SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Educational Foundation (SEF), at Thursday’s workshop meeting of the Summit Board of Education, presented the board with a total of $271,626 in fall grants for a wide variety of school programs, projects, and instructional tools.

The SEF awards the grants, funding for which is collected from a variety of donors throughout the community, in the fall and spring of each academic year.  Grant proposals are made by members of the district staff.

In making the grant award announcements, Diana Sajer of the SEF noted that the group had reviewed a total of $310,000 in submitted proposals before deciding on the final grant awardees.

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In terms of the grant amounts, the top five were:

  • $72,170 for “Collaborative Classrooms Social Studies” to purchase node chairs for seven social studies classrooms at the Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School. This project builds on the collaborative classroom project implemented in the school’s language arts classrooms in 2012. According to the grant award, the node chairs have a positive impact on instruction by making student transitions quicker and facilitating collaborative groupings to build student communications skills and critical thinking. The chairs also promote collaborative thinking in flexible classroom spaces.
  • $49,000 for “enVision Math Professional Development” to support supplemental professional development to use new resources brought about through the district adoption of the enVision math program in kindergarten to fifth grade. Consultants from Pearson Learning will be contracted to provide “job-embedded coaching by grade level to instructional staff” in the first to fifth grades.
  • $22,805 for “Next Generation Innovative Classrooms” in the middle school by enabling the purchase of Amith System and Feek furniture of one language arts classroom as a pilot for “next generation” innovative classroom furniture to support the problem-based learning method of teaching. This flexiblity for students and teachers will allow classroom space to be changed to support various “collaborative small group, large group, whole class, paired and independent activities.”
  • $20,847 for “Web Racing Group Fitness Bikes” to be purchased for indoor spin cycling as part of the Summit High School physical fitness curriculum.
  • $17,995 for “Yamaha MIE Technology”  to enable purchase of a music in education program at the middle school to “create a technology-empowered general music classroom that enables the music teacher to provide a comprehensive music education, supporting the philosophy that every child should have a sustained education in music as active music makers, creators, and responders.”

Sajer emphasized, however, that grant awards were made in a number of specific categories.

For example, in guidance-related grants, there was a $400 grant awarded for “Navigating the American School System” to fund workshops hosted by the Hispanic Parent Association at the high school and the Summit Area YMCA, designed to provide comprehensive college and career planning for students and families in the Hispanic community.

Also, “Addressing the Needs of Children of Divorce,” in conjunction with CODIP, a school-based preventive program designed to meet the needs of children dealing with the challenges associated with parental separation and divorce.  Based in the second to fifth grades at Brayton and Jefferson Schools, the program is developmentally tailored to meet the needs of the age group participants by focusing on children’s divorce-related feelings, effective coping skills and emotion regulation.

Another Brayton-Jefferson program, “Expanding Expression,” enables purchase of a “systematic, multi-sensory language kit, The Expanding Expression Tool, for use with students in language services.”  The kit consists of a manual, stickers for written expression, object cards for describing activities and a posters.

“Amazing Ants!”, a program for all kindergartners in the Jefferson and Wilson Primary Centers, will supplement the existing ant curriculum through purchase of the book, “Those Amazing Ants” for each classroom and materials for students to make clay models of ants.  In addition, a local scientist will give a brief lesson on anatomy and behavior and assist students with construction of the clay model.  Students also will use a  videomicroscope to visualize “ants in action maintaining their colony and observe pinned specimens.”

Grants total approximately $101,000 for elementary school projects, $129,000 for middle school projects and $41,000 for projects at the high school. 

Board president Celia Colbert, praised the hard work of the foundation members on carefully reviewing each grant, said, “The Summit Educational Foundation brings the hopes and dreams of the donors to fruition.”

She added the grants awarded are aimed at truly helping Summit, and not just following what is current or trending.

On another topic, superintendent of schools Nathan Parker announced that the City district had met the state’s criteria for high performing status in the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC), the state department of education’s monitoring and evaluation system for public schools.

As a result, Parker noted, the district will be able to apply for an equivalency which would exempt the city district from QSAC requirements for three years.

The superintendent said Summit had achieved the status by scoring at the highest level in 23 to 24 points measured for the QSAC standing.

The district was commended for its instruction and program, fiscal effectiveness, governance, operations and personnel.

The QSAC report also noted that Summit had achieved high performing status in the previous cycle.

On another matter, Colbert announced that board representatives and representatives of the Summit Education Association (SEA) would again meet with a state mediator on Monday, December 15, in an attempt to come to an agreement in the impasse in the contract talks between the district and the SEA, which represents the district educational staff.

Also on Monday, Summit schools will have only a half-day session so school personnel can train on the ALICE security system beginning at 1:15 pm.

Colbert also announced that this June the board will set new district focus areas for the following three years.  She noted community input into the process will begin with a survey to be conducted next month, and meetings for the community and school staff are expected to be held in March.

The goal, she said, is to have the focus areas prepared for adoption when new superintendent of schools June Chang begins his term in the district in March.

On the issue of the continuing construction program in district schools, assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe said that, due to the age of the middle school building, a number of unforeseen circumstances had been uncovered during the work on that building.

For example, when working on the auditorium, after a ceiling was uncovered a second ceiling was found underneath it.

As a result of these unforeseen items, he noted, the costs of the project had exceeded estimates by $60,000 to $100,000.  However, the district will be able to cover those costs by taking money from the capital reserve, without seeking additional funding from the board of school estimate.