SUMMIT, NJ - In the final Board of Education Meeting prior to the 2019-20 school year, personnel matters -- including another key administrative departure -- were a significant part of the evening, as it was noted on the agenda that Lorena Dolan, who was named Assistant Principal at Summit High School in February of 2016, has resigned.

Dolan confirmed to TAPinto Summit that she expects to be approved as principal of Mount Pleasant Elementary School in Livingston at the Livingston Public Schools Board of Education meeting July 17. Dolan is the third Summit Public Schools employee to leave for Livingston in the past 60 days, joining Matthew Block and Michelle Cebula who recently departed to assume the roles of Superintendent and Collins Elementary School Principal, respectively.

At the meeting, the Summit school board approved Dolan's resignation along with the appointment of three administrators who were recommended by Superintendent June Chang: Robert Gardella, who replaces Block as human resource director; Tanya Lopez, who replaces Cebula as assistant director of education; and Laura Muller, who replaces Alicia Subervi as an assistant principal at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS). Subervi, whose resignation was noted and approved on the May 9 Board of Education meeting agenda, left Summit to accept the position as principal of Green Brook Middle School.

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Student Safety Data System  (SSDS) and Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB)

The Student Safety Data System (SSDS) is a self-assessment, which means the District “grades” itself on how it is doing.  It tracks incidents of violence, threats, weapons, vandalism, and substance abuse both on and off school grounds. The latest reporting period covered events from January 1 - June 30, 2019.

Chang explained in detail what each of the offenses meant. For example, he defined what a “threat” is. He said, “I don’t want people to get the wrong idea -- it’s not that someone came to attack the school -- it was a direct student-to-student threat.” This would include if someone takes a pen and “makes a stabbing action” or says, “I’m going to hurt you,” he said.

There were no such “threats” at the elementary-school level, he said.  

There was one incident of a “weapon” during this reporting period.

Chang said, “When people hear ‘weapon,’ they perk their ears.”  It may be that someone brought a kitchen knife to school, he said.

In this instance, someone brought a Swiss Army knife on a keychain to a field trip.

He said that the incident was noted, and everyone complied with remedying the situation.

He also explained “inappropriate contact,” of which there were eight cases reported.  “This could be just one student bumping into another,” he said.

The ‘inappropriate classroom outburst” is usually for someone yelling something like “Oh my God,” and interrupting the class, Chang said.

He said that there was a “dip” in some instances, and there were increases in others.

“I don’t think we are much different from other schools that report this stuff out,” he said.

“We have a commitment to creating a caring and respectful school culture,” he said.

District Anti-Bullying Coordinator Laura Kaplan gave the remediation portion of the HIB report.  

The numbers indicate a drastic reduction in cases investigated / confirmed at LCJSMS from 2016 - 2017 (23 - 9) and 2017 - 2018 (28 - 14) to the latest reporting period (2 - 2), she reported.

That, she said, is because there was a state policy change that now allows the District to decide which cases need to be investigated. She also attributed improvement to a better “climate and culture” at the school.  

Remediation for incidents include parent / guardian contact, suspension, sensitivity training student counseling, denial of privileges, detention, and agency reporting.

Training and programs include, the 'Youth Empowerment Alliance', suicide prevention training, the 'Month of Kindness', advisory, 'Take a Stand', assemblies, classroom lessons, school climate meetings, and parent programs. 

The numbers include instances only when a student got “caught.” So, while the culprit was determined in the cases of inappropriate anti-racial graffiti found earlier this year, it was never determined who penned the swastikas that were found in the schools, so those incidents are not included in the numbers.

Class of 2019 Outcome Data

Kaplan, in her role of Director of School Counseling K-12, and College Counselor Alison Grill presented “fun facts” about the recently-graduated Summit High School (SHS) Class of 2019.

There were 301 students in the class, with 94.3 percent pursuing higher education, including 7.3 percent who are attending a two-year college. Of the rest, one percent will be going straight to work (including careers in the food and music industries); .7 percent will be going into the military; one percent are taking a gap year (this usually ends with the pursuit of a four-year degree, so the numbers will likely change); 1.7 percent are attending a fifth year of high school; and 1.3 percent will be doing career education.

New Jersey state schools are not the preferred destination for the Class of '19.  While 258 Hilltoppers will be attending a four-year college, 129 of will attend private, out-of state schools; 76 public, out-of-state schools; 38 attend public in-state schools; and 15 will attend private in-state schools. Four students will attend international schools.

There were about 100 more applications this year over last year’s class -- Class of 2019 students submitted 1,980 college applications. Students applied to Rutgers more than any other school with 61 applications, followed by Penn State with 51. There was an “uptick” of 20 more applications to Penn State, Kaplan said because, for the first time, the school allowed the Common Application. She said that, on average, students sent six or seven applications, which is below the national average.  

