Letters to the Editor

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Re-organization Meeting June 9


Board President Richard Mattessich presented Board of Education resolutions to secondary school teachers who were recipients of awards this spring. They included:  Optimist Intermediate Teachers of the Year, Erika Hodges, Language Arts teacher at Roosevelt Intermediate School, and Christine Cabrales, Physical Education/Health teacher at Edison Intermediate School.

Also acknowledged were four Westfield High School teachers:  Annora Happe-Conway, Art teacher, who is this year's recipient of the Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award; Antony Farag, Social Studies teacher and 2015 winner of the Robert and Linda Foose Memorial Award for Excellence; Josh Garodnick, Physics teacher and recipient of Westfield High School PTSO's Outstanding Teacher Award;  and Judith McLoughlin, who received the Above and Beyond Award.  On hand at the Board meeting to honor all the awardees were school principals, PTO officers, students, colleagues, family members, and friends. Principals Renwick, Carey and Bolton all spoke of the dedication, commitment and care that the teachers demonstrate in their profession.

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I presented a summary of the responses from the 2015 Parent/Community Survey conducted by the Westfield Board of Education.  The survey is an important process as the Board begins to lay the foundation for a new strategic plan.  We received a very high -- 43% -- response rate to the survey. Including parents and community members, 95% of respondents rated the district as being excellent or good. The schools continue to be an important factor in the decision to move to Westfield, with 89% affirming this trend.  Overall, the responses to the total survey were very favorable, and we will look into areas where improvement can be made.  We thank the 490 parents and community members for their valuable input. 


Business Administrator Dana Sullivan presented a report on the Finance Committee's recommendation to address priority safety and infrastructure projects through a bond referendum. 

Mrs. Sullivan explained that capital projects cannot be funded through the school district's operating budget because of the two percent State-imposed cap.  She emphasized that bond sales are the mechanism provided by the State for districts to fund capital projects.The following projects are considered the most urgent in the Facilities Committee's five-year plan:

  • Replacement of fire alarms in 10 buildings
  • Replacement of public address systems in 9 schools
  • Replacement of boilers in 4 schools
  • Replacement of switches and WiFi upgrades in the elementary schools (already done at Westfield High School and scheduled for this summer in the intermediate schools)
  • Replacement of multi-purpose room floors in 3 schools
  • Installation of barrier free access at McKinley and Roosevelt

The Finance Committee would like to take advantage of a low interest rate -- most likely, 3% -- before rates increase. This would translate to a $36.60 average increase to households in a 20-year bond or $62.83 in a 10-year bond. Most importantly, the projects are central to keeping our schools safe, protecting our infrastructure investment, and upgrading for education and compliance.  Mrs. Sullivan also pointed out that Westfield continues to be fiscally prudent, with our cost per pupil below state average.


The Board approved contracts; legal, banking and investment services; dates, time and place for monthly official meetings; and purchasing authority to enable the Board to continue to operate the business of the Board for the 2015-2016 school year.


The Board accepted with regret the retirement of Cheryl Feller, Wilson School paraprofessional, who has served students in Westfield for 11 years and will retire on November 1, 2015; Donna Magda Hornish – Westfield High School Math teacher – who has taught our students for 41 years, and will retire as of July 1, 2015; and JoAnn Ellis, Social Worker, who has served our students for more than 24 years, and who will retire on December 1, 2015.  We wish them an enjoyable and healthy retirement and thank them for their years of service and dedication.


Facilities Chair, Richard Mattessich, reported that the Committee met and discussed the possibility of solar panels on our roofs.  This will be reviewed in more detail with input from our architect and energy provider.


The Board approved for first reading the following social studies curricula:  Global Connections 5th Grade; The Ancient World 6th Grade; European Transformation & the New World 7th Grade; United States History 8th Grade; Global Perspectives 9th Grade; and Exploring Global Studies 9th Grade. 

Social studies Supervisor K-12, Andrea Brennan, addressed the Board and explained the revision process that has included meetings between teachers in the "transitional" 5-6 and 8-9 grades to produce a comprehensive program. The revisions align to our curriculum with the core content standards as well as the State social studies standards. The fifth grade curriculum focuses on geography with a thematic approach to studying the regions of the world. The content shift in the curriculum focuses on global humanity and is based on inquiry and analytical thinking.

