Letters to the Editor

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting May 24



Last night I presented to the full Board a draft of the 2016-2021 strategic plan for the Westfield School District.  The process for developing a new strategic plan for the district began last year with a parent/community survey.  The results from the survey as well as extensive data on the district were shared earlier this year with the Strategic Planning Council.  This group, representing a cross section of the Westfield community and the school district, met for two full Saturdays to work on beliefs and visions for the next five years.  I would like to once again thank the members of the Strategic Planning Council for volunteering their time and for their interest in continuing the tradition of excellence in the Westfield Public Schools.


The draft presented last night was the compilation of meetings with the Strategic Planning Council, the Board’s Long Range Planning Committee, and Board leadership and Administration.   Following recommendations offered at last night’s Board of Education meeting, slight modifications will be made to the plan before it is presented to the Board for adoption at the June 14th meeting.   Once the document is adopted, it will serve as a basis for the Board to develop specific goals and objectives on a yearly basis.

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The Board held a moment of silence for former WHS Special Education teacher Chuck Ropars whose last day of employment was May 10, 2016.  Assistant Superintendent Michael Weissman referred to Mr. Ropars as a mentor, confidant, coach and educator. Dedicating 36 years to the Westfield school community, Mr. Ropars also developed the successful Bridge Program at WHS.

The Board accepted with regret the retirements of Barry Furrer – McKinley and Franklin Music teacher since 1982 and Susan Furrer – 29 years as RIS Secretary to the Principal, who are retiring as of July 1, 2016.  We thank them for their many years of dedication to the Westfield Public Schools and wish them much happiness in their retirement.

The Board approved the appointment of Margaret McFadden (replacing Asfendis, transferred) as Westfield High School Assistant Principal, effective July 1, 2016. Ms. McFadden has demonstrated true commitment to students and staff at WHS.


Business Administrator Dana Sullivan reported that many summer projects will take place at the close of the school year, e.g., boiler replacements, Public Address System installations, elementary WiFi upgrades, and replacements of floors and ceiling lights. She also noted that the solar contract is finalized, with the installation of solar panels expected to begin on specific schools this summer.


  • The Board approved for first reading 2430 – Extra Curricular Activities (Program)
  • The Board approved for second reading the following policies:  5339 – Screening for Dyslexia (Pupils) and 5500 – Conduct/Discipline Code of Conduct (Pupils)


The Board gratefully accepted a gift of $500 from the Westfield Coalition for the Arts to fund guest conductor Bryan Ruddrow to work with 6th, 7th and 8th grade concert bands at Roosevelt Intermediate School.

By a vote of 7 – 1, the Board approve a resolution acknowledging an agreement with the Town of Westfield to supply one trained School Resource Officer to the Westfield Board of Education to be assigned to the public schools for 40 hours per week with both entities sharing the cost.


Peggy Oster reported that the Special Ed Parents Committee is looking for volunteers.  Parents should contact Lisa Kops-Wendel at lkwendelptc@gmail.com to learn more about opportunities for involvement. 

Mrs. Oster also attended the Parent-Teacher Council meeting last Thursday, when the new Board of the PTC was sworn into office.  Mrs. Oster encouraged parents and community members to attend the PTC meetings – which usually occur the third Thursday of the month in Room 105 at 302 Elm Street – to hear about what is happening in our schools.  She thanked the PTC for its continuing support.  

Gretchan Ohlig reported on her attendance at the Westfield High School PTSO meeting.  She noted that there is great interest in trying to live stream the graduation ceremony. Research is ongoing  to determine the needs and likelihood of this proposal.


Questions were raised and comments were offered by elementary school parents regarding enrollment numbers.  I explained that we monitor enrollment over the summer and assured the parents that I will make any recommendations for changes as soon as practicable. 



Congratulations to our talented thespians and stage crew!  Westfield High School’s fall production of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhovreceived three Montclair State University Theatre Night Awards on May 16, including the coveted Outstanding Production of a Classical Play.  In addition, top awards were presented to Madeline Hudelson for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Classical Play” and to Madeliene Rosenthal for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Classical Play. This marks the third consecutive year that Westfield High School has garnered best play recognition at the Theatre Night Awards which recognizes excellence in the production of high school and middle school plays throughout New Jersey. We applaud the entire cast and crew as well as Westfield High School Drama teacher Daniel Devlin.

