Letters to the Editor

Important Information from the Westfield Board of Education

Synopsis Of a Westfield Board of Education meeting on April 29, 2014


The Board unanimously adopted the 2014-2015 school year budget and tax levy.  The total amount of the budget for the General Fund is $95,507,163, of which $88,967,333 will be raised by tax levy, which is at the State adjusted CAP. The budget is constructed to meet the needs of the students and to fund the district’s literacy and technology initiatives, STEM program, mandated programs and academic support, and to meet PAARC requirements.  The budget maintains existing class size guidelines as well as co-curricular, athletic and fine arts programs. It provides sufficient resources for enrollment increases at Westfield High School and for maintaining facilities.  Dana Sullivan, Business Administrator, also noted that instruction comprises approximately 75% of the total budget.

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Master Technology teachers Jeanine Gottko (K-5) and Adam Pizzi (6-12) presented an Instructional Technology Presentation on accomplishments and goals. They are two experienced teachers in our district who are not only skilled in teaching but have a passion for technology. They provided examples of several technological tools and platforms that they demonstrate to teachers to encourage critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration in the classroom.  They also provided updates on previous and ongoing professional development, including months of training provided to 680 staff members on the new Edline website.  As the successor of SchoolCenter, phase one of Edline was launched on April 21 with a full rollout plan for the fall to improve communication with the district stakeholders.  To help succeed in fulfilling our ”walls to windows” mission, both agreed that additional time to allow for professional development would be beneficial.  Mr. Pizzi indicated that the proposed wireless upgrade to be installed this summer at Westfield High School is an important first step in making technology accessible to everyone.  They both thanked Brian Auker’s Information Technology department, administrators and staff who have been supportive and cooperative in rising to the goal of empowering Westfield students to thrive as 21st century learners.  Board Technology Chair Mitch Slater remarked that from an instructional technology standpoint, the vision of the district is exceeding expectations.


After a successful pilot in 2012-2013, we implemented the Marshall Evaluation Plan district-wide in September 2014.  To date there have been more than 3,000 observations.  To gauge the effectiveness of the model, we surveyed teachers in March, receiving 513 responses.  Teachers responded that the most helpful components of the Marshall model are mini observations, post observation conferences, and communication with the administrator/supervisor. Over 70% of teachers responded that the Marshall Model has impacted communication with parents, data analysis and student assessment.  A total of 380 teachers provided comments to the survey.  Overall, they believe it is a good system.  Several raised issues regarding the relevancy of some of the rubrics to positions such as counseling.  We will use these comments to undertake improvements to the system.  We will be in touch with Kim Marshall, but ultimately we have to receive permission from the State to make any changes to the language.  Board Vice President Rosanne Kurstedt, who is a member of the committee, stated that she was pleased with the amount of information provided by our teachers, and has heard positive comments about the Marshall plan. Human Resource Specialist Barbara Ball continues to share knowledge and experiences with districts who also are using the Marshall plan.


The Board accepted with regret the retirement of Patricia Bradley – Business Office Executive Secretary – following more than 26 years in the Westfield Public School district.  We wish her a healthy, happy retirement, which is effective June 30, 2014.


Ginny Leiz, Chair of Long Range Planning, reported that the committee met last week with several topics on the agenda, including considering funding options for large scale capital improvements, possibly through a development foundation; the importance of residents enrolling their incoming first graders, due to the expectation that these numbers will increase since the January registration period began; and the scheduling of a new strategic plan to begin next year.


  • The Board approved for second reading the following policies:  2415 – No Child Left Behind Programs; 2415.01 – Academic Standards, Academic Assessments and Accountability; 2415.04 – Title I – District-wide Parental Involvement; and 8220 – School Day.
  • The Board affirmed my decision on four HIB incidents and one appeal.


The Board approved three field trips which align with curriculum.


The Board approved a resolution to approve the food service contract with Chartwells food service, which is guaranteeing a return to the District of $166,000 for the 2014-2015 school year.



