Letters to the Editor

Important Information from the Westfield Board of Education

SYNOPSIS of Board of Ed Meeting of March 4:

Board President Richard Mattessich presented certificates to WHS seniors
who were named National Merit Finalists.  The 7 students attaining finalist
status represent the largest group in Westfield attaining this honor in
more than a decade. According to the National Merit Scholarship
Corporation, the nationwide pool of finalists represents approximately one
percent of U.S. high school seniors.  They are among the highest scoring
entrants in the nation on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship
Qualifying Test.  That includes scores on all 3 testing areas:  Critical
Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. The National Merit Finalists are:  Mark
Gillespie, Kristin Hauge, Jill Rosenfeld, Alexander Beals, Rachel Holtzman,
Alexandra Mossawir, and Lily Wang.

2014-2015 BUDGET
Business Administrator Dana Sullivan presented a Preliminary 2014-2015
Budget based on months of meetings with school principals, department
supervisors and the Board Finance Committee.

One of first things we do is project enrollment for next year to determine
the impact on the budget.  This was reviewed in detail with the Long Range
Planning Committee of the Board. There are no major changes anticipated in
the early childhood and elementary grades.  We may require an additional AM
or PM session of kindergarten, and that is accounted for in our budget for
2014-2015.  Since we have one first grade at Jefferson where we are almost
at the maximum, we may be coming back to the Board for permission to
request that any new first graders enrolled will attend one of our other
elementary schools.  At the intermediate level, we will see a slight
decline in overall enrollment and a continued leveling out at both schools.
 Our sixth graders will return to their regular school district, since our
enrollment in that grade will decrease a bit.  We expect some increase in
enrollment at WHS with approximately 32 more students. This will require
some additional staffing that is included in the budget.
Highlights of the preliminary 2014-2015 budget:
•       Continues funding for literacy initiative.
•       Continues funding for technology initiative.
•       Sufficient funding to meet PAARC requirements.
•       Continues funding for STEM program.
•       Continues funding for mandated programs and academic support.
•       Maintains existing class size guidelines.
•       Maintains co-Curricular, athletic & fine arts programs.
•       Provides sufficient resources for enrollment increases at high school.
•       Maintains facilities.
•       Includes a tax levy increase which is at state adjusted CAP (total
increase to average homeowner estimated at $290).
•       Includes an overall increase in state aid of $66,677 ($124,000 increase
in operating budget and a $57,323 decrease in debt service).
•       Represents a projected increase of $2,718,587 to the operating budget
which will total $94,740,837.
•       More than 82% of staff are teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses,
librarians or guidance professionals.

The Board spent several minutes discussing the technology budget, which is
estimated at $1,276,700.  In addition to the purchase of additional
software and instructional and non-instructional supplies, the
recommendation is to make needed upgrades, particularly to make high-speed
internet accessible in every classroom at the High School.  With a price
tag of $1,108,529 for upgrading switches and expanding wireless at the High
School and virtualizing district servers, the recommendation was made to
finance these projects over 3 years at a zero percent rate at a cost of
$369,509 per year.

Ms. Sullivan named examples of shared services and efficiencies within the
district, including a
$2 million savings in recent years due to energy conservation.  She also
pointed out that although Westfield’s per pupil spending is below the
state average, the standardized test scores of our students are well above
the state average.

The next public discussion of the budget and adoption of the tentative
budget will be on March 11.

The Board accepted with regret the following retirements: Jeanne Jensen,
who has been the Tamaques School Nurse for 24 years and will be retiring
June 30, and George Armstrong, Franklin Lunch Aide since 2000, who retired
February 10. We wish them both wonderful, healthy retirements.

Business Administrator Dana Sullivan reported that bids have been opened
for the anticipated roof work this summer.  She expects to have more
information for the Board at the March 25th meeting.

Ginny Leiz, Chair of Long Range Planning, announced that the committee met
to discuss enrollment projections, which I outlined in the Budget segment

•       Snow Make-Up Days in Calendar:
The Board approved a change in the 2013-2014 calendar to reflect
adjustments needed to compensate for extra snow days used during this
challenging winter.  Fortunately for our school district, our current
school calendar had contingencies for some snow days, so further make-up
days are minimized.  However, we do have to make some changes to the
established calendar in order to meet state requirements. With the
State’s directive to provide 180 school days and our efforts to honor
religious holidays and to preserve Memorial Day (5/26) and Spring Break
(4/14 – 4/18), the following adjustments will be in effect for the
2013-2014 school year:
For grades K-8, the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL WILL BE FRIDAY, JUNE 20. The last
two days of school, June 19 and June 20, 2014 will be four-hour sessions.

For grades 9-12, Westfield High School will be in session on SATURDAY,
APRIL 5, 2014 for a four-hour day.  With this additional session, June 19
WILL BE THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL for WHS students and it remains as
Graduation day.  (Graduation cannot be held before the 180th day of
instruction). The last two days of school, June 18 and June 19, 2014 will
be four-hour sessions.

