SUMMIT, NJ—At the Summit Board of Education’s October meeting, Superintendent of Schools June Chang reviewed his past eight months in the district’s top educational post, and outlined his future vision of the Hilltop City’s educational system, in a global society in which “virtual consumers are Summit’s reality.”

Citing Summit’s reputation as a premier district, he gave credit for its success to a curriculum delivered by “dedicated teachers who go the extra mile” and staff efforts in offering “an array of co-curricular activities that extend learning beyond the classroom and the school year.”

The superintendent, in particular, pointed to the nationally-recognized speech and debate team, “award-winning arts and athletic programs” and extended, summer enrichment programs such as FLASH and S-cubed.

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Chang also singled out academic successes such as the research-based approach to literacy from kindergarten to fifth grade, the TEDx program in the middle school and enrichment opportunities at the high school through advanced placement and honors courses and the Option II program.

He added, however, that, in order to maintain excellence, there must be a “constant desire to raise the bar and be better.”

Pointing to the fact that technology has changed the world, he added that “the free flow of information has revolutionized the rate at which one can attain knowledge” and “people all over the world are learning at the speed of a keystroke.” 

Referring to his childhood in South Korea, Chang noted his parents had a great expectation for a very high level of success, while, at the same time, providing a clear view of how to meet these high expectations. This, the superintendent said, is what Summit students should expect and the district should achieve.

“In order for our students to become competitive in this brave new world,” the superintendent added, “we need to prepare them to take on the problems that do not currently exist. With this understanding, my vision for the Summit Public Schools approaches education through a global lens.”

Because technology is the key to this success, he noted, the “committed partnership” of the Summit Educational Foundation (SEF) in funding the deployment of Chromebooks to all students at Summit High School. He also noted that, in preparation for the 1-to-1 initiative, the district changed email platforms to enable access to Google Drive and its many apps.

He added, “We provided training for all staff and we continue to provide professional development on academic uses of adaptive technology.”

The superintendent further noted that the district needs to adapt its instructional methods to meet student needs and allow for additional courses, utilizing online opportunities and developing college connections.

The steps he foretold and advocated included:

  • Seeking those who can teach additional AP offerings such as AP Studio Art 2-D/3-D, AP Computer Science Principles, AP Psychology and AP macro and microeconomics and
  • Looking at offering International Baccalaureate programs.

These steps, Chang noted, require careful auditing of programs to fund those that impact students and discontinue those that are not yielding returns, and redistributing funds where needed.

To carry out his vision, the superintendent also called for “contemporizing” recruiting practices by utilizing social media and university contacts “from the best education programs around the area and beyond.”

Additionally, he called for expansion of virtual course offerings and grant opportunities to connect students to academic program at local colleges throughout the tri-state area, citing the New York Fashion Institute of Technology’s fall and spring semester weekend opportunities for design, and New York University’s High School Programs, offering one-to-six week study opportunities on campus such as Pre-college, Music and Performing Arts Professions, G-STEM, and Urban Journalism Workshop.

He said the district should team up with such organizations as the SEF and the Summit Area Public Fund to develop long-range grants to help fund these programs.

Another initiative favored by the superintendent is the use of APEX, an online course program, to enhance mathematics and literary skills in the middle school by leveraging technological resources.

Chang also praised the district’s first-ever STEAM carnival, held on October 3, for empowering young student to think critically, be creative, and become problem solvers.

Citing a recent Duke University study which said that children who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to graduate from college as those who scored low, he said the district should focus on strengthening social and emotional development by helping develop self-management, self-awareness, and social awareness.

He added, “We will support our students through our counseling programs that will help them become confident individuals who are not afraid of creative challenges.”

Change concluded, “Our mission is quite simple, to provide the best for the best.”

Quoting Lord Alfred Tennyson, he said his intention for the Summit Public Schools is “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” in the pursuit of progress and excellence.

On another matter at the meeting, guidance director Laura Kaplan outlined the continuance of her five-year plan for her department.

She cited:

  • Increasing the college counselor position to a permanent position
  • Providing for more Chromebooks at the high school to increase student interaction
  • Increased staff professional development opportunities resulting, in one case, in the participation of a staff member in a national conference
  • Pursuit of the district as an American College Test testing site.
  • Increasing the potential of AP courses.

Also, in curriculum, she pointed to utilization of the Take A Stand Program in kindergarten to fifth grade to combat bullying, more student feedback in advising programs in the sixth to eighth grade, and increased group counseling for immigrant students new to the city and new to the American educational system and for underserved students aiming for four-year colleges.

Kaplan said that, by 2019, she was aiming for greatly increased professional development opportunities and greater student, parent, and guardian and community outreach.

In addition, she will aim for more collaboration with the district staff in efforts to streamline procedures and expanding academic program offerings.

She also called for further expansion of summer counseling to deal with college applications and prepare student schedules in advance and an additional student assistance counselor to enable a team approach in the middle school.

Kaplan also called for increasing counseling in each elementary building to provide “consistent and available counseling” whenever it is needed.

She concluded that members of her department are no longer just counselors, but they also are educators and advocates “who support the whole child.”

In another action, the school body unanimously voted to appoint Damen Cooper as the new principal of Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School.

In introducing the new principal, Chang noted those making the selection had reviewed 160 resumes and gone through an intensive interview process, and they were particular impressed that, from the time Cooper entered the room, he gave them a specific idea of what he expected of the middle school students and told them precisely how he would get them to achieve it.

Cooper said he took his responsibilities very seriously and would do his best to “develop the whole child with all the resources at my command.”