Letters to the Editor

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting Aug. 30


Over the last several months, District and Board Goals for 2016-2017 were developed based on the objectives in our newly established 5-year Strategic Plan.  One of the key initiatives of the plan focuses on resiliency.  Over the course of any school year, and just this summer, our school community has faced some unexpected tragedies.  Beginning with our In-Staff program next week, we will first work with staff to help them become resilient, and in turn, share those resources with our students and parents throughout the year.

We will develop a more coordinated parent outreach program.  We will begin by meeting with a group of parents to find out what topics would be of help and how best to reach them.  It is important that we understand what we can do to make programs available and make best use of time that parents have available.

There will be an increase teacher utilization of online course management.  Over 70 participants attended technology courses this summer.  Elementary teachers will receive professional development in various levels of technology at our September 7th In-Staff program.  We will continue to support our teachers throughout the year.

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The Board also has set goals for 2016-2017 focusing on communication within the Board as well as governance.  The Chair of each Board committee is expected to circulate minutes of meetings to all Board members.  In addition, a workshop focused on Governance will be held to emphasize what are responsibilities of Board members.


As required by the New Jersey Department of Education, every public school must conduct self-assessments by the school safety team to demonstrate compliance to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.  Anti-bullying specialists and other members of the safety teams in each of our schools performed self-assessments representing the period of July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016.  The NJDOE developed 8 core elements of the assessment, the results of which I presented publicly.  The 8 core elements include the assessment of: 

  • HIB Programs, Approaches or other Initiatives
  • Training on the BOE approved HIB policy
  • Other staff instruction and training programs
  • Curriculum and instruction on HIB and related information and skills
  • HIB personnel
  • School-level HIB incident reporting procedure, which are very specific according to law
  • HIB Investigation Procedure, also very specific according to law
  • HIB Reporting

The rating categories for each of the elements range from 0 – 3.  The vast majority of our ratings were a 3 (exceeds the requirements) and some 2’s (meets all requirements).  We continue to look at ways to make improvements, and most importantly, to address incidents and emphasize how to treat one another with respect.  Our students learn from us – from teachers, administrators, from how the Board conducts itself, and from their parents. 

The Board approved the submission of the School Self-Assessment reports to the NJDOE.  The state will issue final grade reports later this year.


The Board approved the appointments at Westfield High School of Derrick Nelson as Acting Principal and Mabel Huynh as Acting Assistant Principal effective August 31, 2016 -  February  1, 2017.   Dr. Nelson has done an excellent job working with our staff and our students.  Mrs. Huynh has served 14 years as a Chemistry teacher and brings her knowledge and experience to this position.  They both expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to expand their roles to further serve the High School community.


Business Administrator Dana Sullivan reported that the new clocks and PA systems have been installed in all of the schools.  These projects, as well as the integrated new fire alarm system, are part of the recent bond project.  Fire alarms in Jefferson, McKinley and Franklin are being replaced this year, Roosevelt and Westfield High School have new alarms, and the balance of the schools will be equipped with new alarms next year.  Also as a result of the successful bond, WiFi upgrades were installed in all the elementary schools and two boilers have been replaced at Jefferson and Wilson Elementary Schools, which will be fully operational prior to October 15. In addition, a handicapped accessible lift is now in place at McKinley and an operable door has been replaced in the WHS gym. The solar panel installation on five of our schools will take place during non-school hours, and we should expect to see savings in our energy costs at end of this school year.   Our maintenance crew took on many projects this summer including the replacement of lights and carpet, painting, cleaning, and concrete work repairs.  The Board noted its appreciation of the maintenance and custodial staff in ensuring that the schools are ready for students and staff in September.


The Board approved for first reading the following policies:  3152 – Withholding an Increment (Teaching Staff Members); 3212 – Attendance (Teaching Staff Members); 3230 - Non-School employment (Teaching Staff Members); 3232 – Private Tutoring (Teaching Staff Members); 3233 – Political Activities (Teaching Staff Members); 4212 – Attendance (Support Staff Members); 4230 – Non-School Employment (Support Staff Members); 4240 – Employee Training (Support Staff Members); and 4437 – Military Leave (Support Staff Members).

The Board affirmed my decision on a HIB incident.

As mentioned earlier, the Board approved the 2015-2016 School Self- Assessment regarding the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. 


The Board approved for second reading the following curricula:

  • Practical Arts – Westfield High School
    • Business &  Personal Law
    • Child Growth & Development
    • Modern Foods
    • Television Production 2


  • Computer Technology – Intermediate
    • Computer Technology 1
    • Computer Technology 2
    • Project Technology
  • Science
    • Intermediate Science
  • Science – Westfield High School
    • Chemistry Concepts
    • Chemistry 1
    • Chemistry 1 Honors
    • Organic Chemistry
    • Physics 1
    • Physics 1 Honors

The Board approved several anticipated field trips to correlate with curriculum.


The Board gratefully accepted a gift of $9,200 from the Westfield Coalition for the Arts to purchase five new Baritones for the Westfield High School Marching Band.


A parent raised a question regarding the placement of her child in a mathematics class at the intermediate school level.  She urged the Board to review the district’s procedure of not permitting parent overrides to determine course placement at the intermediate school level.  Board President Gretchan Ohlig, who was one of five individuals from the district who had previously addressed the topic with the parent, explained that there are criteria that are driven by data. Although those criteria were not met, the student has been offered another option which has been successful for other students.  Ms. Ohlig also assured the parent that the Board will have a conversation regarding the override procedure.



Newsweek ranked Westfield High School #67 in this year’s list of top high schools in the nation. In that same ranking, Westfield High School placed second in open enrollment high schools in New Jersey.  Newsweek used school performance data from the National Center for Education Statistics to narrow down the list of 15,819 schools. The methodology included factors such as graduation rate, college enrollment, Advanced Placement enrollment, weighted SAT and ACT scores, ratio of counselor to student, and holding power as measured by changes in 9th-grade to 12th-grade enrollment rates.  In the September issue of New Jersey Monthly, Westfield High School ranked No. 8 on its list of top 100 public high schools in the state.


Back to School Nights begin September 15th and will be held through October 6th.  The dates and locations are posted on the district and individual school websites.  In addition, the schedules of various orientations for students, parents or families are also posted.  We welcome our families to a new rewarding school year!


Today marked the second day of Westfield’s New Staff Institute, which is held every year as an orientation for new teaching, support and administrative staff in the district.  New staff will received additional support throughout the school year during 9 meetings scheduled through the New Staff Institute.   They also will have the valuable advice of their individual mentors. 


STEM Camp celebrated its 4th year this summer with more than 340 girls and boys who are entering grades 3 through 8. They participated in hands-on, real world activities with a workshop for every interest.  To read more about the activities and see photos, please check the “In the News” section of the district website. 


School begins for students on Thursday, September 8th.  Teachers will report on September 6th and will attend an In-Service on September 7th.


The next Board of Education meeting will be held Tuesday, September 20, at 7:30 PM at 302 Elm Street.  The agenda will be available on the Board website on Friday, September 16.

I look forward to welcoming our students, staff and families to a new school year!  Enjoy the last days of summer.

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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