Freshman Orientation and Fostering Culture of Collaboration Highlight First Week at Watchung Hills Regional High School

Freshman Orientation and Culture of Collaboration Highlight First Week at Watchung Hills Regional High School   Credits: Brenda A. Nemcek
WARREN, NJ  – As freshmen were being welcomed to their first-day-as-high-school-students orientation during a busy first week, at Watchung Hills Regional High School, faculty were talking about starting a year-long emphasis of creating a culture for greater collaborations between teachers and departments.
All students reported to school for the first time on Thursday, Sept. 4. Freshman orientation was held on Wednesday, Sept. 3. Faculty reported Tuesday, Sept. 2, for an opening assembly, training, activities, and opportunities to set up their classrooms.
Freshmen orientation was short, starting at the customary time with 7 a.m. arrivals, but ending with a mid-morning dismissal. In that short time, the freshmen received a taste of where their homerooms and lockers are located, and what it would be like to change classes throughout the day. They met teachers, and received helpful hints from peer leader upperclassmen volunteers. Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett and Principal George Alexis went to each of the freshman homerooms, welcoming the new students from the school’s four sending school districts: Warren Township, Watchung, Long Hill Township and Green Brook Township.
“I’d like to introduce you to Superintendent Jewett,” Alexis said to freshmen in each of their homerooms. “You may remember meeting me at the orientation we held for 8th grade students last January.” Jewett said that she was thrilled to see all the new students. “I want to wish you a wonderful four years,” Jewett said. “We are very excited to have you here, and I look forward to following your achievements. My office is just down the hall. Stop in to say hello. I hope you all have a great year.” Alexis said he couldn’t wait until Thursday when the freshmen would be joined the following day by their fellow students, the sophomores, juniors and seniors. “Come ready to give your best effort,” the principal said. “Keep an open mind. Ask questions. Be ready to learn. Be kind and respectful. I hope you have a great year.”

Jewett and Alexis welcomed teachers at their opening assembly on Tuesday. Also speaking on Tuesday were the new Director of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Ellen Phelan, who is the former supervisor of the English Department, and Beth Scheiderman, the Director of Human Services and Professional Development. Scheiderman introduced the school’s new teachers.
Jewett thanked the maintenance staff and support staff for the work they accomplished over the summer and in preparing the school in time for school’s opening. In addition to the customary painting, maintenance and cleaning, several major infrastructure improvement and replacement projects were undertaken, funded through a special $12.5 million referendum approved by voters last September.
Among the projects were the completion of the South Building roof replacement and the replacement of the aging steam pipe heating system In the South Building. These pipes had not been updated since the opening of the school some 50-plus years ago. More major infrastructure improvements approved by the referendum will be undertaken next summer. Some planning and preparation for next summer’s work will be started during the school year.
Jewett said a major thrust this year will be to expand opportunities for collaborations between teachers and departments. Administration will champion a collaborative culture among staff for the purpose of improving the teaching team’s effectiveness, she said. The team’s objective will be to maximize student opportunities to master content and become better prepared for college and beyond. The theme of the school’s leadership retreat in August was to talk about best practices to improve as a team, she said.
Phelan said the success of this summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge nationwide can serve as an example of an unexpected grass roots success that ended up encouraging broad, enthusiastic participation. The challenge encouraged the use of imagination and creativity, she said. It valued creative ideas by kids as much as adults. It championed the development of a good idea, and found participants often acting as a team, Phelan said. Participants learned how to use social media, how to write a script, and how to make videos, she said. In the process, participants found themselves often smiling, laughing, and at times exhibiting unbridled joy and a sense of wonder. Participants became endorsers of the whole effort, too, encouraging others to join them in the effort to bring awareness and to support research to reverse the effects of the horrible disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Jewett said one of the critical ways to improve teamwork is to celebrate success. She listed some of the more notable successes during the past year. Last year, some 83 percent of students participated in a sport or extracurricular activity, she said. A number of Watchung Hills sport teams earned county, sectional and conference championships, including in boys soccer, girls soccer, boys and girls fencing, wrestling, softball and girls lacrosse. Students participated and earned honors in science and engineering fairs, at the Model UN and Mock Trial programs, and in the Science League and Math League. They qualified to participate in county, regional and state orchestras, bands and choral groups. They earned awards at annual art shows, she said.
Academically, Watchung Hills was named to the AP Honor Roll for participation and achievement. In 2014, some 1,059 AP exams were administered, an increase of 20 percent since 2010, and those exams were taken by 552 students, a 25 percent increase since 2010. Since 2010, the percent of students earning scores of 3 on the AP 5-point scoring scale has been a consistent 88 percent. Some 233 students received recognition as AP Scholars. Seventeen Watchung Hills students were recognized as National AP Scholars. They are students who received an average of 4 or more on all AP tests, and scores of 4 or better on eight or more AP tests. Annual SAT scores in 2014 is 1696, Jewett said.
And The Daily Beast, a national news web site, ranked Watchung Hills as the 123rd best public high school in the nation, which meant it was ranked 16th best in New Jersey, and second best behind only Bernards High School in Bernardsville in Somerset County. The ranking used some of the same metrics the school uses for its self-evaluation, such as ACT/SAT scores, graduation rates, college acceptance rates, and AP test performances, she said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Found: Green Brook and Warren, Do You Know this Dog?