Washington University in St. Louis had the biggest decrease, down from 28 to 5 applicants.  Kaplan said this is because that school added a supplement to its application.

“That’s what happens when kids have to work a little harder,’ she said.  

Boston College fell from 31 to 21 applicants as its increased competitiveness has been recognized. Kaplan and Grill said they expect an increase in Boston College applications next year as the school announced that they will implement an Early Decision (ED) admissions program to replace the Early Action program.

Other schools, in order, which received the most applications from Summit High School students are:

The University of Michigan, Union County College, Miami University (Oxford), Fordham, University of Maryland (College Park), Syracuse, Indiana, Tulane, Clemson, Montclair State, Boston University, University of Miami, The College of New Jersey, Seton Hall, University of Delaware, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Kaplan said that many Summit students like “the feel” of a big university.

She said that the University of Pittsburgh is so popular because they have a rolling application that begins in January.  

“It’s nice for the students to get a ‘yes’ back sooner,” she said.

The data was also broken out by ethnicity.

Of the 258 four-year college attendees, 179 are white; 11 are African-American; 24 are Asian; 31 are Hispanic; and 13 are multi-racial. Of the 22 two-year college attendees, the numbers are 6, 1, 2, 13, and 0 respectively.  

The schools that Barron’s deems “most competitive” had 801 applications from Summit students, with 308 acceptances, a 38.5 percent overall admit rate. These went to 149 unique students. Of those acceptances, 104 of those students will be attending the “most competitive” (MC) schools.  

Grill discussed some of the reasons why students who are accepted in these MC schools do not attend. These include financial considerations, specific academic / honors programs, location, social fit, and more.

For the ED applications:  a total of 81 students sent in applications, for a total of 87 ED applications.  (Seven took advantage of ED 2 opportunities when they did not get into their first-choice schools); 49 were accepted. Of the applications, 72 were to MC schools, with 37 acceptances.  

She said that some schools fill 50 percent of their freshmen class with ED applicants.  

Grill said that in recent years, many of the elite colleges have put an emphasis on accepting “first generation” and more economically-disadvantaged students.  

First generation, she said, means that the applicant’s parents do not have a Bachelor’s Degree.

“Many of our students don’t fit that demographic,” she said.

There were 56 first-generation applicants, or 18.6 percent of the class. They sent in 258 applications, with 117 acceptances. Of them, 45 percent were sent to MC schools, with seven acceptances and three attending.

The most competitive schools are not giving the most money, she said.  

“They are choosing schools with better financial aid,” she said.  She said that TCNJ, Loyola, and Clemson fit this bill; they are not on the MC list.  

Low-income students have another set of challenges, Grill said, adding that the guidance department is working diligently with the students to help them fill out the forms and follow up with the financial aid paperwork.  

Sometimes, she said, they are undocumented and cannot get access to federal financial aid.

Other times, she said, money does not wind up being the issue.

There were 47 low income, as defined by qualifying for the free-and-reduced lunch program, students. They sent in 232 applications, with 158 acceptances. Of those, 39 applications were sent to MC schools, with two acceptances and one student attending. Twenty-six will be attending a four-year college; 14 will be attending a two-year school.

Over the last three years, the profile of SHS grads has been getting better each year. The average grade point average went from 3.641 in 2017, to 3.664 in 2018, and 3.718 this year. Average ACT score went from 27 to 28 and 28, and SAT scores went from 1,184 to 1,213 and 1,231 respectively.  

2018-19 Board Goals Update 

Director of Education / Chief Academic Officer Jennifer McCann gave an update on the Board’s goals for the school year.  

She said that students and staff completed a survey which allowed the District to create an action plan that helped the District satisfy all goals.    

Goal One, which focused on the data that showed mathematics had fallen short mid-year -- fewer than 50 percent had met their goal -- resulted in data now show that, by the end of the school year, 100 percent of students are proficient in their individualized learning goals.

McCann said that the District will “continue to have conversations and develop strategies” to keep the District moving forward.  

Other reports

In her President’s announcements, Vanessa Primack said that the Board had just completed part two of its annual retreat, and that Chang said that his goals for the next school year are to continue to “promote positive school culture.”

Chang said that the summer FLASH program has 338 students, 35 classes, 40 teachers, and 30 student counselors taking place.  

Education Committee Chair Donna Miller said that the committee had a “robust” calendar conversation, and approved the 2020-21 calendar with a start date of August 31.  

She said that they also discussed with LCJSMS Principal Donna Gallo how Summit middle school students are prepared, particularly in science, for the “rigors” of entering Summit High School.  

Policy Committee Chair Mike Colon said that there were three policy revisions, including school dismissal forms, board committees, and one which requires that participants on Summit High School sports be students at the school.  During the past school year, one mother of a home-school student requested that her son be able to play on the SHS soccer team. At the time, no formal policy was in place.

Chang said that this “takes the decision out of my hands.”