WARREN, NJ - Woodland School students were asked, "Woodland is a Blue Ribbon school because?" and some 20 students answered that question in a packed gym in front of the Warren Township Board of Education and Acting Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington who visited Warren Township Schools on Monday, Apr. 3 and stayed for the board meeting. 

Monday was a celebration of Woodland and of the application process being completed. Current and former students, teachers, staff and administrators attended the meeting to help celebrate and support their Woodland family, including former Superintendent Dr. Tami Cramer.

Character Counts at Woodland School. A recurring theme was "family." 

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In the words of student Zachary Wishnia, " We are all friends here. Everybody cares about each other. All of us are important. We all respect each other. We have fun! We are all a big Woodland family!"

Woodland School was nominated by the New Jersey Department of Education to apply for the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award, one of only nine schools in the state to receive the distinguished recognition this year, and will find out in September if they win. The application was completed and filed at the end of March.

Harrington expressed her impressions of Woodland after spending part of the school day in Woodland classrooms. Harrington said," this is truly a special place." What I saw was incredibly dedicated teachers... amazing students speaking loudly and clearly about what they need as learners. Not one person has hesitated to embrace me..." 

She said," I applaud you as a community... There are three critical voices you give a child to bring them success.. the first is the voice of speech, the second is  the voice of creativity, and the third is the voice of the heart."

Created in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes outstanding public and non-public schools for overall academic excellence and/or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. To be nominated, a school must demonstrate high or strongly improving student scores on state or nationally normed assessments in the last year tested, as well as meet annual measurable objectives.

Woodland School was nominated in the category of “Exemplary High Performing Schools.”

“This prestigious recognition is the result of years of hard work by remarkable educators and a supportive community who do everything that it takes to ensure that students are successful,” says Woodland School Principal Jeff Heaney. “From the moment I walked through the door at Woodland School, I knew this was a very special place.”

Heaney acknowledged and praised all current and former Woodland staff members. He said, " Ladies and gentleman, what you see right here are truly the best educators you will ever find."

"I’m proud to work beside a group of educators who know that everything that is measured does not always count and everything that counts cannot be measured," Heaney said.

Student Robert Dufek said Woodland is a Blue Ribbon school ," because of teachers like our art teacher Mrs. Ronkiewicz. She is always teaching in a fun new way. Sometimes when we are doing lessons she makes them so exciting I forget we're learning at the same time!"

In the program’s 35-year history, six secondary public schools in Somerset County, including Watchung Hills Regional High School, have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools. Just four public elementary schools in the county have received the award.


Heaney says he is proud “to work alongside a group of educators and with parents who help children grow as critical thinkers, problem solvers, and most importantly, as human beings with good character.”

Fifth grader Francesca Sena said, "In Physical Education Character Counts! Mr. Bayachek teaches us that PE is fair and everyone is included and is part of the team. We learn through sports to be active in school and at home. In PE we are encouraged to learn different sports which we can play at home and for an organized team."

Woodland fifth grade teacher Adam Yenish explained the two decades of Woodland's culture of family. With parents, staff and students going above and beyond.

Yenish said, "The leadership of this building, since its reopening in 1998, has provided the flexibility and encouragement for all of us to think creatively, create, innovate, motivate, inspire and dream big. That is what this administration has envisioned for the staff and its what we have instilled in our students....Because of this, it is with great confidence that we all - all of the staff and all of the students -  believe that Woodland School is and will always be a blue ribbon school.”

As one student said," We care for each other, we respect each other and we always include each other."

For all of the student responses see

Woodland School PTO President Danielle Scala and parent David Provinsal spoke about the volunteerism of parents and the support of staff. 

Provinsal said, "Woodland deserves this Blue Ribbon because of the culture of compassion that starts at the administration and runs through all of its teachers and students. We are grateful to be at Woodland School.”

“This honor is well deserved for the entire Woodland School community, from students and their families, to the teaching staff, administration, and all of the wonderful support personnel who make the school a home away from home. Recognition like this does not come without years of hard work and dedication from a great many people,” says Superintendent Matthew Mingle. “While the initial nomination has a lot to do with our students’ performance on standardized assessments, the next phase requires us to demonstrate how committed we are to the whole child. I know the Woodland School community will shine when the final nomination makes its way to the U.S. Department of Education.”

“We are so proud that our school district is being recognized nationally with a Blue Ribbon Schools nomination,” says Tia Allocco, Board of Education President. “This distinction affirms the exceptional education provided both at Woodland School and throughout Warren Township. The Board would like to thank all of our teachers and administrators for their professionalism and expertise, as well as parents and the broader Warren community for their continued support of our students.”

“We hope that we are chosen as a Blue Ribbon School,” says Heaney, as he cites the school’s theme. “But, regardless of the outcome, we should all be proud. There is no doubt: ‘It is always a great day at Woodland.’” 

For more on Harrington's visit see https://www.tapinto.net/towns/warren/articles/acting-commissioner-of-education-visits-warren-to


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