WHS Senior Alexa Derman received a certificate from Board of Education President congratulating her on being a recipient of a Governor’s Award in Arts Education.  Mr. Mattessich listed Alexa’s other recent achievements: Serving as one of 3 officers who helped to run the Youth and Government conference held in Trenton attended by more than 550 students, and selected along with 3 classmates to attend the Council on National Affairs Conference in North Carolina this summer; winning the NJ Council of Teachers of English competition in in creative nonfiction;  winning the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey young playwrights competition – her play will be performed by actors at Kean University; receiving an award at a ceremony at Carnegie Hall for the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards  -- having won three gold medals, representing the top 0.5% -- one in dramatic script and one in personal essay/memoir, and one in flash fiction; having one of her plays to be performed professionally in Los Angeles as a winner of the Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival performances, a national playwriting competition; invited to attend the International Thespian Society festival, likened to a  theatre National Honor Society where members (mostly actors) from across the country convene – she is one of four winners of the national playwriting and her play will be published in the Thespian Society's national magazine Dramatics.


Westfield High School Principal Peter Renwick has been appointed to the Education Commission of the States, joining a nationwide, nonpartisan, interstate organization devoted to education at all levels. Mr. Renwick was appointed to the post by the Governor and will represent the State of New Jersey working side by side with key education leaders from around the nation to improve education across the 50 states and U.S. territories. In response to this announcement, Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe stated, “I would like to congratulate Peter Renwick, who will join me in representing New Jersey on the Education Commission of the States – a nationally recognized organization that analyzes education research and creates opportunities for education leaders to learn from each other.  Peter was a member of the Governor’s College and Career Readiness Task Force, which I chaired in 2012, so I know he understands the need to provide our students with a 21st century education. He will be an effective representative for New Jersey.”  

The Westfield High School Youth and Government Club returned with an impressive array of awards, including Outstanding Delegation, from this year’s Conference held at the State House in Trenton April 4 - 6. More than 550 students from high schools across New Jersey participated in the program, including 72 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors representing WHS. Samantha Gruskin, Alexa Derman, and Koryn Kraemer served as officers for the conference, having worked throughout the year to help organize and prepare to run the conference. Outstanding Delegate awards were won by Margaret Meyo, Jonathan Kelly, Andrew Zale, and Frank Guerriero. Three of eight possible Outstanding Legislation Awards were earned by Jared Geoghan, Bryanna Reinhardt, and Ben Kelly. They were recognized for the quality of the bills they wrote for conference. Of the eight Premier Statesmen awards presented at the conference, both Andrew Zale and Frank Guerriero were recipients. In the Judiciary committee, the award for Premier First Year Delegate was given to Margaret Meyo. The Outstanding Executive Response Committee Delegate Award was given to Jonathan Kelly.  In addition, Frank Guerriero, Isabella Gelfand, Andrew Kuznetsov, Ed Dellarso, Jared Bansky and Maya Johnson passed bills at the conference.  Elected as officers for next year’s conference were Andrew Kuzetsov, Andrew Zale, Koryn Kraemer, Ed Dellarso, Frank Guerriero, and Bryanna Reinhard.  Selected to attend the Council on National Affairs conference this summer in North Carolina were Alexa Derman, Isabella Gelfand, JD Kelly, and Frank Guerriero.  Ellie Smith, Jill Rosenfeld will serve as CONA alternates.

Isabella Gelfand, a Westfield High School sophomore, was the recipient on April 27th of this year’s Marc Wesley Hardy Human Rights Award, given annually to a young person for outstanding commitment to human rights.  Isabella received the award for her extensive involvement with Girls Learn International a non-profit organization that supports universal education for girls. She currently serves as the vice president/treasurer of the WHS chapter and a member of the New York/New Jersey Regional GLI Junior Board.  Isabella recently prepared and then actively participated for the third year at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.  Previously, Isabella was one of 20 delegates selected nationwide on behalf of Girls Learn International.  This year Isabella was selected to be one of 10 delegates to the UN Commission on the Status of Women on behalf of the Working Group on Girls. Isabella co-moderated a panel discussion on girls’ rights and made presentations to various Missions to the United Nations on the issue of Child Marriage.  Additionally, several members of the Westfield High School and Roosevelt Intermediate School chapters of Girls Learn International participated in the celebration held in Manhattan of the 10th anniversary of the organization.   Isabella acted as a panelist along with Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.  Westfield High School Chapter Leader, Melanie Nettler and Roosevelt Chapter Leader, Deanna Hanchuk, along with chapter members from throughout the country spoke about achievements of their Chapters over the past 10 years. First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, spoke about the importance of youth activism. Honored guests included Lisa Alter, a former Westfield Board of Education member, and her two daughters, Jordana and Arielle, Girls Learn International co-founders.

