Education

Doug Orr Receives SEF Nora Radest Excellence Award, as Summit School Board Honors Retirees, Teachers of the Year; Secondary Education Director Appointed

Doug Orr, Mayor Nora Radest, along with the SEF's Christine Murray and Irene Murdock.   Credits: Summit Public Schools Photo Services
Superintendent of Schools June Chang congratulates retiring teaching staff members. Credits: Summit Public Schools Photo Services
Summit recipients of the Union County Teacher of the Year Awards. Credits: Summit Public Schools Photo Services
Newly-appointed Director of Secondary Education Donna D’Acunto with Board Vice President Richard Hanley, Board President David Dietze and Superintendent of Schools June Chang. Credits: Summit Public Schools Photo Services

SUMMIT, NJ—It was an evening for honors all around at the Summit Board of Education’s regular June meeting.

The Summit Educational Foundation (SEF) named school district technology supervisor Doug Orr the recipient of the Nora Radest Award for Excellence in Education. He was cited for his achievements in writing many of the technology grants subsequently awarded by the SEF to the district schools, and for his support of the goals of the organization throughout the years.

Also, the following retiring teaching staff members were honored by the school board:

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  • Joanne Balzano, basic skills teacher at Washington School, 18 years. 
  • Larry Cohen, retiring after a 25-year career, the last nine at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS).  
  • Judi Fisher, Jefferson Primary Center kindergarten teacher, 19 years. 
  • Josie Florio, retired from LCJSMS in February after 36 years in Summit.
  • Leslie Gueci, Wilson Primary Center, kindergarten teacher, 25 years in Summit. 
  • Margaret Lorenzo, special education teacher at LCJSMS. 
  • Patti Manzi, 43 years in Summit, an English teacher at LCJSMS. 
  • Debi Schwarzmann, also a LCJSMS English teacher, 20 years.   

Dan Miller, president of the Summit Education Association, and Wendy Donat, SEA vice president, also said that Ann Marie (Calamusa) Flynn should be added to the list.

They noted that Flynn, who started her career at the former Summit Junior High School in 1976 or 1977 as a student teacher, was hired thereafter and taught physical education at the middle school for 36 years.

Eight Summit teachers, who were honored by the Union County Teacher Recognition Program in May for exhibiting outstanding performance this year, also were cited at the Summit board’s June meeting.

The Union County Superintendent's Roundtable cited the following teachers, who, ”use innovative instructional strategies, establish a positive classroom climate, impact student achievement and contribute toward the quality of public education."

They are:

  • Wilson Primary Center: Suzanne Shire
  • Brayton: Courtney Kaczynski
  • Franklin: Loreli Stochaj
  • Jefferson: Janet Gibney
  • Lincoln-Hubbard: Carole Stubeck
  • Washington: Pamela Kinney
  • Middle School: Daniel King
  • Summit High School: Lili Arkin

In another action at the meeting, the Summit board named Donna D’Acunto to the newly-created post of director of secondary education at a salary of $132,000, effective July 5 of this year.

D’Acunto, since 2012, has worked for the Hoboken Public Schools as the kindergarten-to-12th grade mathematics and science district supervisor. 

In her new position, she will oversee curriculum and instruction, data analysis, assessment, and professional development for the sixth through 12th grades.

In her role in Hoboken, D’Acunto has been the coordinator and writer of kindergarten-1o-12th grades curriculum projects in the STEM subjects and sustainability initiatives in addition to serving as district testing coordinator. She also had served as the facilitator to bring Chromebooks to the district.  

This past year, she spearheaded the Rutgers Pre-Med Honors Program for students in the 10th to 12th grades and was the district liaison for coordinating the Stevens University Coding Club for seventh through ninth graders. In addition, she analyzed district-wide assessment data for kindergarten to 12th grades to inform staff and administrators of standards-based data to improve instructional outcomes and make predictions towards future state assessment results.

From 2010 until 2012, D’Acunto was a middle school and high school mathematics teacher in Hoboken. There, she “focused on innovative lesson plans with connections to the real world, interdisciplinary projects, literacy in the math classroom and technology integration,” according to Summit Superintendent of Schools June Chang, who recommended her for the Hilltop City post.

The new director began her teaching career at George Washington Middle School in Wayne and also taught high school mathematics at Kaimuki High School in Honolulu, HI. 

D’Acunto has coached and advised many athletic activities such as girls varsity fencing, boys and girls tennis, and rock climbing, ski, surf and dance clubs.

“Ms. D’Acunto possesses creativity, professionalism and a deep understanding of secondary education curriculum,” said Chang said. “She brings to Summit a strong background in math, science, technology and data assessment.  I am pleased that she will join the Summit team and I look forward to beginning our work together.”

D’Acunto has her bachelor of science degree in mathematics, with minors in computer science and art, and a master of arts degree in teaching secondary mathematics education, both from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck.

