Education

Letters to the Editor

Synopsis Westfield Board of Education Meeting & Workshop Dec. 5

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HONORING THE BOYS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM

Board President, Gretchan Ohlig, presented congratulatory certificates to the varsity squad of the Boys Cross Country team and the coaches who won the Group 4 North 2 Sectional, the Watchung Division Conference and the Union County Championships. The boys placed 3rd in the Group 4 State Championship. To top off the season, at the New Jersey Meet of Champions, they earned the distinction of being the fourth fastest Westfield team to run the state course in the 38 year history of the state competition held in Holmdel. They also contributed to extending Westfield’s undefeated dual meet streak to 95 straight, dating back to September 2004.  Coach Chris Tafelski stated that the total team of 85 players works very hard.  He estimated that for every mile of every race, there are 60 miles of running and preparation. Mr. Tafelski commended the seniors for their leadership and character.
 

RESOLUTIONS FOR RETIRING BOARD MEMBERS

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Gretchan Ohlig presented resolutions to retiring Board of Education members Mark Friedman and Christopher Langhart.  She noted that they were thoughtful and conscientious colleagues who will be sorely missed. 

Mr. Friedman served on the Board for 6½ years and held the positions as Chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee.  His business expertise also served the Board well in his roles on the Facilities, Policies, and Technology Committees. Representing the Board of Education, he was a liaison to the Union County School Board and the Jefferson School PTO.

Mr. Langhart concludes his service on the board, noting that the three years went by quickly.  He was thanked for his sound judgment and roles as Chairperson of the Policies Committee and the Negotiations Committee.  Mr. Langhart also served as an active member of the Budget and Finance and Legislation Committees as well as the liaison to the Union County School Board, the Westfield Town Recreation Commission and the Franklin School PTO.

Both retiring Board members acknowledged that their experience on the Board was satisfying and rewarding. They thanked their families for the sacrifices made due to meetings requiring time away from home. They also expressed appreciation to fellow Board members and to district staff for their help and cooperation.

AUDIT REPORT  

The Board accepted the annual audit of the 2016-2017 school year prepared by Hodulik and Morrison, P.A.  Auditor Bob Morrison reported that the Westfield Public School District’s accounting practices are in full compliance and that our financial information is accurate and consistent in application according to rules of the State and accounting standards. The data was found reliable. His staff spent weeks in the district testing internal controls and procedures in addition to our compliance with federal grants. He confirmed that the district’s internal controls are operating effectively and designed appropriately. His firm issued a clean report, with no non-compliance issues.  He complimented the Business Office saying there are no audit adjustments are needed, no findings or recommendations, and no need for corrective action. He stated it is the best report that can be issued.  Mr. Morrison also noted best practices that were noteworthy, among them: In August 2016 based on favorable market conditions, the district took bonds which had been issued in 2006, and refunded for a much lower rate, thereby saving $460,000 over a four year period.  Secondly, he explained that the district’s decision to switch to a self-insured health benefits plan continues to save money for the taxpayer.  Lastly, in the capital project fund, the roof replacement program actually cost $3.5 million less than architects estimated.  Because we did not issue all of the bonds, we did not have to borrow as much, resulting in what he determined were “big savings to the taxpayer in the management of that project.” 

PERSONNEL

The Board approved the appointment of Mary Ann McGann as Coordinator of School/Community Relations, effective 2/1/18. Mrs. McGann most recently served in a similar position in Warren Schools.  She brings experience as a writer, reporter and producer.

FACILITIES

Brendan Galligan, Chair of the Facilities Committee, reported that renovations at Kehler Stadium should begin in early May.  He also noted that the McKinley PTO is interested in renovating the playground at McKinley. 

The Board approved temporary lighting at Kehler Field, subject to the following terms and conditions:  Three generators will be permitted; the Westfield Soccer Association (WSA) shall be permitted to utilize the lights during their scheduled practice sessions during weekdays only, not on weekends;  the WSA shall be permitted to conduct practice sessions only, not games with spectators; no buzzers, whistles or other noise-making devices shall be permitted at any time; all practices must end before 9:30 PM, including any team meetings and all players must be off the field by 9:35 PM; the units shall be turned off no later than 9:40 PM by WSA staff; a WSA board member shall be present at each training session. All costs associated for the rental, insurance, and fuel will be provided by the WSA; there will be no direct or indirect costs borne by the Board of Education; operating keys to be held by WHS staff and returned to a designated lock box provided by the WSA each evening; duration of approval for temporary lights will begin March 1, 2018 and end April 30, 2018; and the Westfield Board of Education, through the Administration, reserves the right to cancel or suspend the lighting project temporarily or permanently at any time without notice and in its sole discretion.

