SUMMIT, NJ - The anticipated roof repairs for Summit High School are now estimated to cost a total of $3.13 million, a decrease of $1.87 million from the estimate of $5 million noted at the Summit Board of Education's October meeting. The update was provided by Education Operations Committee Chair Chris Bonner at Board's November meeting, a sparsely-populated gathering held in the high school's Media Center.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Lou Pepe said that the cost reduction was due to an “infrared analysis” which revealed that the insulation “was in good shape,” a development that alone will yield about $500,000 in savings.

The project is currently expected be spread out over three years, beginning in the summer of 2020, and will use existing capital. The roof will be divided into thirds, for both funding and repairs.

Sign Up for Summit Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“This will eliminate the need to go to bond,” Bonner said.  

The staggered roof repair can be done in stages, he said, based on varying conditions.

“This works out nicely,” Bonner added.

The first phase will be added to the 2020-21 budget. Pepe said that the District will go out to bid in January or February, because it has to be in the budget before it can be put out for bid.  

Pepe said that he “hopes to get the project going” by July 1.

The funds will come out of the capital reserve account, Pepe said.  “Pushing off” the repairs for a longer time period gives the District time to build the account back up.

Pepe said that by doing the repairs in stages, and by possibly stretching the three-year repair out over five years, the District could “stagger the life cycle” of the roof, so that “a future Board won’t face a $20 million repair.”  

Middle School Fields

Bonner also reported that the grass fields at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS) are in need of repair. The District is investigating partnerships with community organizations.  

Board President Vanessa Primack said that the LCJSMS PTO has funds allocated for the project. Pepe said that this amount is $50,000.

Pepe said that the District, through the Joint Fields Commission, is working with the Board of Recreation and Summit Junior Baseball, which also use the field.  

He said that the goal is to “improve the area and improve safety.”  The project will include fencing in the area completely. Currently, a partial fence stops on the corner, he said.

Professional Development

Superintendent June Chang said that the Summit School District needs to prepare students for a world in which career prospects are unknown.  

Assistant Director of Education Tanya Lopez presented an overview of the District’s professional development programs, and what has been done to address the educational and technological changes Summit students face.

She said that changes are coming at “breakneck speeds,” but that the District is adapting.

Lopez outlined the different types of professional development for each grade level. She said that the trend has shifted from using Teacher’s College to developing “home grown” training.

The training programs fall under District Goal #3, which is to “cultivate a love of learning and a collaborative culture of excellence using cutting-edge educational practices.”

At the elementary schools, English Language Arts (ELA) will continue to be supported by the programs started by Teacher’s College, which includes giving independence to young readers and allowing the teaching professionals to train based on the needs of the students in their classrooms and their own interests.

Even at this young age, “vocabulary development is a powerful indicator of college and career readiness,” Lopez said.

Differentiation in math workshop and “interdisciplinary literacy” will be continued. This means that students use their reading and writing skills to solve math, science, and social studies problems.

“Literacy lives in everything,” Lopez said.

At LCJSMS, training moves from a focus on Special Education and ESL to one of “Culture and Climate.” This includes a “No Place for Hate” program from the Anti-Defamation League, which includes training on bullying, and cooperative learning. 

Additionally, writing rigor and articulation; along with interdisciplinary / content area literacy will be practiced.

At the high school, training moves from “restorative practices ”-- with teacher leadership training and  professional development provided by teacher leaders -- to “restorative circles,” which includes training on protocols and practices for implementation, and advisory where “volunteer teachers and counselors develop and reflect on programming.”

Lopez said that at advisory, students and teachers work together “on issues high schoolers face.”

Lopez said that this teaches “responding to the world in critical ways.”

She said that “the technology department is also very hard at work.”

Across the District, technology professional development includes, 1:1 Chromebook Initiative (grades 3-12), Annual Summit Technology, In-Service Coding and Robotics (Ozobot), Tech-Infused Teaching Practices, 3-D Modeling and Printing, Digital Citizenship, Tool and Resource Updates: WeVideo, Pear Deck, FlipGrid, Buncee, Flocabulary, Job-embedded coaching and support (technology coaches).

Primack said “keeping current with educational trends is essential to empower our educators.”

Committee Reports

In his Operations Committee report, Bonner also announced that Newsweek chose Summit as one of the top 5,000 STEM schools in the country.  Summit ranked #190, out of the top 5,000 schools, putting it in the top 96 percent in the country, and seventh in the state.  Two other Summit schools--Kent Place and Oak Knoll -- were also chosen.  

Bonner said, “That’s really awesome; it makes me feel good as a Board member and as a taxpayer.”

He said that the District audit was deemed to be in compliance, a result of “quality fiscal management.”

Bonner reported that the District received a $1,500 award from the Diploma Joint Insurance Fund Safety Incentive Program, which is to be used for safety-related projects and improvements.  

Pepe said that of 22 member districts, only three earned awards.  

“It’s nice to get an award that brings money back into the District,” Pepe said.  

Donna Miller, chair of the Education Committee said that the committee met with Director of School Counseling Laura Kaplan, and reported that the guidance department’s mission is in the “tweaking phase.”  They have a plan to continue to connect with all students K-12, and want to learn about any factors that “keep students from reaching their potential.”  

The counseling staff has been going through professional development as well, Miller said.

Miller reported on the English Language Learners (ELL) program, and said that the committee was satisfied that “programs bring students to proficiency in a reasonable amount of time.”

She said that there are 182 ELL students, and that 17 languages are spoken in the schools.

“There’s a lot going on,” she said.  

Policy Committee Chair Mike Colon said that the committee will be looking at the way employees who are not considered full-time employees earn sick leave.

Board Member Deb McCann, who gave the Communications Committee report for Chair Peggy Wong,who was absent from the meeting, said that a change on the District website allows the community to “subscribe” to various interest areas on the site to receive word when something new is posted.  

Summit resident Dr. Paola Acosta, co-founder of Empowering Kids Organization, questioned if “celebrating diversity” is part of the professional development series.  

“Is there something in place that addresses issues such as unconscious bias,” she asked.

Chang said that the District is working with the ADL  and teachers are working independently as well.

Acosta said the District should hire staff that reflects the diversity across the District.

Looking ahead, the December Board of Education meeting will have several presentations, including one on “demystifying” the negotiating process for public sector negotiations.