•       The Board approved for first reading the abolishment of the following
policies (since new policies had been created in their place):  3220 –
Evaluation of Teaching Staff Members and 3222 – Evaluation of Tenured
Teaching Staff Members.
•       The Board affirmed my decision on two HIB incidents.

The Board approved for first reading the following curricula all revised to
reflect Common Core State Standards:
•       Social Studies – Grade 5 Social Studies.
•       World Language – French III & III Honors; French IV & IV Honors;
French V & V AP; Spanish III & III Honors; Spanish IV & IV AP; and Spanish
V & V AP. These curricula also reflect the district’s 5-year cycle of
•       Mathematics -- Math of Personal Finance; Calculus, AP Calculus AB, AP
Calculus BC; Computer Science 1, 2 AP, and 3 Honors; Discrete Mathematics;
Probability & Statistics; AP Statistics; and  Pre-Calculus, Pre-Calculus
AP, and Pre-Calculus Honors.
The Board approved a total of seven field trips and one overnight trip for
students to attend curriculum-related events.
The Board heard a presentation from Paul Pineiro, Assistant Superintendent
of Curriculum, Instruction and Program, regarding student performance
information that the Department of Education releases annually. He noted
that our students continue to do very well in all standard assessments.
Students of Westfield consistently perform very well above State averages
on New Jersey’s assessments and at or typically above the performance of
socio-economic peers.
With all the 2013 testing data in, he shared the following summary:

•       All 10 Westfield Public Schools met Student Growth Indicator targets
which include student growth on Language Arts literacy and Math
•       97% of WHS students taking the HSPA Language Arts Literacy Assessment
scored in the Advanced Proficient and Proficient categories.  Of that
amount, 44% earned Advanced Proficient rating.
•       94% of WHS students taking the HSPA Math Assessment scored in the
Advanced Proficient and Proficient categories.  Of that total, 56% earned
Advanced Proficient rating.
•       95% of WHS students taking Advanced Placement tests scored 3 or

•       WHS students averaged a composite score of 1,742 on the SAT--
surpassing the peer average by 59 points and the state average by 230
points, and the national average by 244 points.
•       When compared to schools across the state, Westfield High School’s
Academic Performance ranked high; Graduation and Post-Secondary Performance
ranked high; and College and Career Readiness very high.
•       Westfield High School has met 100% of all targets as defined by the New
Jersey Department of Education’s NCLB waiver, which include Academic
Achievement, College and Career Readiness and Graduation and Post-Secondary
Mr. Pineiro indicated that these impressive accomplishments are due in a
large part from the support, encouragement and guidance the students
receive at home from their parents, in classrooms with their teachers, in
the community from their neighbors and through the Westfield Board of


The Board approved a resolution to enter into an educational cooperative
pricing agreement that includes the Educational Services Commission of
Morris and the Westfield School District.
The Board gratefully accepted a gift from the Westfield Coalition for the
Arts of $3,859 to the Westfield High School Music Department for the
purchase of a new choral riser.


•       The Fine Arts Department of the Westfield Public Schools invites the
public to attend any of the 40 musical events scheduled for this spring.
Approximately 2,500 students in grades kindergarten through high school
will be performing district-wide.  All concerts are free.  Concert dates,
times, and school addresses are available on the district website at   In addition, Roosevelt Intermediate School,
Westfield High School, and Edison Intermediate School will be performing in
musical theater.  This weekend, Roosevelt performs “13” from Friday
through Sunday.  From March 13th – 15th, Westfield High School will
present “Anyone Can Whistle. ” Edison Intermediate School’s Spring
Musical - The Little Mermaid will be held March 27th through the 29th.

•       Westfield High School’s Wind Ensemble has been chosen as 1 of 7
exceptional high school bands and orchestras nationwide to perform at
Lincoln Center’s Avery Fischer Hall on March 23 as part of this year’s
National Band and Orchestra Festival.  On Saturday March 22, the 43 member
Westfield High School ensemble will travel to New York City to participate
in a clinic with an internationally recognized composer.  On Sunday, March
23, the Wind Ensemble will return to New York to perform a 25 minute
musical program beginning at 1:45 PM in the prestigious Avery Fisher Hall.
Westfield High School Director of Bands, Chris Vitale, stated,  “The
students in the Wind Ensemble have been working tirelessly through snow
days, weekend rehearsals, sectionals, and private lessons in preparation
for an opportunity to represent our school and our community at this
legendary performance venue.”

•       The Westfield Public Schools are celebrating the nationally acclaimed
Youth Art Month in March with colorful and creative displays throughout the
downtown area.  Paintings, drawings, sculpture, and painted furniture
designed by approximately 270 students from Westfield’s ten public
schools are displayed by 38 downtown merchants as well as The Westfield
Memorial Library and RMC Studios in Garwood, who volunteered their window
or display space.


