Letters to the Editor

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Ed Meeting Sept. 29

REPORT ON COLLEGE PLACEMENT/CAREER READINESS

I am pleased to report that 100 percent of our 2015 WHS senior class graduated. A total of 444 were presented diplomas on June 23 and two seniors earned their diploma over the summer. Here are some highlights of their post-graduation plans:

  • 97% continuing their education
  • 178 colleges & universities in 33 states and 5 other countries
  • Ivy League representation:  Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth & University of Pennsylvania
  • Most popular universities include:  Rutgers, Penn State, University of Maryland, College of New Jersey, University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & University, University of Delaware, Syracuse University, Lehigh University, and University of South Carolina.
  • 89% attending 4-year colleges and universities
  • 6.7% entered 2-year colleges
  • 1.1% attending vocational, business and other post high school institutions
  • .5% in apprentice programs
  • .6% employed
  • 1.0% gap year
  • .6% transition program
  • .5% future plans unreported

We wish all of our graduates much success in their educational and career choices.  We hope they keep us informed of how they are doing and of any suggestions they might have. We want all of our students to be prepared for college and career.
 

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DISTRICT AND BOARD GOALS

Following is an update on 2015-2016 District and Board goals:

District Goal 1 – Fund and hire a Director of Development for the District who initially focuses on coordinating alumni.

  • Research position as defined in other schools (Aug-Dec 2015)
  • Select an advisory committee from the community (Sept-Oct 2015)
  • Meet with advisory committee for input (Oct 2015 – Jan 2016)
  • Conduct  board workshop to determine guiding principles for job description (Oct. 20, 2015)
  • Board approves job description and budgets the salary (Jan 2016)
  • Advertise, interview and recommend candidate to Board (Jan – April 2016)
  • Candidate approved by Board (May 2016)

District Goal 2 – Conduct an assessment, review and recommendation for course offerings in the district.

High School

  • Compile data regarding current high school electives (Oct – Dec 2015)
  • Review data with administrators and teachers (Sept – Nov 2015)
  • Conduct board workshop to review findings and recommendations (Nov 2015)

Intermediate Schools

  • Compile data on elective courses (Oct – Dec 2015)
  • Review gifted and basic skills programs (Oct – Dec 2015)
  • Make recommendations to Board (Jan – Feb 2016)

Elementary Schools

  • Review time allotments for subject areas (Oct – Dec 2015)
  • Review gifted and basic skills programs (Oct 2015 – Feb 2016)
  • Make recommendations to Board ( March 2016)

District Goal 3 – Develop Strategic Plan for the Next 5 Years

  • Determine process for development of Strategic Plan ( Aug – Sept 2015)
  • Construct a representative community committee (Nov – Dec 2015)
  • Conduct two strategic planning sessions to determine areas of focus (Feb – March 2016)
  • Utilizing the work of the Strategic Planning Committee, prepare a Strategic Plan that will focus district efforts into the 2020’s (May – June 2016)
  • Present the Strategic Plan at a public meeting for adoption by the Board (June 2016)

The following goals have been adopted by the Westfield Board of Education for 2015-2016:

Board Goal 1 – Enhance Board member participation at district and community events including but not limited to PTO meetings, to present on current events of the Board and to respond to questions and inquiries.

Board Goal 2 – Ensure that the work of and information from Committee meetings is effectively communicated to all Board members in a timely manner and that committee reports are routinely provided at public Board meetings in a timely manner.

FACILITIES

Rich Mattessich, Facilities Chair, reported that the Committee will once again explore the options of installing solar on the school roofs now that the roofs have been replaced or repaired. The district will be sending an RFP in October if all goes as planned, with a presentation to the Board in December.

The Committee also discussed the Priority 1 capital projects for the District.  How we proceed with these may be influenced by the energy audit from the DOE that we expect to receive in October. 

Mr. Mattessich presented the findings of the Kehler temporary lighting pilot program that took place this spring.  In the Kehler Lighting Presentation, Mr. Mattessich noted the number of e-mails received by the Board of Education each week (3/23 -5/31) and whether the e-mails focused on lights, noise, smell or other miscellaneous comments.

He reported that members of the Board and/or the Westfield Soccer Association were on hand in the evenings to monitor the lights and to make adjustments as needed. He noted that as a result of a lawsuit that was filed by a resident, which ultimately was dismissed, communication between the Board and neighbors was impeded. The program did not violate any legal requirements.

