OVERVIEW OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS
In the Westfield Public Schools, we accept a wide array of students, which is one of the wonderful things about our town. Michael Weissman, Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services, presented an overview of services provided to the special needs children in our district. Westfield’s classification rate of 17.7% remains fairly consistent with the state average of 16.47% (excluding students who only take speech therapy).
Dr. Weissman explained that the district’s mission statement reflects the purpose of his department, which is to educate all students to reach their highest potential and to respect individual differences. He emphasized the importance of reaching children as early as possible to remediate where necessary. Programs in our district begin in pre-school.
In compliance with the Department of Education, and because there is a real benefit to the student, Westfield supports an inclusive culture for students with special needs. Special education and general education teachers are encouraged to co-teach and co-plan so that classified students can be mainstreamed as much as possible. Dr. Weissman noted the multiple benefits of students remaining in-district within the least restrictive environment, including the opportunity to meet other children in town and to avoid being transported on a daily basis to another town or county.
Dr. Weissman indicated that although there have been more in-house programs created in our district in the last several years with 92% of classified students served in-district, 7.6% are educated out-of-district due to more severe challenges. With the success in Westfield of autism/applied behavior analysis programs at the pre-school through elementary level, Dr. Weissman sees the expansion to the intermediate level as a natural next step. Currently, children on the autism spectrum who are in grade six or higher are transported out-of-district. A new computer-based reading program for other classified students has been launched at the intermediate level with positive results.
Programs at the high school level prepare students to transition to post-secondary planning. In addition to being supported by multiple teachers, there is support from two contracted full-time licensed clinical social workers, who also provide service to our intermediate schools. This also has been very successful.
Commending the staff of educators and the paraprofessionals – who he termed “unsung heroes” – in the Special Services department, Dr. Weissman stated that he is very proud of their hard work.
I also thank the Special Services department for the strides it has made in educating our children.
- The Board approved for first reading the following policies: 2132 – School District Objectives (Program); 2415.30 – Title I – Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care (Program); and 8462 – Child Abuse and/or Neglect (Operations).
- The Board approved for first reading to abolish the following policy: 3425 – Work Related Disability Pay (Teaching Staff Members).
- The Board approved for second reading the following policies: 0142.1 – Nepotism (Bylaws); 1310 – Employment of the Business Administrator/Board Secretary (Administration); 2110 – Mission Statement (Program); 3111 – Creating Positions (Teaching Staff Members); 5460 – High School Graduation (Pupils); and 6511 – Direct Deposit (Operations).
- The Board affirmed my decision on two HIB incidents.
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAMS
The Board approved several anticipated field trips to correlate with curriculum.
The Board approved a research project proposed by Westfield High School Social Studies teacher James Lane.
The Board approved a resolution to contract with vendors through cooperative purchasing agreements with Boards of Education in Morris County, Union County, the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, Somerset County, Hunterdon County, and the Educational Data Service Cooperative programs.
WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
Westfield High School announced that five more students each achieved the highest score of 36 on the ACT standardized tests widely used for college admission and placement criteria. The additional scores from the September tests were recently received by the school and earned by the following students: 11th graders Eve Crandall – English; Robert Faktor – Mathematics; and Lindsay Freidenrich – English and Reading; and 12th graders Nicole Eisenberg – English; and Charlotte Perez – Mathematics and English. This brings the total of perfect ACT scores at Westfield High School so far this school year to 14.
WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS
Seven Westfield High School seniors signed national letters of intent on November 9th to continue their athletic careers in college. Accepted into Division 1 universities and colleges, these acceptances signify recognition of the student athletes’ accomplishments both academically and athletically. Four of the student athletes will play lacrosse: Hannah Liddy for the University of Denver; Haley Farella for the University of Colorado-Boulder; Owen Prybylski for Villanova University; and Kyle Dombroski will play for University of Denver. Taylor Morgan will play soccer at the University of Alabama; Elizabeth Sottung will join the volleyball team at Seton Hall University; and Alex Pansini will be part of the baseball team at Marist College. Athletic Director, Sandy Mamary, remarked that “Westfield High School students continually attract college recruiters from around the country.” “Our recent graduates from 2016, for example, are representing Westfield well, with 42 now participating on teams at the collegiate level.” The NCAA National Letter of Intent program has scheduled additional signing dates for high school athletes in 2017.
WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL PERFORMING ARTS
- Congratulations to the Westfield High School students who performed with the 2016 All State Mixed Chorus at a concert in the Convention Hall in Atlantic City on Friday, November 11. They include: Noah Bram, Alex Cestero, Joseph Maldonado, Catherine Moore, Abby Rothenberg, Matt Siroty, and Max Wasilewski. This same talented group of singers will perform in the All State Mixed Chorus at NJPAC on Sunday, November 20. Tickets can be purchased through NJPAC.
- Westfield High School’s Drama Department is presenting Romeo & Juliet beginning Thursday, November 17, at 4:00 PM, and Friday and Saturday evenings, November 18 and 19 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available at www.whstd.booktix.com and at the door.
Congratulations to Susanne Bonhote, Achieve teacher at McKinley School, for being selected by the New Jersey Department of Education as a “2016 Exemplary Elementary Educator.” The recognition bestowed on Mrs. Bonhote “honors the contributions of being an outstanding educator in a New Jersey public school.” In the letter of recommendation from McKinley School, the 25 year veteran of teaching in Westfield was described as having a tireless work ethic, a positive and contagious attitude, and a collaborative team member approach combined with best teaching techniques. On November 9th, at a school-wide assembly, Principal Marc Biunno surprised Mrs. Bonhote with the announcement and presented her with the certificate from the Department of Education. The accompanying letter explains that Mrs. Bonhote was selected after a rigorous selection process. It goes on to say that the “goal of the program is to identify educators who are valued by their school and community and have exhibited strong knowledge and skills, an inspiring presence, and a clear vision for quality teaching and learning.” You may recall that Mrs. Bonhote was the 2016 Philhower Award winner as well. We are fortunate to have skilled and dedicated teachers in our district. And to Mrs. Bonhote and to McKinley School - Congratulations on such outstanding recognitions.
Both our intermediate schools commemorated Veterans Day this week with guest speakers, musical performances, and recitations by students. Roosevelt’s special guest was Sgt. Richard Vieth, brother of Social Studies teacher, Brian Vieth. An Air Force veteran, Richard Vieth was stationed in several countries during his 10 years in service, including Saudi Arabia. Edison Intermediate School honored Brenda Sue Fulton, who is a member of the 1980 United States Military Academy’s first graduating class to admit women. She served as a signal officer, platoon leader and company commander before receiving an honorable discharge at the rank of Captain. Both guests talked of their pride in serving their country. Principals Carey and Bolton reminded students that the sacrifice of our soldiers has made it possible for Americans to enjoy the freedom we have today, and that it should not be taken for granted.
The Community Food Bank of New Jersey is holding a Holiday Turkey & Food Drive on Saturday, November 19, 9 AM – 2 PM at Franklin School, 700 Prospect Street. Frozen turkeys, canned or boxed (not jars or bottles) food will be gratefully accepted.
All Westfield Public Schools will hold an early dismissal on Wednesday, November 23. Schools will be closed all day on Thanksgiving, November 24 and Friday, November 25.
NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING
Our next Board of Education meeting will be Tuesday, December 6. At that time, we will honor Ginny Leiz, who has been a valued member of the Board, serving the community of Westfield for 15 years. At our first meeting of 2017, on Thursday, January 5, we will hold the Board Organization meeting, when we will congratulate newly elected Board members Michael Bielen, Brendan Galligan and Amy Root, who will be sworn into office.
I wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family,