenblatt - Randy Wallock 
Alina Patrick - Ethan Feinsod
Andrew Bradford Hollenbaugh - John Kratch
Brandon Gomes - Jeremy Morman
Brandon Johnston - Cindy Vitale
Christopher Heckelman - Neal Sharma
Christopher Kelser - Benjamin Greene
Christopher Ripsaw-Walsh -  Lili Arkin 
Delaney O’Dowd - Laura Schaffer
Diego Pinzon -  Alex Bocchino
Elina Turner - Monika Bartlett 
Emma Osborne - Karen Cotter
Ethan Kantor - Andrea Laquerre
Katherine (Katie) Kuzmin - Elizabeth Mongno
Katherine Scheer - Danielle Dees
Kiera Little - Barbara Slezak
Kunal Sengupta - Barbara Vierschilling
Laura Baldacchino - Gary Burns
Matthew Grange - Brian Weinfeld
Maxwell Model - Isaac Welsh
Pilar Canavosio - Aurora Hermo
Rachel Blume - Wendy Donat
Sabrina Fleischman - Lorelei Stochaj 
Savannah Dooley - Donald Tobey
Will Schaffer - Jean Fay
William Freeman - Elizabeth Buettner
Yannick Nandury - William O'Regan
Matthew Colon - Jodi Friedman
David Naiman - Nicole Terhune
Matt Wilson - Anne Poyner
Jack Johnson - Karen Manista
Sean Crotty - Irina Itriyeva
Finn McTernan - Christine Stelmach

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The meeting also saw presentations on the greenhouse proposed for the Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School and the culinary arts program under consideration at the high school.

Introducing the discussion on the greenhouse, Superintendent of Schools June Chang sad the program, based on a successful program sponsored in New York City by New York Sun Works, was designed to spread the concept of experiential learning, where students use critical thinking skills to solve problems where no resources are directly apparent.

Chang said it would offer an opportunity for student innovation and enhancing cross-cultural opportunities while fitting in with the goals of the school district’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts and Mathematics) curriculum and programs.

He added the initiative would provide growth by impacting students across the district.

District Director of Elementary Jennifer Ambrose said the technology in the greenhouse would be based on hydroponics—growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid with added nutrients and without soil.

Included would be an NFT (nutrient film technique) growing system, an aquaponics tank, compost station and seeding station.

Ambrose called hydroponics cost effective, cutting edge and innovative and the “way of farming in the future,” when soil-based growing methods may not be as readily available.

Core access to the facility, she said, would be to middle school students with secondary access by high school and elementary school students.

The first year of the program, the elementary education director noted, would be implemented in the middle school, with courses titled “Risky Business” in the sixth and seventh grades and “We Are What You Eat” in the eighth grade.

Using STEAM techniques to integrate more technology into learning, students would be challenged to design a course and educate other students through a “campaign” they would plan and launch on their own. Eighth graders would educate the community about the food system through an advertising “campaign” for a product they would create.

Chang added that, as in the world outside the classroom, students would be urged to challenge pre-conceived notions of science and come to their own conclusions through problem-solving.

During the first year of the program, Ambrose pointed out, high schoolers would use the greenhouse in an after-school program that would help expand the current high school planting program into a year-round activity.

There also would be a science research class, and after completion of their advanced placement classes in environmental science and biology, high school students would act as mentors, teaching eighth graders what they had learned.

Elementary school students, according to Ambrose, would not have access to the greenhouse until the second year of the program, beginning with visits to the facility by those in the kindergarten through fifth grades.

She noted, in line with the core curriculum science standards, students would gain practical knowledge to demonstrate to them that “plants acquire their major environment for growth through air and water, not soil.”

In the second through fourth years of the program, middle school cycle classes would continue in conjunction with the program and the facility would provide the basis for an after school club and a Green Club.

Among options for the food to be grown in the greenhouse would be:

  • Use for school snack programs
  • Teaching of science-based co-operative classes
  • A student-operated farm stand
  • Donation of crops to teachers and families
  • Formation of partnership with such organizations as local senior centers and food banks.

Estimated costs and specifications of the greenhouse facility and program were outlined by Mike Wozny of EI Associates, the district’s architectural contractors, also noting that he greenhouse would be located on a grassy area in back of the middle school, with the front of it facing north toward Maple Street.

Access would be from an exit at the right of the real portion of the school through a new canopy-like structure to be built. Its total area would be about 1,000 square feet, he said, and it would be located in the center of the area. This would require relocation of 15 parking spaces currently in that area.