April 18, 2018

WARREN, NJ - Do you know me? I'm a young, male German Shepherd who appears to be around a year old. Found near Warrenville Road near the Green Brook, Bound Brook border and now at Somerset Regional Animal Shelter. Call  908-725-0308.

Sharing Strength, Giving Back: Become a Volunteer Advocate for Victims of Sexual Violence

April 23, 2018

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce that openings are still available in the upcoming training series for Volunteer Advocates for victims of sexual violence. The sessions are scheduled twice weekly beginning on Tuesday, May 1 and continuing until Thursday, June 14.

The training is free. No previous experience in counseling is required. Volunteer Advocates work ...

Looking for a Summer Program? Try Brain Training

Looking for an enriching and fun summer program for your children?  Why not try brain training?  Find out more: LearningRx in Warren is offering free trial sessions on May 2nd and May 9th.  Click on the following link for more information: 


Jul 28, 1955 - Feb 8, 2018
Owner/Chef of Jaret’s Stuffed Cupcakes  Beloved Husband, Father, Brother and ...
Read more

Down the Shore: Registration Now Open for NJ State Police Basic Boating Safety Course at the St. Francis Community Center May 1 and 3

April 18, 2018

BRANT BEACH, NJ - Are you ready for sun and warmth?  Spring and summer fun is not that far away even though the weather has been so cold recently.

The St. Francis Community Center is offering a Basic Boating Safety Course in May.  Registration is open for the course that is being held on Tuesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 3 from 5:00 to 9:00 PM at the St. Francis Community Center, 4700 ...

Travels Update - Long Beach Island Summer Shuttle No Longer A Free Ride

BRANT BEACH - The Long Beach Island Shuttle, an extremely popular service for visitors and residents of Long Beach Island, will have a fee for the first time beginning Memorial Day weekend. 

The Long Beach Township Board of Commissioners made the announcement at their meeting on Monday, April 9. 

Here is the overview on the fees:

One-way shuttle rides from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Baby Seal Waddles Its Way onto Belmar Beach

BELMAR, NJ — A baby seal waddled its way onto the Fifth Avenue beach earlier today to enjoy one of the warmest days of spring so far.

Around noon on April 12, photographer Nancy Orlowski took these snapshots, which have also been posted on the Belmar Facebook page where it states that the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has been notified.

This is the second known instance ...

Bateman Bill, “ Bijou’s Law”, to Require Training, Licensing for Pet Groomers

April 12, 2018


TRENTON, NJ - State Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-16) will introduce legislation to increase protections for family pets by requiring pet groomers to be properly trained and licensed following the deaths of three dogs in five months at different New Jersey pet salons. .

