Kindergarden Aides and Departmentalization Delays and More Discussed at West Orange Board of Education Meeting

Gregory School PTA is honored for receiving the 2015 NJPTA Presidential Award for their After School Enrichment Program. Credits: Chris Harewood

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Departmentalization, Kindergarten Aide concerns, the Gregory School PTA, and a presentation from the Air Force Jr ROTC were the highlights of an information-packed Board of Education meeting in West Orange on Monday evening.

Gregory School PTA Honored

The meeting began with the Gregory School PTA being honored for receiving the 2015 NJPTA Presidential Award for their After School Enrichment Program. Michelle Thompson, principal of Gregory School, was in attendance and brought up the PTA members for a photo opportunity.

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“They’ve spent many countless hours on our enrichment program,” she said. “It’s one of the best in the state, and our children really enjoy it.”

Commenting on the success of the program, Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky said, “It’s really a compliment to you, the school itself, and Ms. Thompson, so thank you for that.”

Air Force JROTC Program Provides Presentation

Next, two members of the Air Force JROTC Program gave a presentation on the state of the program. They spoke about the support they received from the Air Force in keeping their program afloat: including significant financial contributions for uniform alterations, operation expenses, and more. They also spoke about how a big reason for their success is the families of West Orange involved in programs such as booster clubs.

Next, Ginamarie Arrabito, the Cadet of the Year and Air Force Association Merit Medal Award Winner took over the presentation.

“Our job is developing citizens of character that are dedicated to serving the nation and community,” she said.

To do this, Air Force JROTC Program focuses their goals around three entities: the school, the community, and the cadet core. Other important goals of theirs include reaching 1,000 community service hours, outreaching to the middle schools, having at least 100 cadets in the program for the 2015-2016 year, improving physical fitness, and keeping a 3.0 GPA among JROTC members.

“All of these goals have been achieved, which we are pretty proud of,” she said to an applauding crowd.

The Air Force JROTC Program is continuing to grow in numbers. Last year, which was their first, they had 54 members. This year they have 82, and for next year they will have 124 cadets.

So far, they have raised over $5,000 dollars for charities including the Wounded Warrior Project and local toy drives.

“If you have the pleasure of walking into the high school, there is a very unique climate because of this program,” Rutzky said. “They bring a different understanding of what class means. I want to thank you for what you’ve done for the high school, the district, and the community itself.”

New Evaluation Model in Development

Rutzky reported that guidance counselors and library media specialists are working on a new evaluation model.

“One of the things that districts have trouble with the new requirements of an evaluation model is it fitting all the responsibilities within the district,” he said.

Rutzky said the new evaluation is more geared toward what the job of a counselor is. In July, the opportunity for the board to approve of this new evaluation will be presented. If approved, it would be put in place for September with proper training.

Departmentalization Discussed

Plans for departmentalization were also discussed. Rutzky said that he had talked to different teachers and administrators about it and prioritized their feedback. He said that teachers would like another year to figure how to align blocks of literature and math and that principals want to implement the new language arts direction before moving forward with departmentalization.

“We are going to do some things next year to get more uniformity across the seven elementary schools, “Rutzky said. “And then the following September we’re going to bring it in.”

For information on departmentalization from the last meeting, click HERE.

Program Transitions on the Horizon

Rutzky briefly talked about plans to transition from the Rubicon program used in schools to the On Course program, and from their current tracker system to IEP Direct. These moves will be brought up for adoption at the next BOE meeting.

Kindergarten Updates

Lastly, Rutzky spoke on the growing concern residents have regarding Kindergarten Aides and the lack thereof.

“There were a couple of parents who reached out and didn’t understand what the law is as far as Kindergarten aides went,” he said. “If you’re going to have a Kindergarten aide, the class has to be larger than 25 students. You also have to have it approved by the county Superintendent.”

He further elaborated on other cases where an aide would be would allowed if a child has a 504. Last year’s aides who were not allowed to be in their positions were removed, and that process continues into this year. Rutzky said they are looking to keep numbers down in kindergarten and first grade.

He also said that some residents with children in Kindergarten or entering Kindergarten this year have inquired about proof that all the students who attend West Orange schools actually live in West Orange. Rutzky said they are discussing a re-registration option to prove this.

“We don’t want people who don’t live in West Orange filling up our classrooms – especially in those primary grades,” he said.

The next BOE is June 29, at 8:00 p.m. in the WHS Library. 

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