Following the board announcements, I noted the increased police presence at each of our ten schools, thanking the town and police department for their efforts. I also noted that we’ve been working on updating our crisis communication plan in light of today’s climate of instant communication.
Board president Gretchan Ohlig thanked the mayor and police chief for working with the board and the district and noted that the issue of how best to handle communication during times of crisis is not unique to Westfield. Ms. Ohlig said that she has been meeting with members of other school boards while I have met with other school superintendents and that other districts are also dealing with how to manage a crisis while managing communication with parents.
Ms. Ohlig then welcomed student leaders from Westfield High School who thanked board members, school administrators and teachers for respecting their thoughts in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14. The students presented a framed photograph of the student-led remembrance held on March 14 for the victims of the Parkland shooting.
I introduced Business Administrator Dana Sullivan to give a presentation on the tentative budget for the 2018-2019 school year, noting that preparation of the budget has been a months-long process involving the Finance Committee and the Board as a whole, as well as school administrators and others.
2018-2019 Budget Presentation
Mrs. Sullivan presented a report on the tentative 2018-2019 budget. She noted that since she last reported on the tentative budget at the February 27 board meeting, the district had received notice of the amount of aid to be awarded by the State and that the budget proposal had been updated to reflect the additional state aid.
Mrs. Sullivan reiterated the parameters set for the budget in the Guiding Change Document, resulting in these priorities:
- Keep technology a priority
- Consider funding to support wellness
- Explore the possibility of expanding kindergarten WRAP program
- Stay within the 2% CAP, plus eligible waivers
- Continue to budget $750,000 of excess surplus as revenue
Mrs. Sullivan reported a total school tax increase of 1.7% or $166 for the average homeowner. She noted that while technology continues to be a priority for the district, the funding necessary for technology costs is slightly less than in previous years due to many improvements made to the infrastructure and equipment over the past five years. Mrs. Sullivan said money for additional security has been budgeted, as the district discusses with the town and the police department the possibility of adding two additional School Resource Officers to serve the middle and elementary schools.
In a chart comparing similar school districts, Mrs. Sullivan again pointed out that Westfield’s cost per pupil is on the lower range and less than the state average as well.
The Board accepted with regret the retirement of Mathematics Supervisor Regina Kiczek, effective July 31, 2018, and Westfield High School Assistant Principal Margaret McFadden, effective June 30, 2018. We thank Dr. Kiczek and Ms. McFadden for their years of service to the students and staff of Westfield Public Schools and wish them all the best in retirement.
Facilities Committee Chairperson Gretchan Ohlig reported on the committee’s recent meeting at which topics included the five-year facilities plan, the Kehler Stadium summer project, and the planned open houses for the intermediate school auditoriums on April 11 at Edison and on April 12 at Roosevelt from 6-8 p.m. on both nights. Ms. Ohlig said the committee continues to review the district’s building rental policy and will meet with certain organizations to receive feedback.
The Board approved for second reading the following district policies:
- 5600 - Pupil Discipline (Pupils)
- 5610 - Suspension (Pupils)
- 5620 - Expulsion (Pupils)
The Board affirmed my decision on one HIB incident.
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAM
The Board approved the second reading of the following curricula:
- Ancient & Medieval Traditions
- AP European History
The Board also approved district field trips correlated with curriculum.
The Board approved the tentative budget for the 2018-2019 school year and authorized Business Administrator/Board Secretary Dana Sullivan to submit the tentative budget to the Executive County Superintendent of Schools for approval in accordance with the statutory deadline.
Among the capital improvement projects approved by the Board was a contract for alterations and renovations at Kehler Stadium and a contract for science room renovations at Westfield High School.
The Board heard from two residents who had questions about the Kehler Stadium project.
Finance Committee Chairman Charles Ostroff also thanked the Franklin School Parent-Teacher Organization for a gift of $593 to purchase replacement bulbs for classroom projectors.
Technology Committee Chairperson Peggy Oster reported on the March 16 committee meeting at which the district’s chief technology officer Brian Auker showed members the template for the new district website. Mrs. Oster praised the look of the website template and said feedback is still being solicited. Mrs. Oster also noted that the district hopes to train employees on the new website before the school year ends in June.
