WARREN, NJ - The Performing Arts Center was packed on Monday as students, parents, and alumni were in attendance at the Watchung Hills Board of Education meeting to speak about the Experimental Research and Design (ERD) course.
ERD has been open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the past but will only be open to juniors and seniors in the future. ERD had two instructors this school year, Dr. Sophia Gershman and Michael Kutch.
“The 40 percent drop rate of the course by enrolled students in recent years spurred us to look at ensuring we are appropriately guiding students to take the course,"said Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett.
Jewett said only enough students had signed up for ERD for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year so only one teacher was assigned to instruct the course.
That teacher is Kutch. Gershman will still teach physics at Watchung Hills.
And that concerns the students, alumni, and parents who spoke at the meeting. They expressed their feelings that no other teacher currently holds the qualifications to teach the program that Gershman has been teaching for almost 10 years.
Gershman has a Masters of Science in Solid State Physics and Education and a Ph.D. in Experimental Plasma Physics.
A long line of students, alumni and parents addressed the board to share their success stories made possible by the ERD course and Dr. Gershman. Each speaker received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Dr. Gershman made a huge impact on what I did in college. She was the reason why I was able to publish something my first year in college. I owe a lot of success I’ve had to her. She is not only a mentor to me but a friend,” said alumnus Ajay Kashi.
The ERD course description says it is designed to prepare students for independent study and research work in college.
Alumnus Seneca Velling said, “Our school has something that only magnet schools in this state have, and that is a high caliber research program."
One parent said,"Dr. Gershman's ERD class is phenomenal. She treats the class like it's real life. It's not just about grades, it's about who you become in that class. She really was life changing for my son. The kids were not exaggerating."
In her closing remarks at the meeting, Jewett said, "Dr. Gershman and Mr. Hutch are both highly valued members of our staff. I am happy that they will be continuing to teach students regardless of what courses they are teaching.”