Letters to the Editor

Synopsis of a Westfield Board of Education Meeting & Workshop Feb. 16



One of the priority projects in the recently approved bond referendum is the replacement of a 20 year old public address system in our schools.  I invited Brian Auker, our Chief Technology Officer, to provide the Board with highlights of the updated system which incorporates important security features. The integrated clock/intercom system comes equipped with clock/paging software to provide both text and audio alerts to interior rooms, exterior areas, or district wide. It is compatible with our phone system and has up-to-date notification and several emergency features, including 911 call monitoring and the ability to alert teachers via a smartphone app.  New speakers will be installed to significantly improve audio alerts, especially in high-trafficked areas of the buildings.


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The board approved my recommendation for the appointment of Mrs. Mary Asfendis as the Assistant Principal for Edison Intermediate School effective March 7. While Mrs. Asfendis served as an assistant principal of Westfield High School for the past four years, she actually started her career in Edison Intermediate School, where she again will serve our 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.  I would like to thank Mrs. Kim Schumacher for her work as the Acting Assistant Principal at Edison for the last several months. We appreciate her efforts and know that Roosevelt is very happy to welcome her back. The board also approved my recommendation for the appointment of Ms. Margaret McFadden as the Interim Assistant Principal of Westfield High School beginning March 7.


Facilities Chair Brendan Galligan reported that the committee met on February 5 and discussed the phasing in of the projects approved in the recent bond.  He announced that the Friends of Westfield Track will be renovating the concession stand at Kehler at their own expense. 

Mr. Galligan then introduced Peter Franks of the Westfield Soccer Association, who had presented a proposal to the Facilities Committee on November 4, 2015.  On behalf of the WSA, Mr. Franks requested approval to place temporary lights at Kehler Stadium from March 1 – April 30, 2016 between 7:00 – 9:30 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  He emphasized that the WSA is complying with the Board of Education’s Facilities Committee’s recommendations presented on September 29, 2015. 

There will be fewer generators – 3 instead of 4 – which will reduce noise. In addition, new taller lights with shielding will direct lighting on the field, avoiding spillage into the neighborhood. A demonstration of these lights was provided to the Board on February 2.  Two residents addressed the Board with concerns regarding the WSA proposal, to which Mr. Franks responded to clarify misconceptions and to assure compliance with Board recommendations. Board President Gretchan Ohlig stated that the Facilities Committee will make a recommendation on which the Board will vote on March 1. 


The Board affirmed my decision on three HIB incidents.


The board approved several new elementary, intermediate and high school field trips to augment curriculum.

The board approved for first reading the following curricula: 

Science – Biology I

Humanities – Global Citizen & Women’s Studies                                                      


The board gratefully accepted a gift of a Bishop’s chair from Carolyn Fleder to the Roosevelt Intermediate School Drama Department.


Congratulations to McKinley School families who donated 3,291 canned and boxed food items to a local Food Bank as a part of the school’s Soup-er-Bowl food drive, almost doubling the amount collected last year.  According to McKinley Principal, Marc Biunno, “We simply demolished the record, and in doing so, helped more and more people.” He added that “We want our students to learn that the collective effort matters.”


·         Congratulations to four Westfield High School seniors who were named 2016 National Merit Finalists: Albert Chen, Ryan Dang, Nova Qi, and Sarah Steiner.  These students attended our Board meeting in early October, shortly after they had been named National Merit Semi-Finalists.  We congratulate them on earning the finalist ranking based on their continued academic and co-curricular accomplishments. They represent the highest scoring students -- approximately 1 percent – who qualified and who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. 

·         Congratulations to Westfield High School Senior, Felicia Mermer, who has been named a Candidate for the United States Presidential Scholars Program by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the United States Department of Education. According to the letter received by Superintendent of Schools Margaret Dolan from the US Department of Education, this recognition is “to recognize and honor some of our nation’s most distinguished graduating seniors . .  . who are chosen on the basis of their accomplishments in many areas – academic and artistic success, leadership, and involvement in school and the community – and represent excellence in education and the promise of greatness in America’s youth.”  In addition to her academic ability, Felicia is Co-President of Westfield’s Model United Nations Club.  “She is truly a compassionate and caring young woman,” states her Guidance Counselor, Darlene Hill.  “Her empathy extends beyond WHS, as she is passionate about helping people who are facing adversity.  She has become actively involved with Girls Learn International, and feels empowered to create solutions that address obstacles that girls are encountering worldwide.” 


