Summit School Board to Hear Short-Term Options for Franklin Overcrowding Next Thursday; District Honors Retiring Staffers

Summit Wilson School Principal Felix Gill announces his Union County Teacher Recognition Program honorees. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Summit Public School Communications Coordinator Catherine Fernandez thanks well-wishers as she retires from the school district. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Retiring Summit High School mathematics teacher Andrea Severini is congratulated for 43 years of service with the district. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

SUMMIT, NJ—The school administration’s recommendations for a short-term solution to the overcrowding at the city’s Franklin School are expected to be aired at next Thursday’s board of education meeting.

Ed Mokuvos, chair of the education body’s operations committee said at Thursday’s workshop meeting of the board school that options for short-term solutions have been presented to the Franklin School taskforce comprised of administrative staff and citizens representatives. The board is expected to begin public review of the recommendations at its regular meeting next Thursday at 7:30 pm in the Summit High School library/media center, he added.

A vote on the proposals is expected at the school board's September public meeting, according to Mokuvos.

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However, David Shanker of 21 Llewelyn Road, a parent who has spoken out several times at board meetings on the Franklin issue, said Thursday many of those at the workshop meeting had expected to hear the recommendations at this Thursday’s meeting.

Shanker added he didn’t think there would be enough public discourse on the recommendations if the public does not see an outline of the recommendations before the board considers a vote.

By not keeping the public more updated on the process, he added, the board was not following the more open communications policy suggested to it by the citizen focus meetings held last year.

Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker replied he had not received the recommendations until this past Tuesday and data presented had to be reviewed before a report to the operations committee.

He said as soon as the task force meets to review the data the recommendations can be presented to the operations committee and then possibly the recommendations will be posted on the district’s website.

The superintendent said he expects a task force meeting to be held prior to next Wednesday, but he had to confer with principals who are on the task force prior to scheduling that meeting.

Board President George Lucaci added there should be sufficient time for public discussion on the recommendations at next Thursday’s board meeting and the two school body meetings in July, prior to the vote in September.

Parker did agree with Shanker that it would be wise for the district to consider any discussion for action stemming from the recently-released school population study along with consideration of whether to implement a full-day kindergarten open to all children in the Summit district.

The short-term options, however, must be presented next week if they are to be implemented in the fall, he added.

In two actions pertaining to Franklin School approved at Thursday’s meeting, the school body approved a $79,698.12 contract with WB Mason, Inc. of Secaucus for new furniture in the school library and $14,634.70 contract with Commercial Interiors Direct, Inc. of Riverdale for tile and carpeting in the library.

The expenditures will be made possible by the transfer of up to $1.5 million into the district’s capital reserve account due to unexpended funds in the current budget. Approval of that transfer is on the agenda for the June 21 meeting.

Also, at this Thursday’s workshop session, Celia Colbert, the board’s education chair, noted Parker had received the report of the district’s kindergarten task force.

She noted the task force was concerned that the original tuition-based full-day plan would not be affordable to many Summit parents.

Colbert added, however, before free all-day kindergarten is considered all board committees would have to review any proposal in light of how it would fit into the curriculum.

She noted more than 75 percent of the school districts in New Jersey do provide free full-day programs and it was seen in Summit as a possible way to bridge the achievement gap and increase socialization of students.

Colbert also said a full-day program possibly could help teachers in the first and second grades more easily “cement-in” topics and could be the key to better learning in science and mathematics.

She said an expert on full-day kindergarten would report at the June 21 board meeting and return again in the fall so those parents on vacation could hear the presentation when they returned.

In addition, at Thursday’s workshop session, the board honored teachers from each of the district’s schools who have been named as outstanding educators in the Union County Teachers Recognition Program.

Lucaci noted this was the first year Summit participated in the county program, which has been in existence since 1985.

Also honored at Thursday’s session were the following retiring staff members:

  • Lawton C. Johnson Middle School special education teacher Sue Simone-Vidal;
  • Middle school French teacher Joelle Minet;
  • Summit High School art teacher Robert Walker;
  • High school mathematics teacher Andrea Severini;
  • High school mathematics teacher David Pease;
  • High school custodian Marcel Jules;
  • High school English teacher Phyllis Harwood;
  • District communications coordinator Catherine Fernandez;
  • Carol Procaccini, secretary to the high school assistant principal;
  • Washington School basic skills teacher Carolyn Kalellis;
  • Washington School basic skills teacher Marian Sansone; and
  • Brayton School nurse Barbara Vail.

In another honor, high school principal Paul Sears presented Pease, who was named Union County Swimming Coach of the Year, with an American flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington, DC on May 29. The flag was presented on behalf of Congressional Representative Leonard Lance.

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