LONG RANGE PLANNING

Mr. Friedman, Chair of the Long Range Planning Committee, reported on the Committee’s evaluation of full day kindergarten and on the survey results on the topic.  He thanked the residents who responded to the survey.  The Board received over 1,500 replies which he described as providing excellent insight into what people are thinking, regardless of which side of the discussion they support.  After very careful review of the costs associated with implementing full day kindergarten (including construction and operating expenses), the results of the survey and the current uncertainty on many external factors, the Long Range Planning committee recommended to the full Board to not proceed with a full day kindergarten program at the present time. Mr. Friedman emphasized that the goal “is not to simply stand still and not move our district forward with respect to the need for other options for our students. We are only making the decision to look for other alternatives that would not put a financial burden on the district and ultimately the residents of Westfield.  We believe that with a new administration coming into Trenton in January and with the process to re-evaluate the tax base of our homes, that it’s prudent to seek other options.”  Mr. Friedman gave the example to possibly expand the kindergarten Wrap program as one option. (The Wrap program is fee and lottery based, providing a limited number of kindergarten students to remain at Lincoln for a full day, with activities planned during the non-curriculum based portion of the day).

Ms. Ohlig added that Westfield’s cost per pupil is less than the state average, demonstrating the district’s efforts to be fiscally prudent.  The majority of the school budget, however, is funded by the local taxpayer, since very little state funding comes our way. She noted that we have invested wisely in highly qualified teachers, a solid and challenging curriculum, support for all students, up-to-date technology, and a safe environment for our students.  To spend wisely and to continue to support our students, Ms. Ohlig stated that the district must “think out of the box” by seeking viable alternatives.

Long Range Planning Committee (LRP) member Amy Root noted that she was receiving comments from concerned citizens that the half day kindergarten program was sufficient.  She stated that she would like to explore expanding the Wrap program.  Since the Wrap program is not free, if the cost is prohibitive to some families, Mrs. Root suggested that they should reach out during the registration period to determine eligibility.  

Robert Garrison, member of LRP, said he was very satisfied in looking for alternative ways for dealing with the issue.

For the complete text of Mr. Friedman’s remarks and a summary of the survey, click here.

POLICIES

The Board approved for first reading the 2019-2020 School Calendar.

The Board approved for first reading the following policies: 5310 Health Services (Pupils), 5310.1 Health Examinations (Pupils), 5410 Promotion and Retention (Pupils), and 5420 Reporting Pupil Progress (Pupils).

The Board approved the Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement between Education and Law Enforcement Officials for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Board affirmed my decision on eight HIB incidents.


CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAM

The Board approved overnight field trips and district field trips which correlate with curriculum.

The Board approved for first reading the following curricula: Health- Intermediate Health Education.

Mrs. Ohlig reported that the Curriculum, Instruction and Program Committee is reviewing the format of K-5 report cards.
 

FINANCE 
The Board approved tuition for the Kindergarten Wrap Program at Lincoln School for the 2018-2019 school year, in the amount of $4,000 per year for the program, and tuition for the Integrated Pre-K Program at Lincoln School for the 2018-2019 school year, in the amount of $3,700 per year for the program.

LIAISON

Brendan Galligan attended the NJ School Boards Association meeting in which there was a lengthy discussion of the state pension system.

Christopher Langhart represented the Board at the Westfield Recreation Commission meeting, at which there was interest shown by user groups regarding the Board’s efforts to provide consistency to its field use policy. 

Amy Root attended the Special Education College Planning Night held at Westfield High School, which included a panel presentation to help families plan for college.  The next meeting of the Special Education Parents Committee will be January 18, at which time there will be a discussion on the Individual Education Plan (IEP).

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

The Board presented a resolution to Lorre Korecky for her 22 years of service to the district.  
 

