NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Following a recent assessment of the culture and climate of West Essex High School (WEHS), Assistant Principal Kimberly Westervelt presented the results of the survey to members of the West Essex Board of Education.
Using a climate survey from the New Jersey Department of Education as a template in order to ensure that the responses would be “reliable and valid,” the WEHS survey domains solicited feedback on physical environment, teaching and learning, school community morale, relationships, parental support and engagement, safety, emotional environment and administrative support.
Results of the survey—which was available to all high school staff, students, and parents from Feb. 20 to March 5—included feedback from 391 students, 190 parents and 96 staff members.
Based on this feedback, Westervelt was able to highlight areas of strength and areas in need of improvement.
One area of strength that was consistent across all three response groups was school safety. According to Westervelt, 97.9 percent of teachers responded that they felt safe, while 79.3 percent of parents felt their children were safe at school and 95.3 percent of students agreed that they felt safe within their classrooms.
An area in need of improvement based on survey results was “recognizing cultural backgrounds,” which fell under the domain of “relationships.”
While 70.5 percent of staff agreed that the staff respects and embraces diversity and 63.5 percent of the parents agreed the staff encourages students to respect each other’s differences, only 25.9 percent of responding students agreed that their teachers recognize their cultural backgrounds, according to Westervelt.
Another area of concern was a response from 30.5 percent of students who said they often enjoy being in school and 49.4 percent of students who said they feel like they belong at the school. Westervelt pointed out that these statistics correlate to 50.6 percent of students feeling that they do not belong at the school.
As a result of these responses, Westervelt said there are plans to review the district curricula and programming and to provide more professional development for the staff. She added that the recently established WEHS Multicultural Club will be used a vehicle to provide greater activities, forums and celebrations for students.
Following Westervelt’s presentation, board of education member Jan Skelton questioned the validity of the process and the utilization of the scale that was employed to assess the responses.
Fellow board member Anthony Rubinich commented that the discrepancy between the students and the parents in some areas “could be consistent with reasonable expectations.”
The full survey report is available for review on the WEHS webpage.
In other district news, board member Debra Sacco-Calderone recently announced that the board has reached a contract agreement with the custodian and maintenance staff and is in the process of signing a Memorandum of Agreement.
Rubinich also provided an updated from the Finance and Physical Plant Management committee report, stating that the committee—which consists of Superintendent Damion Macioci, Business Administrator Melissa Kida, West Essex Board of Education President MaryAdele Wojtowicz and board members Frank Perrotti and Cynthia Egan—recently discussed transportation contracts as they pertain to payment options for the vendors.
The committee also addressed potential state aid cuts as well as cost savings and cost-avoidance measures related to virtual learning, according to Rubinich.
As they discussed “what the schools would look like next year,” board members acknowledged that split sessions and social distancing in the classroom and on the buses may be in order come September.
Rubinich reported that capital projects such as upgrades to the electrical system, heating and air conditioning have been placed on hold and that the board is considering the need to delay the referendum.
Egan reported that the Strategic Plan process has been postponed for the time being as well.
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