“It is sadly far too common for us to read of dog grooming deaths in the news,” said ...

Op-Ed: New Jersey’s Out-of-Network Bill is a huge blow to the middle-class

April 17, 2018

As Trenton currently looks to balance the budget, once again it’s our state’s hardest working citizens who will be left holding the bag. This time, though, it will be the hardworking office and ancillary staff from our small business private medical practices.  A bill called “The Out-of-Network Consumer Protection Bill” A-2039/S-485 looks poised to make ...

WHRHS Baseball: Watchung Hills Tops Morristown, 6-3

April 11, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Senior Joe Blajsa picked up his first win of the season and Kevin Badger went 4-for-4 with a run scored, a stolen base and one RBI to lead Watchung Hills over Morristown on Wednesday, 6-3.

Blajsa pitched six and 2/3 innings allowing only six hits, striking out five and walking one. Junior Ben Ant came in for the strikeout save to pick up his ...

New DMV Facility Should Ease Crunch in Somerville

April 23, 2018


SOMERVILLE, NJ  - B. Sue Fulton is just beginning to find her away around her new office in Trenton , but the newly-sworn director of the Department of Motor Vehicles found her way to Somerville Saturday at the invitation of state Sen. Christopher Kip Bateman for a visit to the local DMV office on Roosevelt Place which has been causing headaches for neighborhood residents.

She ...

Blue Mass Celebration at Immaculate Conception School Honors Police

SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Immaculate Conception School hosted a “Blue Mass” Friday morning at Immaculate Conception R.C. Church to honor the men and women of law enforcement.

The mass was attended by all students and staff in the K-8th grade school, with more than 100 members of law enforcement, including Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

The annual mass was also ...

Watchung Borough Council Recognizes Watchung Hills Senior Julia Cunningham, Proclaims April 19 Julia Cunningham Day

WATCHUNG, NJ - Watchung resident and Watchung Hills Regional High School graduating senior, Julia Cunningham was recognized at a special meeting of the Watchung Borough council Thursday. 

Councilman Bill Nehls praised Cunningham, “ as probably one of the best basketball players in the state,” and “an inspiration for girls in the seventh and eighth grades, ...

Police Investigate Bias Incident in Montgomery, Seek Help from Public

MONTGOMERY, NJ - Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson township Police Director/Capt. Thomas Wain are asking the public for help in the investigation of what is being considered a bias crime.

Detectives assigned to the investigation released that the following information based on the preliminary and ongoing investigation, which continues to evolve as investigators interview ...

Down the Shore: Registration Now Open for NJ State Police Basic Boating Safety Course at the St. Francis Community Center May 1 and 3

April 18, 2018

BRANT BEACH, NJ - Are you ready for sun and warmth?  Spring and summer fun is not that far away even though the weather has been so cold recently.

The St. Francis Community Center is offering a Basic Boating Safety Course in May.  Registration is open for the course that is being held on Tuesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 3 from 5:00 to 9:00 PM at the St. Francis Community Center, 4700 ...

TAPintoTravels Area Teens Invited to the First Meeting of Aviation Explorer Post 523

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Exploring helps young people make more informed decisions about future careers and learn about different jobs within a particular field. 

In that vein, Aviation Explorer Post 523 will hold its first meeting for young men and women, ages 14-20, on Wednesday, April 18 at 6 p.m., at DM Airports, 8 Airport Road in Morristown. Future meetings will ...

Nightmare Commute for Raritan Valley Line Commuters Monday

UNION COUNTY, NJ -- Raritan Valley Line commuters spent more than three hours trying to make their way home from New York City on Monday following the breakdown of a train near Union Station during rush hour.

At 9:47 p.m., NJT tweeted:

Raritan Valley Line westbound train service is operating on or close to schedule following an earlier disabled NJ Transit train near Union ...

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse


MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...