In addition, Roosevelt Intermediate School’s Olivia Ebel won the Outstanding Middle School Performance Award for her role in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  Drama Teacher Kimberly Jonny was joined at the Montclair State University Awards Night by 30 students and parents.


  • Congratulations to six more 11th grade students who have each achieved the highest score of 36 on the ACT standardized tests widely used for college admission and placement criteria. They include Matthew Bernstein - Writing, Samuel Bennett – Science; Jacob Davis – Reading; Chloe Schafer – Reading; Gabriel Givelber – Mathematics; and Nicholas Nolan – Mathematics.
  • Two of our High School students were invited to attend the National Police Athletic League Youth Town Hall Meeting held in Arlington, VA.  In April, Senior Erica Simmons and 11th grader Matt Reed had the opportunity to dialogue with fellow PAL members, government and community leaders, as well as law enforcement executives from across the country to continue the fostering of a positive relationship among the groups.  The PAL national leadership was interested in hearing about initiatives within various communities such as Westfield, where students like Erica and Matt volunteer weekly to provide free after school tutoring sponsored by the local  PAL. Earlier in the day prior to the start of the meeting, Erica, Matt, Westfield High School teacher Gail Alston and retired Westfield detective Ron Allen, had the unique opportunity of participating in behind-the-scenes tours of an airport control tower, TSA and US Customs areas, and a joint military base in Washington, D.C.


“Raising Kids with a a Healthy Body Image” was the focus of Roosevelt Intermediate School’s Coffee with Counselors on May 18, the last in a series of parent workshops planned for the Westfield school year.  In addition to the school’s three counselors – Kim Schumacher, Christine Trottere and Stephanie Thompson -- presenters included Cassie Teschner, who is a senior at Westfield High School.  As part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she has been researching facts about eating disorders for the past three years and was invited to speak and to distribute brochures which she produced on the topic. Counselors created a resource-filled Powerpoint which can be viewed on the RIS Counseling Website.  The presentation included many tips for parents as well as alarming statistics which addressed the impact of negative body image and media messages and ways to promote a positive body image in teens.  School nurse, Sharon Dorry, who also spoke to parents, shares similar information while encouraging good eating habits with the 6th – 8th graders as part of the health curriculum. The Coffee with Counselors was launched in 2014 for the purpose of dialoguing with parents and providing resources on topics of interest.


Congratulations to Tamaques Elementary School which has been named the Specialty Prize winner in the “2016 Carton 2 Garden Contest.”  The school was awarded $2,500 for its program which used cartons and gardening to connect with Holocaust survivors.   The unique project focused on kindness and grew into honoring the lives of children lost in the Holocaust through revitalizing the school’s neglected butterfly garden. The first graders brainstormed by discussing the importance of kindness and making the world a better place.  Then they asked for help from their fifth grade buddies who realized that the theme of kindness was such an important connection to their study of the Holocaust.  They read the poem “The Butterfly” and learned that butterflies are a symbol of the children that were lost in the Holocaust.  Together they made the connection to the first grade curriculum of the life cycle of the butterfly.  The students recycled milk cartons by wrapping them in foil and decorating them with kind words. Then they planted seeds in their cartons and arranged them to spell out the word HOPE. Their "Hope Grows" cartons will welcome butterflies later this spring.


Reminder:  Westfield Public Schools and offices will be closed from Friday, May 27 through Memorial Day, Monday, May 30.  (Friday is the district’s last give-back snow day.)



The next meeting of the Westfield Board of Education will be held Tuesday, June 14, beginning at 7:30 PM.  We will honor the intermediate and high school teachers of the year, including the Optimist Award winners – Erin Meade from Edison Intermediate School, and Christine Cassu from Roosevelt.  The Westfield High School honorees include:  Scott Rutherford, Christopher Vitale, Maria Martinez, and Christopher Tafelski.

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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