·         Congratulations to the following Westfield High School juniors who were accepted to All-State Band this year: Dale Beyert - Trumpet - All-State Wind Ensemble and Orchestra; Michael Hauge  - Clarinet - All-State Symphonic Band; and Matthew Schiff - Clarinet - All-State Symphonic Band. The concert was held Saturday, February 20, at NJPAC in Newark.


·         Congratulations to the following Westfield High School choral students who participated in the Central Jersey Music Education Association’s Chorus Concert at Monroe High School in Monroe, NJ in February:  Laura Surace, Kylinn Kraemer, Olivia McElheny, Max Wasilewski, Noah Bram, Alison Brown, Charlotte Fountain-Jardim, Lauren Singer, Abby Rothenberg, Joey Maldonado, and Lauren Brumfield.   These students had auditioned in December and were accepted from among hundreds of talented students.

·         Enjoy a night of classical music performed by members of the Westfield High School Orchestras on Saturday, February 27, at 7 p.m., at The First United Methodist Church at 1 East Broad Street in Westfield NJ.  This is a fundraiser concert to benefit the orchestra’s trip to Boston, MA where they will be performing. 


Teachers, support staff and administrators in the Westfield Public School district attended an In-Service on February 12 while schools were closed for students at the start of Presidents weekend.  Paul Pineiro, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Program, reminds us that this In-Service day was an opportunity for school colleagues to spend time collaborating, articulating, and learning as they prepare for the stretch-run to the end of the school year.  

Morning and afternoon sessions were coordinated by grade level, school or department.  When visiting the schools during these energized sessions, I had the opportunity to further observe our staff’s collaboration and their commitment to Westfield students as well as to their own professional development.


In a concerted effort to lay the foundation for the Westfield Public Schools through the year 2020, approximately 35 people gathered in the Lincoln School gymnasium on Saturday, February 6, to begin the development of a new strategic plan for the district.  The process began in 2015 with the Westfield Board of Education’s Parent/Community Survey.  The new multi-year plan will mark the fourth one adopted by the school district since 1998. Gretchan Ohlig, President of the Westfield Board of Education, opened the meeting by welcoming the group that included fellow Board members, administrators, teachers, parents, civic leaders, and members of the community-at-large. 

I provided a presentation which included key points from the survey, updated demographic data, and a school district overview of operational and educational strengths and challenges. The day-long discussions were facilitated by Dennis Cheesebrow of TeamWorks International, who previously provided guidance to the Board of Education during a workshop session in 2015. Divided into small groups, the members of the Strategic Planning Council identified key trends and influences in the district and began sharing their vision for the Westfield Public Schools by participating in thought-provoking interactive workshops. Saturday’s meeting was a unique opportunity for stakeholders in our community to help the Westfield Public Schools in preparing our young people for a meaningful and successful future.  The group will meet again onSaturday, March 19, to continue this goal-setting process.

NEXT BOE MEETING will be held Tuesday, March 1, at 7:30 PM at 302 Elm Street.  The complete agenda will be available on Friday, Feb. 26, on the Board of Ed website.



The board met in a workshop session led by Business Administrator Dana Sullivan to discuss the school district budget.  Mrs. Sullivan presented a budget timeline which began Nov. 17, 2015 with a previous workshop by the board and concluding on April 26, 2016, when a public hearing and adoption of a final budget for 2016-2017 is anticipated.  Some of the key elements of Mrs. Sullivan’s Feb. 16 presentation, which is available on the district website, include:

·         Assume basic state aid of less than 4% of budget

·         Tax levy increase limited to 2% plus a waiver for health insurance

o   Areas of budget increasing more than 2% include technology, health and other insurances, utilities, and special education

·         No waiver available for mandated special education

·         1.6 teachers will be needed for increased enrollment at the intermediate level

·         First draft of budget is approximately $300,000 over CAP and will need adjustments, if necessary, based on final state aid information.

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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