Parents Raise Concerns at West Orange Board of Education Meeting

Credits: Cynthia Cumming
WOHS Distracted Driving Team members. Credits: West Orange Schools
Carla Cadet Boateng, right, discusses the Project Graduation Car Raffle and Lawn Sign Fundraisers. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - High School and Hazel parents raised some concerns about scheduling snafus and possible transfers at Monday's Board of Education meeting.

Board President Michelle Casalino answered agenda questions regarding the $20,000 the district is paying towards the returf of Lincoln Field (the soccer field at WOHS) by saying that the money will pay for field markings for soccer, lacrosse and girls' softball as well as the school logo. Rather than paint the field each year, spending the money for permanent markings will save money and is therefore more cost effective.

WOHS Teacher Bill Urbanski and Senior Rachel Gordon updated the board on the high school's Distracted Driving Campaign, passed out vehicle stickers that said "West Orange Aware," and also described the bracelets they designed.  On June 7, they will be competing with 54 other New Jersey high schools at the Brain Injury Alliance  U Got Brains campaign competition.  The winning high school will receive a $10,000 Driving Simulator.  West Orange residents can vote for the West Orange Aware High School campaign through May 31, which will give the students extra points in the competition.  Go to to vote once a day.

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Carla Cadet Boateng, who has been involved in the coordination of Project Graduation for the past nine years,  presented their most ambitious fundraiser to date: a Raffle for a 2013 Ford Escape valued at $27,000.00.  (The winner will be responsible for taxes, registration, and insurance.)  Tickets are $20.00 and a limited number of tickets are available for purchase.  "Congratulations, West Orange Graduates" lawn signs are also on sale. Cadet went on to explain that about 440 students will attend Project Graduation, held yearly at the FunPlex in East Hanover.  Each student pays $25 and the rest of the cost, about $65 per student, is raised each year by the Project Graduation team.  Teachers and parents chaperone the event, which commences immediately after graduation ceremonies and provides a safe alternative for the graduates.

The Board passed the new Health and Wellness policy on Second Reading.

During the Superintendent's Report, Board President Casalino asked Interim Superintendent Jim O'Neill to expound upon the new Teacher Evaluation requirements demanded by the state, which will now include three evaluations per year for both tenured and non-tenured teachers.  (Student test scores will now also affect teacher evaluations.) In a school district with approximately 750 teachers, evaluations are to become a daunting task.  O'Neill said they are working on developing a "matrix" that will facilitate the process.  He also said that research showed that teachers that were switched around, for example, a fourth grade teacher that was switched into fifth grade, learned more about what students' needs would be in fourth grade by experiencing a bigger picture.

Public comment seemed to focus on just that as Hazel parents expressed concern that they had been hearing that Ed Acevedo, current Hazel Principal, would be transferred out to the Central Sixth, and Xavier Fitzgerald, Central Sixth Principal, would be transferred in to Hazel.  (Transfers are within the purview of the Superintendent and do not require approval by PTAs, parent groups, or the Union; they are contractually allowed.) O'Neill said several possible transfers were under review to facilitate the new state evaluation requirements but that it was premature to assume anything right now.  When that time came, he said, more information would be provided.

Lastly, there have been some issues with student's schedules, particularly those students entering the Honors Wind Ensemble.  Conflicts have arisen with AP Chem and Bio as well as Honors Spanish 4.  (If unresolved, those students will have to decide what to choose and what to drop from their schedules). Interim Superintendent O'Neill said the district is attempting to resolve the issues for the affected students, though he noted about "97% of all HS students have gotten the classes they want."

The meeting was filmed for broadcast on 36/45.  Please check your local listings for the broadcast schedule.

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