SUMMIT, NJ - Summit School Superintendent June Chang presented Phase II of his five-year strategic vision for the Summit Public Schools at the October Board of Education Meeting, stating that the plan reinforces the core values of a “well-rounded academic experience” for all of Summit’s students.

Chang highlighted the five key areas that the District plans to focus on to afford additional growth and support. These, he said, are:

  • Data - Strategy and Analytics
  • Career and Social Readiness and Student Support (social-emotional)
  • Teaching Practices
  • Curriculum and Programming
  • An increase in STEAM initiatives

Relative to Data - Strategy and Analytics, Chang said that the District is “just scratching the surface” with what it can do with collected data and the impact it can have on the District’s success.

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Elements of Career and Social Readiness / Student Support include a behavioral health clinician service; Summit High School flex program; expansion of Unified Sports Program; and registered behavior technicians.

Chang said that the District has looked at the student’s stress levels and their coping skills, and is working to make sure they have a good support system. He said there has been “an uptick” in things like school avoidance, stress from colleges, stress from parents, and worry about grades, and he believes the District should be able to offer the students flexible programs like half days so that “kids will feel secure and confident” in their learning.  

“We want kids to take a different approach and talk calculated risks,” he said.  

Part of this, he said, is learning how the students respond in “stressful situations,” and how the District can support them.

“We want to have well-rounded students,” he said.

The Unified Sports Program focuses on joining students with and without disabilities on the same team.

Teaching practices elements include preparing teachers for changes in education, rethinking traditional practices, and continuous training for “evolving trends in education.”  

Chang said, “Because education is constantly evolving, we want to be up-to-date and even ahead of the trends that are happening.”

Curriculum and Programming tactics include a revamping of the Summit High School television studio; expansion of experiential learning like Virtual High School; increase in community-based instruction opportunities; a look at the full-day kindergarten program and “using data,” determining how to ensure they are offering the best program.

Chang said, “In the TV studio, editing and post-production has shifted; we can’t be stagnant.”

STEAM initiatives include innovation labs; augmented reality / virtual reality feasibility study; coding and robotics; 3D-modeling and printing; data science. Chang said that with the robotics program, “kids could be as creative as possible.” He said that they are staying “up-to-date on coding methodologies.”

While Chang presented multi-year goals, he stressed that “some of these things may change.”  He said that it is important to be able “to shift” if they learn that some things aren’t working.

“The nature of education is that things change rapidly,” he said. “I’m okay with that.”

He said that the programs will be evaluated quarterly.

Videos

The District has released a series of video presentations which highlight Chang’s two Phases for the District (Editor's note: both videos are included at the bottom of this article).

 Phase I highlights what the district has accomplished during his Chang’s five-year tenure..   

Chang said that when he first arrived in Summit, he and his administration evaluated the District to find ways to “be prepared and successful in the 21st Century.”

“We wanted to ensure that the kids had a well-rounded academic experience,” he said.  “We took a good product and made it even better.”

Highlighted as Phase I accomplishments:

- Adding a K-12 robotics coding program, with over 1,540 robotic devices. The district added 28 3D printers.

- Elementary enrichment opportunities were increased 34.5 percent, with participation growing from 107 to 144 students in the last five years.

- Summit High School course offerings were increased by nine percent -- from 165 to 185 -- with the addition of classes such as Honors Chemistry and Psychology. Advanced Placement classes were increased 36.8 percent, from 19 in 2014 to 26 in 2019.

- An increase of 26 percent of students accepted into colleges deemed “most competitive” by Barron’s, with 118 in 2017 to 149 in 2019; and an increase of those attending these schools during this time from 71 to 104, a 46 percent increase.

- An increased digital learning environment -- more than 3,000 Chromebooks were added, with an upgrade in networking systems for better bandwidth.

- New curriculum and programs have been developed and improved upon, such as the high school Culinary Arts program; new cycle classes and a student assistance counselor at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS); increased ELA and math Learning Workshops at the elementary level and an additional literacy coach; Full-Day Kindergarten; and the creation of a consortium with neighboring districts with a Parent Wellness series that supports home-to-school partnerships.

Contract Renegotiation Request

In her opening comments, Board President Vanessa Primack commented on Chang’s presentation and “the next set of mountains to climb for our students.”

She said that the goals will bring a “positive school culture.”

Primack said that Chang has asked the board to renegotiate his compensation plan now that the NJ superintendent salary cap was revoked.

Former Gov. Chris Christie created the salary cap in 2011, and it’s elimination was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in July. Now, the Department of Education can no longer institute caps for public school superintendents.  The controversial law was deemed ineffective, partly because since there was no cap for principals, some of them were earning more than their superintendent in several counties throughout the state.  

Additionally, in some cases, top talent left the state to seek jobs in districts outside New Jersey, like former Millburn Superintendent Jim Crisfield, who left for a job in Pennsylvania in 2015.

Primack said that the Board will discuss Chang’s leadership with him beyond his current contract, which is in its final year.

For the 2019-20 school year, Chang's base salary is $204,525.99 along with a merit bonus of $30,658.45, which is what has been budgeted for the current year. A District spokesperson confirmed that any potential renegotiation will not impact the approved budget allocation for 2019-2020 compensation.

Committee Reports

Education Committee Chair Donna Miller discussed Learning Workshop (formerly Basic Skills).  She said that the Committee was looking at 2019-20 enrollment data. She said that “the point of Learning Workshop is to bring children up to where they need to be and then exit them out.”

The Committee looked at last year’s exit info, and was “pleased with the results,” Miller said.

She said that the number of “touchpoints” -- or interactions with the teacher -- had increased from two to four per week for first and second graders, and it “made a huge difference."

Operations Committee Chair Chris Bonner said that the District would spend $1 to $1.5 million to repair the Summit High School roof. He said that the project has been discussed for at least four years, and now it’s “time for action.”

A full roof repair, he said, would cost $5 million, but repairing it in sections is much less. The full repair is “not something we could do nor would it be financially prudent,” he said. Financing the whole amount would require the District to go out to bond.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Lou Pepe said that an “infrared analysis” of the roof was completed and that there is some positive news.

“Even though the roof is at the end of its life expectancy, a lot of the insulation is in good shape,” he said.  This means that some materials might be able to be reused, saving both material and labor cost.

Bonner also said that the District will be purchasing a utility vehicle for $25,000. This vehicle will have many uses, he said, it will be used to maintain the new turf field so one will not need to be rented; used to transport equipment from the high school to Tatlock Field; used to remove snow; and can transfer students with minor injuries to the athletic trainer’s office.

Funds that were saved because the Upper Turf Field project came in below budget will be used to buy it.

Policy Committee Chair Mike Colon said that there are 10 policies that needed to be addressed.  

One policy concerns Student Identification badges at both the high school and middle school. Students must have their badges on display at all times. Principal Stacey Grimaldi said that although students have had badges for many years at Summit High School, beginning in 2012 they were not required to wear them.

This school year, new rules were set that required students to get a temporary badge from the office if they forget theirs.  She said that the barcode on the badge is scanned and a late pass is uploaded directly into PowerSchool for those students who arrive late in the morning. The scanner is also used for students who leave the building for an unassigned period, and provides information during fire drills. 

“It provides safety and security enhancements,” Grimaldi said.  

Communications Committee Chair Peggy Wong said the District website has been “refreshed,” and Board bios have been updated.  Much work has been done on the social media pages. She said that the District has 1,550 Instagram followers and 2,400 Facebook followers.  

Negotiations Committee Chair Primack said that -- while she can’t discuss what happens in the Negotiations Committee -- she can say that they have discussed “the process” for negotiations with the various labor parties.