The sixth grade curriculum focuses on the ancient world, including the beginnings of human society and Greece and Rome.  The overlap between sixth and seventh grade is the fall of Rome, which allows students to start seventh grade with a discussion of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation and ending with the founding of the American colonies. 

The seventh grade curriculum, which focuses on the European Transformation and the New World, now encompasses part of what used to be taught in the eighth grade.  As a result, the eighth grade curriculum, which is US History, was able to add two new units on the spirit of social reform and civil rights movement.

Roosevelt Social Studies teachers, Karen Lust -  sixth grade and Marissa Conneely – 8th grade; and Kim Acosta – 7th grade Edison, previously had presented the curriculum to the Board's Curriculum, Instruction and Program Committee (CIP). 

In Westfield High School, students can take Humanities (combined language arts and social studies course) or either Global Perspectives or Exploring Global Studies.  WHS social studies teachers Kim Leegan and Ryan Daly also had presented these revised curricula to CIP.



  • At the Paper Mill Playhouse awards ceremony on June 2, Westfield High School's production of Urinetown won two Rising Star Awards - Outstanding Performance by a Chorus as well as Student Achievement in Stage management for senior, Stephen Bubniak.  In addition, at the Montclair State University Theatre Night Awards earlier this spring, Westfield High School's fall production, The Laramie Project, earned the Outstanding Production of a Drama award.  Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor was earned by senior, Daniel Coelho.             At the Bucks County Theatre Festival, awards were presented for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble to seniors Jacqueline Daaleman, and Lauren Echausse, and 11th graders Madeline Hudelson, Madeleine Rosenthal, and Jesse Zimmermann, who performed in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.  The award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor was earned by senior, Michael Poyntz, for his performance in Devotion, Blindness and Wine.  Congratulations to all of these talented students.
  • Congratulations to Westfield High School TV2 students in Jay Ruggiero's class for winning first place in Prevention Link's Public Service Address contest. The prize includes a $1,000 contribution from Prevention Links toward equipment in the Westfield High School TV studio. One of five finalists from 45 original entries, Westfield High School was announced the winner on May 19 at a ceremony held at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway. The PSA, starring senior Joseph DeRosa, shows how the decision to drink or not to drink can influence the future.  The video is produced by Joseph DeRosa, Isabel Otis,  Aarie Vann and Ceci Fountain-Jardim, who commented,  "The contest was a great experience, and I enjoyed being a part of it, and it feels great to be able to send such an important message to teens."
  • More than 130 awards were presented on May 21st at Westfield High School's annual Awards Night.  The complete list of student awards is posted in the  "In the News" section of the Westfield High School and District websites.
  • Congratulations to these State Sectional Champions in Track and Field:
    • Theo Brunson, who was named the Champion in the Pole Vault event, and
    • For Girls Track and Field: Kelly Morrison, Noelle Blackford, Julia Myers and Brooke Schaeffer, who claimed the championship in the 4X800 meter relay team race.
  • Congratulations to Team New Jersey who recently took home the gold at the 2015 Senior National competition in Florida. The team consisted of six outstanding New Jersey gymnasts including our very own Hannah Goldring and Jenna Rizkalla.  Further celebration was in order when Jenna won the national vault title. 


Congratulations to 7th grader Andrew Kapadia from Edison Intermediate School for winning the Oratorical Contest sponsored by the Optimist Club of Westfield.  The club also chose Roosevelt students Ava Feldman and Morgan Rollins as the second and third place winners, respectively.  Seventh grade students participated in the competition, with a four to five minute public address on one of four topics proposed by the Optimist Club, which has sponsored the contest for 10 years.


Congratulations to the 35 students who participated in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals Competition at Michigan State University. Teams from Edison Intermediate School and Tamaques and Jefferson Elementary Schools placed well in the 3-day competition.  Close to 14,000 people attended the opening and closing ceremonies. The Westfield teams were in dorms with teams from China, Togo, Canada, as well as other countries and states. Exhibitors from NASA provided an E-Theater and classroom activities.  Thank you to the parent coaches who volunteer to prepare our students for these competitions.

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING -- will be held on Tuesday, June 16, at 7:30 PM. 


The Board moved into a scheduled Workshop to discuss district and board goals for 2015-2016.

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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