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WHRHS Goes Back to School: Watchung Hills Students Help Welcome Teachers and Staff


WARREN, NJ – Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, Principal George Alexis and Director of Human Resources Beth Scheiderman welcomed teachers back on Tuesday, Sept. 5, to the 2017-2018 School Year Opening Day at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS)

Following opening remarks at a Staff Convocation, the teachers were treated to a Luncheon BBQ in the south cafeteria, with burgers and hot dogs barbequed by members of the WHRHS Football Team and Touchdown Club. The teachers also attended two days of departmental meetings and breakout sessions on Sept. 5, and Wednesday, Sept. 6.

“It is truly a pleasure to be standing here in front of all of you this morning and it is my privilege to welcome you back for the 2017-2018 school year,” Jewett said in addressing the school’s teachers to start the speaking program at the Staff Convocation. “I truly enjoy getting to share with you all the progress we made over the summer as well as celebrate all of our district accomplishments and the role that you have played.”

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Highlights from the summer of preparation for this school year, Jewett said, included the kitchen expansion and modernization in the south cafeteria. This construction project was the last major project funded through the 2013 referendum. That voter-approved improvements have covered over the last several summers multiple other physical facility improvements to the WHRHS physical plant, ranging from refurbished parking lots to kitchen and bathroom upgrades and modernizations. 

Other summer improvements this summer included the replacement of a large walk-in refrigerator in the north kitchen, replacement of the aging water boiler in the south building, replacement of ductwork in ceramics and photography rooms, remediation of sinks and fountains that had failed lead testing requirements with new fixtures and filters, and continued exterior work on the Mountain Avenue athletic field.

Jewett also listed the broad and numerous upgrades added over the summer in technology, including a Web site upgrade, a new 1:1 Chromebook Initiative which has provided more than 500 Chromebooks to the incoming Ninth Grade students, new teacher laptops, 11 new SMART Boards, server upgrades and more.

She also listed the numerous awards, championships, academic honors and community-based accolades earned last year by students, as well as distinctions, and ongoing academic and professional improvements, pursued by faculty and staff over the summer and throughout the school year.

Among the academic achievements that stand out were the ongoing excellence by WHRHS students in Advanced Placement testing and National Merit achievement, Jewett said.Average AP Exam score last year for 1,169 test taken was 4.19out of 5. Out of 68 recognized students in the class of 2018, 15 have been named National Merit Semifinalists, the most ever at Watchung Hills.

The district continues to implement the goals set out in the Board of Education adopted Strategic Plan 2015-2020. Jewett said she is excited to start the 2017-2018 School Year. She alsoannounced that WHRHS has been awarded a Bronze Certificate – and an accompanying $2,000 grant, which has been used to purchase new color-coded recycling bins – by the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program.

“I look forward to an amazing year with all of you,” Jewett told the staff. “Watchung Hills is truly a world-class learning community.”

A Culture Of Inquiry

In welcoming everyone back for a new school year, Alexis shared what he discovered at a summer learning opportunity he participated in, attended by 137 other principals.

“I met folks from as close as Paramus, Rockland County, and Massachusetts, from across the United States -- Florida, Texas, Silicon Valley, and even the Big Island of Hawaii -- and from as far away as New Zealand and Australia,” Alexis said. “We realized very quickly that we all were wrestling with the same challenges and that we all were committed to providing authentic-learning opportunities for kids.”

He said he heard his teachers talking about how we all have an innate curiosity and desire to learn and explore.

“We also have a natural desire to grow, improve, and strive toward mastery, “ Alexis said, “and much of our own adult learning comes from the same culture of inquiry and collaboration that is helping our kids discover the relevance of their academic skills.”

“It makes good sense that we remain focused on our vision of preparing our students for a global community that requires a commitment to critical reasoning, creativity, and collaboration,”he said.

“Our focus on wellness and emotional intelligence will help our students realize their purpose and potential in a complex world,” Alexis said. “By creating opportunities for them to learn and grow through choice, reflection, and resilience, we help them realize that they are part of something much larger than themselves.”

Luncheon BBQ

Numerous volunteers, staff, parents and students pitched in to help make the luncheon BBQ a festive return to the school year. 

Among those volunteering and contributing were members of the Football Team, under the direction of Head Football Coach Rich Seubert, members of the parent Touchdown Club, and numerous businesses in the community. 

Providing festive background music for the event was guest guitarist and singer Nicholas Stevens, who is also the president of the Long Hill Township Board of Education. He was joined for some of his numbers by Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education member and singer Chris Collins of Long Hill Township. At other times, he was joined by WHRHSEnglish Teacher Mike Porter, a guitarist and singer. The three also combined to perform and sing as a trio during the performance.

Local businesses who contributed to the event were: PomptonianFood Service, Fairfield; Costco, North Plainfield; in Warren Township,  Kings, Acme, Dunkin Donuts, Ciro’s Pizza and Deli, and the Country Squire Restaurant; in Stirling, ShopRite and Blimpie; in Gillette, Starbucks and Primavera Regency; in Watchung, ShopRite and Dunkin Donuts; in Scotch Plains, Grillestone; and Stop and Shop, Corporate.