In a presentation at the meeting, guidance director Laura Kaplan and college counselor Alison Grill outlined college acceptance and other data from the Summit High School class of 2016.

Kaplan noted that 85.6 percent of the class would be attending four-year colleges with 8.2 percent attending two-year colleges.

The majority of those attending colleges had selected out-of-state public schools, she said.

Also, four students had decided to join the military, with two in the United States Army, one in the Navy, and one in the Israeli Army.

Six decided to go directly into employment after high school, while three decided on career education.

Although more students nationally are taking advantage of a “gap year” before becoming fully matriculated in college, she said, none in Summit’s class of 2016 decided to take advantage of the “gap” program this year.

She did say colleges are becoming more receptive to the gap idea, noting that the Summit district this fall is expected to have representatives of organizations sponsoring gap programs at its career fair, and the guidance department expects to have a panel discussion featuring gap program sponsors during the next school year.

Kaplan also noted that, although Hispanic students nationwide make up only 20.5 percent of the population, more than 80 percent of Hispanic students in Summit High School this year decided to pursue post-secondary education

Colleges that will have 30 or more Hilltop City students attending next year include Rutgers University, Penn State and Union County College.

Twenty or more members of the Summit class of 2016 made selections among about 20 in-state and out-of-state colleges, the guidance director noted.

In addition to traditional college programs, Grill noted, some members of the class of 2016 chose theater and acting programs, physical therapy, honors scholar programs and the American Honors Program at Union County College.

She also said some decided to go into two-year affiliated programs within four-year universities to enable them to be members of a “small cohort of classes” and partake of the “state or community college experience” while still attending four-year institutions.

Some students also selected international colleges or career education, she added.

Among Barron’s  “most competitive” colleges, Grill said, there were 684 applications submitted from Summit with 246, or 36 percent, accepted in these “most competitive” institutions.

Of those, she said, 98 would be attending the “most competitive” colleges, or 37.5 percent of those going on to four-year colleges, or 32.1 percent of the class of 2016.

She added that a total of 108 would be attend either a “most competitive” or “highly competitive” college, amounting to 41.4 percent of those going to four-year schools or 35.4 percent of the class of 2016.

Of those who were accepted into the “most competitive” colleges, Grill noted, 17 students chose not to attend these colleges because of one of the following reasons:

  • Better financial aid packages at other colleges
  • The higher prestige of specific academic programs at the other colleges
  • More desirable locations
  • More desirable campus life or atmosphere
  • A better social fit
  • Family responsibilities

The counselor added that 91 applications were made for early decisions and 86 individual students applied, of which 51 were accepted.

A total of 77 early decision applications were made to the “most competitive” schools with 42 of those accepted for a rate of 55 percent.

She also said many colleges made an extra effort to get a “lock” on students from underrepresented groups by urging them to apply for early decisions, and many also urged athletes to go through that process.

“First generation” students -- those whose parents had not earned a bachelor’s degree -- Grill noted, were 56 or 18.4 percent of the class of 2016, with 298 applications made and 205 of those applications accepted.

She also said the rate of those attending four-year institutions had increased by eight percent from 2014.

Thirty-eight students, or about 12.5 percent of the class, Grill said, were eligible for tree or reduced-fee lunches.

Of these, she noted, there were 167 applications with at least 119 acceptances. Eighty-four percent of those students would be going to fwo-or-four-year colleges.

As for regions of the country where the class of 2016 will be attending colleges, 165 will be in the Middle Atlantic States, 30 in New England, 40 in the Midwest, 37 in the South, two in the Southwest, nine in the West,  and one outside the United States.

In response to a question from board president David Dietze, Grill said she saw no particular trend among colleges in recent years to be more generous with student aid, although some of the more well-off colleges, like Franklin & Marshall, do make a greater effort to meet the needs of underrepresented students.

In a brief comparison of PARCC test statistics for this year versus last year, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Julie Glazer presented figures that seemed to indicate that the percentage of students in the Hilltop city’s elementary schools who met or exceeded expectations was slightly less than both the peer groups into which the state placed them and the state groups as a whole.

Summit Middle School scores showed the same trends, while Summit High School students scored second to Millburn in peer group percentiles and above other high schools to which Summit traditionally is compared.

When compared to the state percentiles, Summit scored slightly better than Millburn and above the other districts to which the Hilltop City generally is compared.

Glazer also said that the city district continues to have challenges reaching the desired 95 percent participation rate for the tests, especially at the high school level.

Although she noted that uncertainty about graduation requirements concerning the tests seems to be a factor, she said herself, the superintendent and other district officials have been attempting to educate students, parents and community groups of the necessity for students to participate in the new standardized tests.

She added state and federal officials still have not said whether they will penalize districts with less than 95 percent participation rates this year.

 

 

 

 

      

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