The pilot program, which permitted extended hours of practice during specified weeknights, was deemed beneficial for students playing soccer, YMCA Flyers Track team and adults walking at night. There was little or no benefit observed for high school teams. 

If lights are requested again in the future, the Committee recommends several changes to the program, e.g., start earlier in the year when residents are not outdoors and windows are closed, and end earlier in the spring (March – April); reduce the number of generators; require more shielding on light fixtures to further reduce spillage; raise height of lights and require more downward direction to further reduce spillage; place additional mesh on fences and other areas; improve landscaping; consider ending earlier in the evening and add more week nights; permit only gym classes, classroom activities and the District’s sports programs on the field before 8:00 AM; limit use of PA system; install cameras in response to reported vandalism; continue prohibition on night games by user groups; require requests for temporary light usage to be presented to the Business Administrator no later than six weeks before the first proposed date of use; and provide the Athletic Director with the ability to permit the short term usage of lighting in very limited circumstances (e.g., football practice if the team advances to post-season competition),not for third party user groups.  Lastly the Committee recommends engaging in dialogue with the Town in an effort to jointly explore establishing additional turf field capacity in the near term.

POLICIES

The Board affirmed my decision on a Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) incident.

CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAMS

The Board approved several field trips for the school year.

FINANCE

Finance Chair, Mark Friedman, reported that the Committee will continue to meet to review Priority 1 projects under consideration for a bond, and the timing of the bond, as more information from the architect is forthcoming.  Finance member, Gretchan Ohlig, noted that a committee of community representatives has been formed and will meet to discuss the potential for a bond.  

The Board gratefully accepted the following gifts:  A Hermann Beyer cello valued at $500 from Pamela Orbach to the Westfield High School Music Department; a Baldwin upright piano valued at $2,500 from James Greene to  the Westfield High School Music  Department; and the  following gifts from the Westfield Coalition for the Arts:  $800 to provide clinician fees for Maureen Francis to work with the Westfield High School Concert Choir and Chorale, and $2,000 to purchase five iPads for the Music Departments at McKinley and Lincoln Schools.

TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE

Ginny Leiz read a report from Technology Committee Chair, Mitch Slater, which summarized the Committee’s meeting of September 25.  Some of the highlights include: A total of 150 new laptops are in place in our schools, and all 5th grade computers were replaced this summer.  New WiFi was installed in the intermediate schools.  Teachers received training prior to the start of the school year by Master Technology teachers and continue to do so. 

LIAISON REPORTS 

Peggy Oster attended the first Parent Teacher Council (PTC) meeting of the school year as well as Lincoln’s first day Coffee. Gretchan Ohlig reported that Jefferson PTO’s first meeting was largely an organizational one. Edison’s PTO meeting, attended by Ginny Leiz, also was organizational in nature. Mrs. Leiz, Brendan Galligan and Christopher Langhart were present at the gathering of the Union County School Boards Association, at which Mr. Galligan is Vice President. Mr. Langhart, Board liaison at the Town’s Recreation Commission, stated that at that recent meeting, the discussion included the need for track repair at Kehler and the possibility of an improved field at Tamaques Park.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

Neighbors living in the vicinity of Kehler Stadium addressed the Board with concerns regarding the temporary lighting program that was piloted this past spring. The report presented by Mr. Mattessich was appreciated by the neighbors, who offered additional suggestions regarding noise, litter, lighting, landscaping, and student conduct. Board member Peggy Oster thanked the neighbors for their input.

ANNOUNCEMENT

NATIONAL MERIT SEMI-FINALISTS

Board President, Richard Mattessich, presented certificates to four Westfield High School seniors who were named 2016 National Merit Semi-Finalists:  Albert Chen, Ryan Dang, Nova Qi, and Sarah Steiner. He cited their many academic and co-curricular accomplishments. Approximately 1.1 percent of students who take the Preliminary SAT test qualify as National Merit semi-finalists.  The program honors students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

SAT & ACT ACHIEVEMENTS

Congratulations to the following students who received perfect scores on the ACT administered in April 2015:  Brian Lawrence – for Mathematics and Science; Erik Swanson for Reading and Science, and Evan Trott for English.  Also, congratulations to the following students for achieving perfect SAT scores in May:  Natalia Zeller MacLean for Spanish; Kayla Derman for Math 2; Jack Fico for Math 2 and US History; Frankanthony Guerriero for Math; and Kevin Palmer for Math 2.  Both the ACT and SAT are widely used for college admission criteria. 

VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS

  • Visual Arts - Congratulations to Westfield High School Senior Claudia Savickas, whose artwork was selected for the program cover of the Musical Club of Westfield’s Centennial Concert.  Claudia, who has been an art student of Annora Happe-Conway for 3 years, will receive a $200 prize for her awarding winning poster. The Club is celebrating their 100th year this year with a Scholarship Concert, which is open to the public, on Sunday, November 22, at the First Baptist Church, 170 Elm Street.  Founded in 1915, the Musical Club of Westfield has bestowed scholarships to promising young musicians since 1922 and has helped over 140 different students over the past 93 years.  
  • Performing Arts - Congratulations to the Westfield High School Theatre program which was named one of the "Brightest in the Country" according to Chris Peterson, editor of the online review called On Stage.  Peterson states:  High Schools in close proximity to New York City are almost expected to have strong performing arts programs. But teacher Dan Devlin and the students at Westfield High School in Westfield, NJ are taking it to a whole other level. Just 40 minutes from Broadway, Mr. Devlin and his students aren't just producing some of best high school theatre in the country. What makes this program so special? First is the approach they have towards education their students. They instill the philosophy that the performing arts develops numerous skills for the individual, including self-confidence, creativity, analytical thinking, empathy, discipline, and an appreciation for our culture and our history. Their mission is to help every student reach their highest potential as an artist and as an individual.” 

Peterson mentions the long list of awards the program has received. He also states that thanks to the amazing introduction to theatre that students are receiving in Westfield, many of them are going on to the best college programs in the country. He ended the review by saying, “Our deepest congratulations to Westfield High School's theatre department and we wish them nothing but the best with their upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard....A high school taking on Chekov....love it!”

  • Marching Band - The Westfield High School Marching Band brought home top honors from their first two competitions of the 2015 season. The Marching Blue Devils, comprised of over 100 performing students, placed 1st in their division and 2nd overall at the Scotch Plains competition held on September 19th and 1st in their division and 1st overall at the Piscataway Competition held on September 26th. This year’s production is titled "The Caged Bird Sings" based on the poem written by Maya Angelou featuring the sights and sounds of birds accompanied by large bird cages scattered across the football field. The Marching Blue Devils can be seen in action at the next Westfield High School home football game on Saturday, October 3 beginning at 2 pm at Kehler Stadium where they will host special guest 7th and 8th grade musicians from Roosevelt and Edison Intermediate Schools for their halftime performance

PROGRAM FOR PARENTS OF GIRLS

The public is invited to Edison Intermediate School on Monday, October 5, at 7:00 pm, when the Junior League of Elizabeth-Plainfield and the Tuesday Club will co-host a program on “Raising Resilient Girls.” The presentation by Simone Marean, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Girls Leadership will cover the development of girl dynamics beginning in preschool through high school years.  This presentation for parents and teachers will focus on how to help girls practice assertive, self-expression, emotional intelligence, and healthy relationships, preparing them for a life of personal and societal leadership. The one-hour program will be followed by a 30 minute Q&A session. To RSVP for the event, please visit rrgedison.eventbrite.com
 

ATHLETICS

The Westfield High School Girls’ Volleyball Team is sponsoring its 7th annual volleyball tournament, known as "Pink Out" this Friday October 2, to raise funds and promote public awareness as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins in October.

The Freshmen game against neighbor and rival Scotch Plains High School begins at 4:00 p.m., the JV game at 5:30 p.m., and the Varsity game at approximately 7:00 p.m. A serving contest will be held after the JV game and winners will receive prizes donated from local merchants. There will also be a refreshment stand, and a tricky-tray auction for baskets of prizes. In addition, breast cancer survivors will be honored in a special procession lead by Coach Torok, a breast cancer survivor, at the conclusion of the event.

The event is open to the public and tickets can be purchased at the door. Anyone wearing pink is admitted free. All proceeds will go to Susan G. Komen Foundation.

FREE PASSES FOR SENIOR CITIZENS

The Westfield Public School District is providing a senior citizens’ “Golden Pass” to Westfield residents 65 years and older to attend events for free.  The pass will include Westfield High School concerts, musicals and matinee performances of plays.  The pass will also be accepted at athletic events.  The Golden Pass can be obtained in the Business Office of the Westfield Board of Education, located on the first floor of 302 Elm Street as of October 1st.  We welcome our senior citizens and thank them for their years of support!

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING – will be held Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m. A complete agenda will be available on the Board’s website and at 302 Elm Street on Friday, Oct. 2.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net 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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