PUBLIC COMMENTS
 

Jim Lane, a Social Studies teacher and Vice President of the Westfield Basketball Association, announced that there are 1,700 Westfield children, grades K-12, who are dependent on the indoor facilities of the schools.  He thanked Emely Hernandez who arranges the scheduling of district facilities.  
 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
 

  • Congratulations to 11 Westfield High School students who recently achieved the highest score possible on the SAT and ACT standardized tests.  Westfield High School Principal, Derrick Nelson congratulated the students, citing their outstanding achievement on the tests which are widely used for college admission criteria.  Top scorers on the SAT Math include: Abby Rothenberg, Mary-Joy Sidhom, Matthew Cafiero, Colby Chen, Jeffrey Yang, and Yallen Bai.  On Math 2, the highest scores were achieved by Elisha Israel, Sarah Ward, Alex Pinkowski, and Stefan Sujanthakumar.  Julia Friss earned the top score on ACT English. 


 

  • A total of 23 winter concerts are taking place in the Westfield Public Schools starting this week and ending on February 10.   The entire schedule appears on the district’s website at www.westfieldnjk12.org. Westfield senior citizens are once again invited to the final rehearsal of Westfield High School’s Winter Choral Concert on Wednesday, December 20, in the High School’s auditorium, 550 Dorian Road, from 11:45 AM – 12:20 PM.  There is ramp access at the front of the auditorium.
     
  • Congratulations to Westfield High School Social Studies teacher, Kimberly Leegan, who was presented with the Christa McAuliffe Reach for the Stars Award during the National Social Studies Conference in San Francisco held November 16-19.  The NCSS established the award and selects one teacher in the United States each year.  In addition to the prestigious recognition and a trophy presented at the annual conference, Leegan received a $2500 grant, which she used to purchase virtual reality goggles for her classroom project entitled "Adopt a Country."   Ms. Leegan tells us that the Adopt a Country Project enables students to learn about culture, history and current events of adopted countries, identify and address a social issue in the country, and take informed action as part of students’ global citizenship.
     
  • Congratulations to Westfield High School senior Jiana Ingrassia who was recently honored by Susan G. Komen North Jersey with the 2017 Student Volunteer Award.  The award recognizes an outstanding student who has demonstrated an “exceptional commitment to volunteerism, fundraising and support for Susan G. Komen North Jersey, the fight against breast cancer and making a difference in the lives of others.” According to the organization, Ingrassia was a member of Komen North Jersey’s inaugural Students for the Cure program in 2015, and has made significant contributions as a volunteer.

 

ATHLETICS

  • Congratulations to the Blue Devils Football team, the North 2, Group 5 champions!  The team had a decisive win at MetLife Stadium on Thursday, November 30,  against Bridgewater-Raritan. The team clinched the 3rd consecutive championship in a final score of 20-7.  For the second year in a row, the WHS football team has been selected and invited by the “Legendary Coaches Committee” as a “Bigtime Championship Football Team.”  The coaches, senior players and letter winners traveled into NYC to receive their award and trophy. 

·         Congratulations to the Westfield High School girls’ varsity cross country team who placed 6th at the Meet of Champions on Saturday, November 18, earning team medals for the first time since 1995. Mia Melao tied the school record for the course. 
 

INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLS
 

The Edison Intermediate School Broadway Singers, under the direction of our vocal teachers Kenneth Horn and Stephen Markowski, will join the Westfield Community concert Band for its 27th annual Holiday Concert on Friday, December 8th, at 7:30 p.m. at Westfield High School.  The public is invited to attend and there is no admission fee. 

KINDERGARTEN & FIRST GRADE REGISTRATION
 

Looking ahead to the 2018-2019 school year, in January, the district will be registering children who will become eligible for kindergarten and will reach the age of 5 on or before October 1st, 2018.  First grade registration also will be held for children who are residents of Westfield and will reach the age of 6 on or before October 1, 2018 and have not yet attended the Westfield Public Schools.  The registration schedule and forms are posted on the district’s website under the Parents tab.

SCHOOLS CLOSED
 

The Westfield Public Schools will be closed for winter break from Monday, December 25, to Monday, January 1. 

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING

The next Westfield Board of Education meeting will include the reorganization of the Board and will be held Thursday, January 4, at 7:30 PM.  The complete agenda will be available on Friday, December 22, on the Board of Ed website.

WORKSHOP
 

The Board held a workshop to develop a Guiding Change Document for the development of the budget for 2018-19.

I wish everyone a wonderful winter break, festive holiday and joyful new year!

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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