West Orange Public Schools News Round Up

Credits: Simon Says
Roosevelt Middle School Principal Lionel Hush, Dr. Francesca Peckman, Reading Teacher Jay Wecht, student Zachary Dees, student Isabel Oden,  Fran “Fay” Malkin, student Nicole McKensie, student Nahtalie Simpson, student Joshua Kraus, student Leah Cohn, student Cameron Gart and student Miya Asobo Credits: Simon Says
  Michele Thompson, principal and Caitlin Quinn, first grade teacher and Kindergarten, First Grade, and Third grade students from the winning classes of the penny drive.     Credits: Simon Says
Shrey Sanghvi (percussion), Simone Byun (trumpet), Damilare FemiAkanbi (flute), Justin Vahalla (trombone) Credits: Simon Says

WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange Public Schools participated in several events with students from West Orange High School, Roosevelt Middle School, Gregory School and Redwood School.

West Orange High School

Over 40 students participated in an Intergenerational Oral History Project under the supervision of their Social Studies World History teacher, Douglas Drabik, at Daughters of Israel. They also partnered with the Jewish Historical Society for an intergenerational oral history project.

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This is the third year that West Orange High School students in Mr. Drabik’s world history classes have visited Daughters of Israel nursing facility in West Orange as part of an oral history and intergenerational project that has fostered learning, friendship, and understanding between teenagers and elders in our community.  

The program includes four visits during the school year.  Students are paired with elders to explore issues of age sensitivity, confronting stereotypes, exploring photo histories and to learn about overcoming adversity in one’s life.

“During these visits, residents shared their oral histories and personal accounts with our students,” said student coordinator West Orange High School senior Mia Edelstein. “The partnership with the Daughters of Israel has enabled the students to develop a mutual sense of respect, community, and history.”

Mia will be graduating in June and Mr. Drabik noted that “I will be sad to see my right hand event coordinator Mia Edelstein go.  She has helped me make this program successful. I look forward to continuing it next year.”

“We are so excited to see everyone here enjoying the kids,” said Rachel Block Daughters of Israel Director of activities “Hopefully the friendships and partnerships made here keep going.  I was very impressed with the West Orange High School students and the level of their interest and commitment to the project. They seemed to just love hearing what the seniors had to say,” Block continued.

“Through talking with Charlotte I have learned that life will give you a lot of hardships but you don’t have to let them mold you as a person,” said ninth grade student Henry Gardner.

Roosevelt Middle School

On May 10, Roosevelt Middle School students listened to Holocaust survivor, Fran “Fay” Malkin, as she recounted hiding in a hayloft for 20 months in Sokal, Poland, along with a dozen others, members of her family and neighbors, during the Second World War.

Malkin showed clips from her family's story, No.4 Street of Our Lady, and shared passages from her uncle's book, Years of Horror, Glimpse of Hope: The Dairy of a Family in Hiding, by Shengold Publishers.

The Holocaust studies program at Roosevelt Middle School is part of the curriculum of Language Arts Reading teacher, Jay Wecht.

“It is important in this age where we now teach to a generation brought up with no true recollection of Sept. 11, and who are living within the confines of a world where lock-down drills are as familiar as having homework or studying for tests, that they meet someone who as a child lived twenty months inside a code-red lockdown that was not a drill,” said Wecht. “Ms. Malkin makes such a profound impact because she is living history, a sobering replacement for the virtual reality that monopolizes all our students’ lives.”

Wecht’s reading curriculum also includes Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and Elie Wiesel’s Night. “This Holocaust unit of study follows Black History Month where the topics of slavery, oppression and ‘otherness’ is explored and examined through literature, and we carry our discussion through the year to include hatred and genocide in current times. It’s up to us to teach the children what has happened, to teach the next generation to ‘Never forget,’ especially while there are those who still say there is nothing to remember,” Wecht explained.

Francisca Halamajowa and her daughter, Helan Liniewyska, Polish Catholics from Sokal, hid Malkin, her family, and others for twenty months from the Nazis while 6,000 Jews of Sokal were rounded up and murdered. “One day they called all of the Jewish men and boys, 14 years old to 60 years, to the town square and picked 400 of them for what they said was transport to a work detail,” Malkin explained. “Many of you are 14 years old here,” she said to the students. “We later learned that they took these 400 to the old brick factory and shot them.”  One of the 400 victims was Malkin’s father.

“What do you take away from your experience that you can share with us, what words of wisdom for our lives?” asked one Roosevelt Middle School student.

“To answer that, I want to end with a statement about bullying which is so prevalent in discussions now-a-days,” said Malkin. “Bullying is step one to how the Holocaust began. It is one group or person who says the ‘others’ are not part of ‘us’. Hitler in Germany made the German people feel ten feet tall and better than others around them, better than the Jews. They followed him to their own destruction though. More than 25 million people, including Germans, were killed in the war,” she said. “Think about that when you want to turn against other people.”

“Do you forgive them?” asked another student. “You have to be resilient,” said Malkin.”No matter what they do to you, the best revenge is to prevail.”

For more information Malin, her family, the film, and the book,  visit

Gregory Elementary School

Students from Gregory Elementary School collected 200,000 pennies durings its  Penny Drive to benefit the Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure and The Linda Quinn Memorial Endowment of the West Orange Scholarship Fund. The collection effort was in memory of Linda Quinn, beloved Gregory School Librarian who passed away last year after a long and courageous battle with breast cancer.

The penny drive, organized by Caitlin Quinn, first grade teacher and Linda Quinn’s niece, raised a total of $1,014 for Susan G. Komen and $1,014 for the Linda Quinn Endowment with an additional donation of $450 in contributions to the endowment from the friends and family of Linda Quinn this year, for a grand total of $2478.

“We wanted to design a project that allowed every student to participate and provided an opportunity for them to think beyond themselves and help others in need,” said Caitlin Quinn. “We were thrilled that so many students participated and I am very impressed with the amount of money we were able to raise.” 

McCarthy’s third grade class, Quinn’s first grade class, and Glomb’s kindergarten class collected the most pennies and won a free pizza lunch donated by Terra Luna Pizza on South Valley Road in West Orange.  Jennifer Griola, a Gregory parent and Executive Director of Susan G. Komen’s North Jersey branch, gave a matching donation for the highest class total.  A big thanks to the TD Bank branches in West Orange and Hoboken for taking the time to assist with the penny counting.

“Gregory School students have demonstrated the character trait of good citizenship through service projects all year long.  This penny drive had the highest participation rate,” said School Guidance Counselor Saran McIntosh.  ‘I think so many students emptied their piggy banks of pennies because the collection was in honor of Mrs. Linda Quinn.  She was a wonderful teacher who is missed.” 

In addition,  Gregory school staff and families participated in the annual Race for the Cure at South Mountain Reservation in West Orange to support the fight against breast cancer.

“I continue to be impressed with the generosity of the Gregory School families.  Every day the students and staff are reminded to contribute to the world in a positive and wholesome way and this just reinforces their commitment to our community,” said Principal Michele Thompson.

Redwood Elementary School

4th & 5th grade students from Redwood Elementary participated in the NJSMA Elementary Honors Band Festival in South Orange, NJ.  276 fifth and sixth graders were selected from almost 500 nominees to represent exceptional young band students in North Jersey.

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