Among the students volunteering at the luncheon were: From the WHRHS Football Team, were Wide Receiver Jake Riley, Running Back Zahveae Thorne, Wide Receiver/Free Safety Tyler James, Quarterback Connor James, Middle Linebacker Shreyas Sagi, and Defensive Lineman Frank Kane; and from the WHRHS Cheerleader Squad, Jillian Mastrobattista and Captain Natalie Nitzberg.

In addition, members of the WHRHS Music Honor Society provided music in the lobby as teachers gathered for the Staff Convocation. They are: Jack Melillo, Ben Kosakowski, AnchalDhir, Sam Sinnott, Kyra Anthony, Ben Allgor, Will Johnson, Francesca Infante-Meehan, and Justin Horowitz.

First day of classes was a half-day on Thursday, Sept. 7.  Friday, Sept. 8, was the first full day of classes. Ninth grade studentsreported on Wednesday, Sept. 6, for a half-day of orientation and familiarization with the routine of moving from one classroom to another between classes. 

New Staff

Human Resources Director Scheiderman introduced new staff at the opening convocation. They are: In the English Department, teachers Michelle Germinario, Sarah Sheridan, Michael Stultz, and Alicia Michalitsianos; in Math, Matthew Crawford; in Special Services, Danielle Esteves, Cynthia Sacco, and Douglas Graiver; in Guidance, Lauren Sagat and Patti Lampa; in Buildings and Grounds, Jennifer Zervopolous; in Transportation, Jannette Vega; and three student interns, Caelynn Robinson in Social Studies, Simone Waters in social work, and DeAnnaLaSasso with the school psychology staff. Also welcomed back after leaves of absence are: Nancy Suppin, Kyla Garcia, and Heather Guirguis.

Teachers recognized at the Staff Convocation for 25, 30 and 35 years of service at WHRHS were: 25 years, Bonnie Burgdorf, Laura Goodson, Courtney Griffith, Michele Lettington, and Daniel Root;  30 years, James Carden, Lydia Chu, and Thomas Loeffler; and 35 years, Laurie Shoemaker.




WHRHS PHOTOS Football Team Volunteers

Following 2017-2018 School Year Opening Day remarks at a Staff Convocation, Tuesday, Sept. 5, staff at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) were treated to a Luncheon BBQ in the south cafeteria, with burgers and hot dogs barbequed by members of the WHRHS Football Team. Among the players who volunteered for the duty standing with WHRHS Warrior Head Football Coach Rich Seubert, center, are, from left: #83 Wide Receiver Jake Riley, #2 Running Back Zahveae Thorns, #5 Wide Receiver/Free Safety Tyler James, #7 Quarterback Connor James, #9 Middle Linebacker Shreyas Sagi, and #44 Defensive Line Frank Kane.



Providing musical entertainment at the Luncheon BBQ was guest guitarist and singer Nicholas Stevens, right, who is also the President of the Long Hill Township Board of Education.Joining him on some of the numbers are, from left, WHRHS Board of Education Member Chris Collins of Long Hill Township and WHRHS English teacher Mike Porter.


WHRHS PHOTOS Music Honor Society Welcomes Teachers

Members of the WHRHS Music Honor Society provided musical entertainment as teachers gathered in the WHRHS entrance atrium on Tuesday, Sept. 5, to attend the School Year Opening Day Staff Convocation. Students seated from left, are: Jack Melillo, left, and Anchal Dhir; and standing, from left, Ben Kosakowski, Sam Sinnott, Kyra Anthony, Ben Allgor, Will Johnson, Francesca Infante-Meehan, and Justin Horowitz.



WHRHS staff line up for the buffet at the Luncheon BBQ. In addition to the hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill by the WHRHS Football Team volunteers, were salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, fruits, desserts, and more, supplied by numerous area businesses.


WHRHS PHOTOS Dan and George

Among the staff happy to catch up after the summer by sharing a festive BBQ meal as the 2017-2018 School Year began, are, from left: Arts Supervisor Dan Bertelli, English Supervisor James Aquavia, Math Supervisor Dan Twisler, and Principal George Alexis.



WHRHS PHOTOS Cheerleaders

Members of the WHRHS Cheerleader Squad joined the Football Team in volunteering at the Luncheon BBQ. With Football Team Defensive Lineman, #44 Frank Kane, center, are Jillian Mastrobattista, left, and Natalie Nitzberg, Cheer Captain.



Among the teachers who sat outside courtyard next to the south cafeteria at the Luncheon BBQ are members of the English Department.


WHRHS PHOTOS Teachers Group 5

The 2017-2018 School Year Opening Day Luncheon BBQ in the south cafeteria on Sept. 5 was the place to be for teachers to find out what colleagues did on their summer vacations.




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