Congratulations to the following Westfield High School seniors for receiving honorable mention in the annual Moody’s Mega Math Challenge: Matt Luppino, Lucia Liu, Cindy Xiao, Mark Gillespie, and Alex Beals. They submitted a 20 page paper with documentation to support their work. Out of over 2600 teams that registered, they were among the 52 teams that were selected to the second round.  A $1,000 scholarship prize will be split between the five members of the Westfield High School team.  Moody’s judges sent the following message to teacher/adviser Les Jacobsen:  “You and your team should be very proud of this distinction, especially given the rigorous and intense scrutiny that each paper endured and the fact that only 5.6% of the submitted papers were selected for recognition. Congratulations on your team’s superior paper.”


The Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance program has named Edison Intermediate School as a Model School for its exemplary efforts to foster respect and understanding among students and throughout campus during the 2013-14 school year. Edison is one of 76 schools from across the country receiving the honor for encouraging Mix It Up Day. Edison was among the 6,000 schools that participated in Teaching Tolerance’s Mix It Up at Lunch Day Program, an effort to break down the barriers between students so there are fewer misunderstandings that can lead to conflicts, bullying and harassment. On Mix It Up Day in November 2013, Edison held a school-wide assembly followed by teacher-facilitated discussion groups. During lunch students made new friends at grade level tables, and afterwards the entire student body and staff participated in team-building games, mixing students from the school’s sixth, seventh and eighth grades. In notifying Edison of its distinction, the Director of the Teaching Tolerance Project wrote, “In today’s polarized world, it’s refreshing to see schools that are doing extraordinary things to encourage students, faculty and staff to cross the social boundaries that so often divide us. By recognizing these schools and calling attention to their great work, we hope that other schools will follow their lead.”

Roosevelt Intermediate School in Westfield officially began using its outdoor classroom this month when the weather cooperated.  Thanks to funding from the school’s Parent Teacher Student Organization, the Student Council, and the Education Fund of Westfield, Roosevelt teachers can schedule their classes in the new open air space adjacent to the school which is surrounded by a low wall which can be used for seating.


Congratulations to David Gruskin, senior at Westfield High School, who was selected and performed as the trumpet player with the Central Jersey Music Educators Association Region II Jazz Ensemble April 14th at Rahway High School. 

Congratulations to WHS senior Fraser Weist who has been named one of 565 semi-finalists in the country to advance to the final round of the 2014 United States Presidential Scholars competition.  This award recognizes our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.  In 1979, the Program extended its requirements to include exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts.


Coral Venturino, who teaches fourth grade at Wilson School, is this year’s recipient of the Westfield Rotary’s Philhower Fellowship for outstanding teaching at the elementary grades.  Mrs. Venturino began her career in Westfield in 1990 and has taught at both Wilson and Washington Schools.  She has experience at the kindergarten level, second grade, fourth grade, as a Resource room teacher, and Primary Enrichment Program Teacher.  The Board of Education will honor her at our next Board meeting on May 6 with a reception at 7 PM in Wilson School’s auditorium, preceding the business portion of our meeting.  Earlier that day, Mrs. Venturino will be the guest of honor at the Rotary Club’s Luncheon.

The 17th annual Jefferson Jubilee was enjoyed by a sold-out crowd at Westfield High School Saturday and Sunday, March 29 & 30. Almost 400 Jefferson children participated in this year’s show, dancing to the theme “Movin’ & Groovin. Jubilee is a Jefferson tradition that caps off months of planning by parent volunteers and after-school practices for the students.

Westfield Public Schools’ Third Annual Café Cultural held this month at Westfield High School included more than 600 participants who experienced a taste of different cultures.  Fifth Grade students participating in the district Spanish program were invited to display projects at the event as well as share a favorite recipe.  The cafeterias were filled with music, food, and projects students had worked on in Spanish courses that described themselves and their daily routines.  The students and parents who attended the event provided all of the delicious and interesting cultural food. 

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING – will be held at Wilson Elementary School on Tuesday, May 6.    As mentioned, the business portion of the meeting will be preceded by a reception beginning at 7 PM to honor Coral Venturino, Rotary Club Philhower recipient. 

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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