WEST ORANGE, NJ – After originally planning to present a curriculum update at Monday’s West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) meeting, West Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Scott Cascone and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Eveny de Mendez decided to collaborate for a more cohesive presentation to be scheduled for Oct. 28.

Cascone explained that the upcoming presentation will be used as “an opportunity to specifically draw connections to our mathematics and our ELA (English Language Arts) curriculum and how that data is informing and driving our initiatives and planning.”

“Further core curriculum presentations will be done in November,” where the district will first look at social studies and science, according to Cascone.

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While on the subject of improving the social studies curriculum, board member Terry Trigg-Scales suggested that third graders should “learn about the rich, rich history right here in [their] hometown,” making the Edison Museum and the Glenmont Estate part of the curriculum in addition to visiting the mayor’s office. She added that the district has been moving away from including West Orange history in the curriculum over the last few years.

WOBOE student liaison Senay Dani suggested that there should be a push at the high school level to teach students about civics—particularly those students who will be exiting the high school and “entering as citizens into our community,” he said.

“It would be beneficial for students to know how our society works,” said Dani. “Especially the court systems."

Board Vice President Sandra Mordecai also suggested looking at updating the driver’s education curriculum by providing an opportunity for interested students, especially seniors, to receive a commercial driving certificate by the time they graduate.

Cascone mentioned that due to time constraints, it is not currently feasible for students to obtain certification, but that the district is currently exploring options.

After attending a recent New Jersey Student Councils Conference, fellow student liaison Darlene Folas said she was interested in the discussion about extending the driver’s education curriculum beyond 10th grade. According to Folas, the conference was about encouraging students to attend seminars “that deter them from any reckless decisions behind the wheel on the night of prom,” specifically to prevent drunk driving crashes after other schools have seen success with these initiatives.

Board members agreed with her suggestion along with Cascone, who said he “would throw [his] full support behind it.”

Although she was not personally involved in a drunk driving incident, Trigg-Scales recalled the night of her high school graduation, where she was under Pulaski Skyway when a milk truck blinded the then 17-year-old driver of the vehicle and caused it to go over a divider, almost flipping it over.

“As you’re talking, Darlene, I’m sitting here reliving that, and I think that’s an excellent, excellent idea,” said Trigg-Scales.

As the former president of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation Youth Advisory Board, Folas noted that she led West Orange High School to be rated among the top three in New Jersey for promoting safe-driving efforts and also won a driving simulator for the high school.

“We’re actually working with the New Jersey Brain Alliance and discussing the idea of creating a prom initiative—promoting the idea of safe decisions the night before prom,” she said.

In other news, WOBOE President Ken Alper announced that the district was recently awarded a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant of nearly $300,000, which will used over the next two years for “physical security needs.”

Alper clarified that the grant comes from the office of the COPS under the Federal Department of Justice, which he explained is the organization’s “school violence prevention program.”

“It’s going to accomplish an awful lot in this year and [the] next and go a long way to improving the safety of our buildings,” said Alper. “It’s a real budgetary saving for the district.”

Over each of the next two years, Alper said the district is required to match one quarter of the total amount (or $37,500), which is “already in the budget for this year.”

Alper thanked the board’s township council liaison, Michelle Casalino; the township’s grant writing firm, Millennium Strategies; Errol Brudner from Stone Gate Associates; Assistant Superintendent Eveny de Mendez; Chief James Abbott and Tim Brennan from the West Orange Police Department; and others for their assistance in securing this funding.

“It was a real joint effort across two units of elected government, the police department, Stone Gate and Millennium,” Alper said. “I’m grateful to everyone for the hard work that made that possible.”