•       Congratulations to Fraser Weist and Nicole Devitt – seniors at
Westfield High School – who are among 3,000 12th graders from throughout
the country selected by the federal government as candidates for the U.S.
Presidential Scholars Program.  Fraser Weist also is a candidate as a U.S.
Presidential Scholar in the Arts.  No other high school senior in the
country has the distinction of being nominated in two categories in this
prestigious program.  Both Fraser and Nicole earned perfect scores in every
subject area of the ACT – a standardized test used for college admission
criteria.   In addition, Fraser, who is a prolific music composer, was
chosen and had attended the national YoungArts Week in Florida earlier this

•       Congratulations to 4 more Westfield High School 11th graders, who have
achieved perfect scores in December 2013 on SAT and ACT standardized tests.
 They include Jacqueline Napolitano – ACT Science; Brian Johnson –ACT
Science and SAT Math 2; Katherine Ko, SAT Writing; and Nina Wang – SAT
Reading and Writing.  This group of students brings to 19 the total of
perfect SAT or ACT scores thus far in the 2013-2014 school year in

•       Alexandra Jackman, a freshman at Westfield High School and a strong
advocate for autism awareness, has been honored for her exemplary volunteer
service with a President’s Volunteer Service Award on behalf of President
Barack Obama and with a Certificate of Excellence from the Prudential
Spirit of Community Awards program. The letter from the White House closes
with: “Thank you for your devotion to service and for doing all you can
to shape a better tomorrow for our great nation.” Separate and apart from
these distinctions, Alex’s video, A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and
Communicating with People with Autism, was chosen to be screened at the
Palm Beach International Film Festival in the 'Documentary' category. The
Festival takes place April 3rd-10th. Congratulations to Alex for the
well-deserved admiration and accolades she continues to receive for her
autism awareness efforts.


•       Congratulations to the Westfield High School Boys Swim Team for winning
the State title on Feb 23.  It marks the 25th state title, with Westfield
High School as the only school to win that many state titles in one sport.
•       During the recent Meet of Champions, Westfield High School swimmer
Caroline Baldwin won and set a meet record for the 50 Yard Freestyle.  In
addition, in the 200 Yard Relay, another win and meet record was earned by
Caroline Baldwin, Gwyn Devin, Erika Daniel, and Sarah Cronin.  Caroline
Baldwin also won the 100 Yard Backstroke.
•       In Wrestling, we congratulate Nick Velz, who earned the Region 3
Championship.  Nick and teammates John Fuller and Matt Barber will advance
to the Atlantic City completion for individual state titles.  We wish them
good luck in this next phase of competition.

•       Westfield High School senior Gabby Stravach won both the 1600 and 3200
at the North II Group IV State Sectional Championships on Friday, February
8th.  She is the first track and field athlete in the girls program to earn
two titles in one meet.  Her time in the 1600 was also a school record.
•       Matt Luppino was also State Sectional Champion in the 1600 for the boys
•       Also, we were recently made aware of a recognition made at the end of
the fall sports season:  Girls Varsity Soccer player Karli Sottung was
named Star Ledger Union County Player of the Year.  In addition the
National Soccer Coaches Association of America named Karli All-Region &

•       Eighth graders from Roosevelt Intermediate School in Westfield and
Cedarbrook School in Plainfield discussed elements of the Steinbeck novel
Of Mice and Men in the Roosevelt cafeteria on February 21. This marked the
third year of the successful exchange program. The students from each
school first became acquainted with one another when studying the novel Of
Mice and Men for four weeks, which included two visits between schools to
share ideas.  Roosevelt also established an online wiki for students from
both schools to communicate between meetings and discuss multiple
analytical questions about the text. This past weekend, they wrapped up
this year’s Exchange Program at a dance hosted by the Plainfield School.
Approximately 30 students from each school attended, with chaperones from
both Westfield and Plainfield.  Roosevelt Assistant Principal Brian
Gechtman said the dance, which included a DJ and refreshments, was a great

•       Roosevelt Intermediate School in Westfield ended the month of February
by celebrating Black History Month with its seventh annual visit by the
Newark Boys Chorus.  Roosevelt’s Sharps and Flats singers joined the
Chorus in musical selections.   The keynote speaker of the morning’s
assembly was Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson,
who broke the race barrier in 1947 by becoming the first African American
major league baseball player. A key leader in the organization called
Breaking Barriers for Sports and Life, Sharon Robinson, who holds several
academic degrees and has had a multi-faceted career, currently works to
raise awareness of her father’s nine values to live by:  courage,
determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice,
commitment, and equality.

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING – will be held Tuesday, March 11, at 7:30
PM here at 302 Elm Street.  It will include a public discussion of the
2014-2015 budget and adoption of the tentative budget.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

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