Board member Amy Root reported on the 25th Annual Awareness Expo held on March 14 by the Special Education Committee of the Parent-Teacher Council, thanking the committee and its co-chairpersons for their efforts and for an evening of informative speakers and sessions. Mrs. Root also noted that the committee presented the “Make a Difference” award to the district’s former coordinator of school/community relations Lorre Korecky for her exemplary support of special education.
Westfield High School
Congratulations to Westfield High School sophomore bass player Charlie Compton who was selected to perform with the 2018 New Jersey Association for Jazz Education jazz combo. Charlie will join other talented jazz students from Central Jersey in a concert on April 22. Special thanks to jazz band director Trevor Sindorf.
Two Westfield High School student musicians auditioned over the past weekend and were selected for the New Jersey All-State High School Orchestra. Junior Kevin Li was named Principal 2nd Violin. Freshman Kelly Eagan will join the bass section. The concerts will take place in November during the New Jersey Education Association convention in Atlantic City and at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Congratulations to Kevin and Kelly and to WHS orchestra director Craig Stanton.
Ten Westfield High School students earned perfect scores in different subjects on the February ACT standardized tests. The 11th graders receiving a top score of 36 are:
- Kathryn Armstrong - Math, Science, STEM & English
- Rachel Bowman - English
- Kayla Butera - English
- Katherine Ceraso - Reading
- Nicholas Chermak - Math
- Fiona Gillen - English
- Jared Greenspan - Science, English & Reading
- Emma Herber - English
- Jenna Miller - English
- Jennifer O’Connell - Science
Congratulations to Westfield High School senior Greta Frontero for being named 2018 New Jersey High School Journalist of the Year by the Garden State Scholastic Press Association. With this honor comes the 2018 Bernard Kilgore Memorial Scholarship, a $5,000 scholarship award from the New Jersey Press Foundation. Greta will join other journalists at a dinner in their honor in April.
Fifteen Westfield High School juniors and sophomores were honored by the Community Food Bank of New Jersey on March 5 for collecting more than 5,000 pounds of food items for families in need. Of the 60 schools that participated in the organization’s “Students Change Hunger” campaign last fall, Westfield High School donated the largest amount of food. Participating in the CFBNJ campaign were:
- Marcela Avans
- Madeline Cohen
- Jack Cioffi
- Julia Clark
- Julie Dannevig
- William Litchholt
- Madelyn McDevitt
- Charlotte Moore
- Anna Obsgarten
- Ava Paul
- Julia Rickert
- Samantha Stravach
- Zoe Tedeschi
- Daniella Vollaro
- Alissa Witzel
Congratulations to the following student-athletes from Westfield High School:
- Junior Erica Lawrence took the individual title for the shot put at the Girls Winter Track and Field Sectional competition.
- Sophomore wrestler C.J. Composto finished 5th in the state wrestling tournament.
Congratulations to Roosevelt Intermediate School 7th grader Alexandra Cicala who recently received the President’s Volunteer Service Award which recognizes middle and high school students across the United States for outstanding volunteer service. Alexandra’s volunteer efforts include proposing and forming the “Kindness Club” and spearheading a variety of charitable projects including support for the Children’s Specialized Hospital and Hurricane Harvey relief.
Edison 8th grader Amy Xiao (violin) and 7th grader Kevin Chen (viola) have been selected to perform with the New Jersey All-State Intermediate Orchestra in May, with Amy chosen as First Violin. Congratulations to Amy and Kevin and to Edison orchestra directors Jennifer Perkel and Craig Stanton.
Jefferson School marked February as “Kindness Month” as students and their families used the written word to express their gratitude to the school’s teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and other staff members. More than 300 Gratitude Notes flooded the school last month with sentiments that included thanking the school’s custodians for their hard work, the teachers for inspiring a love of books, and other staff members for making Jefferson “a better place.” Special thanks to parent volunteers and staff members of the Professional Learning Community for organizing this schoolwide project.
March is Youth Art Month, bringing creativity and community together in Westfield. Paintings, drawings, and sculpture designed by approximately 300 students from Westfield’s ten public schools are displayed by 39 downtown merchants, as well as the Westfield Memorial Library and RMC Studios in Garwood. There is still time to enjoy these colorful and artistic displays. A special thanks to our Westfield merchants who graciously volunteered their window space for the student artwork.
NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING
The next Board of Education meeting will be held next Tuesday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Board Room at 302 Elm Street. The complete agenda will be available on Friday, March 23 on the Board of Education section of the district website.