There would be green space between the greenhouse and the Morris Avenue wing of the school with its entrance backing up onto the porte-cochère / former carriage drop-off area of the school.

Replying to a question from Board President David Dietze, the architect said the occupancy capacity of the greenhouse would depend on the type of equipment decided upon -- with an an estimated 20 square feet for every occupant.

He added that the new walkway would have an extension of the fire alarm system and cameras and other security systems currently in the main school building, thus preventing unauthorized entrance to the open sides of the new walkway.

Wozny said he believed it would not be necessary to leave lighting on all night to accommodate plant growth, and the District would work with residents who lived near the school to devise an acceptable schedule.

He added representatives of the New York City program said the proposed Summit site would provide sufficient sunlight, with the front facing north and good sunlight provided on the southwest side of the proposed facility.

Also, the facility would be designed in a mode similar to an “Edwardian conservatory,” he noted, with as much effort as possible to retain the design character of the middle school.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Louis Pepe estimated cost breakdowns at $87,000 for equipment, $265,000 for the structure, $35,000 for staging and setup of construction equipment, $13,000 for demolition of existing structures, $72,000 for masonry and concrete work, $12,500 for miscellaneous iron work, $12,000 for electrical services, $5,000 for a fire alarm system and $42,000 for major utilities and stormwater management.

He estimated the total would be about $667,000 before the costs of a general contractor’s overhead and profit, amounting to about $100,000.

With about $170,000 in “soft costs” such as architectural fees, printing, etc., he said the total would be approximately $937,000.

Wozny told board member Debbie Chang that he could not estimate continuing operating costs or life expectancy of the facility until he obtained a detail design and looked into energy costs, maintenance and replacement costs for components such as glass and steel.

Pepe said details of the presentation were expected to be on the District’s website January 20.

Wozny added the proposal would be reviewed by the Board’s education committee which would make a recommendation either for or against the proposal and then a courtesy review by the Summit Planning Board would be necessary under state education law.

A courtesy review gives the planning board the right to look over an educational facility’s plan without requiring approval by the Board itself.

Chang has expressed confidence much of the cost of the facility possibly could be provided through private fundraising, with the Summit Educational Foundation announcing in early December of 2016 that it would award a grant of $335,600 to be applied to the greenhouse project.

In answers to further questions on the facility, Chang told Summit Second Ward Councilwoman Mary Ogden that he did not believe the facility would put additional burdens on District teachers because, he said, the District would be seeking advice from those staff members who had existing background in the environmental field and those whose degrees were in the field.

Responding to First Ward Councilman Robert Rubino, Chang said New York City’s experience with their greenhouse facility showed that students were enthusiastically embracing the concept, and he was confident that would be the same story in Summit.

On another question from Dietze, the superintendent said the District wanted the greenhouse located at the middle school because that school was where students from all over the City of Summit first learn together, and its location there would enhance the transitional experience from elementary to secondary school.

The name 'greenhouse' for the facility, however, could be changed.

Chang seemed favorable to suggestions by resident Irvy Pinzon that names more inclusive of the facility’s total environmental education focus could be considered such as “ecolab” or “environmental education center.”

The superintendent also told Pinzon that the District also has been looking into additional partnership opportunities such as formal arrangements with the Liberty Science Center and Rutgers University.

On another possible project, a culinary arts facility at the high school, Wozny detailed he potential expansion of the existing high school home economics area to an adjacent photo laboratory and fashion design area. He added costs would vary depending on whether completely new equipment replaced existing equipment and how greatly the existing layout was changed.

The architect estimated the cost around $1 million, with lesser costs of $200,000 - $300,000 if the facility were constructed in the existing footprint, and further savings if plans for equipment were scaled back.

Pepe also said state officials have given the District permission to use a culinary arts facility for training employees of Pomptonian, the school food service providers. This would enable the District to use profits from Pomptonian -- thus potentially saving $200,000 to $300,000.

On another matter, the Board formally accepted the resignation of Donna D’Acunto, who was named to the newly-created post of director of secondary education last June when the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction role was split into two positions.

As TAPInto Summit reported on January 19, D’Acunto decided not to return from maternity / family leave.

Chang told TapInto Summit that an immediate search has begun for D’Acunto’s full-time replacement.

During her absence, D’Acunto’s responsibilities have been handled by consultant Brian Chinni, a retired supervisor of curriculum, instruction and assessment from Montvale, who is currently associate professor of educational program director of master of arts in educational leadership at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Chinni initially was hired on December 15 for up to 18 days of employment at $550 per day, however, Chang has said, depending on the length of the search, he may approach  Chinni to extend his number of days with the Summit District.

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