Education

Letters to the Editor

Synopsis Westfield Board of Education Meeting Aug. 29

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PREPARING FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR

We look forward to welcoming our students on Wednesday, September 6.  Our enrollment will be almost exactly what it was at the end of June — over 6,300.  By the end of the last school year and included on the August 29 agenda were dozens of personnel items to ensure that we are properly staffed for the new school year. The New Staff Institute (NSI) — which includes over 30 new teachers who are replacing retirees or leave replacements — is being held this week.  After two days of introducing the new hires to the expectations and functions of the Westfield School District, they will continue to participate in the NSI program with ongoing support for their first two years.

Our maintenance staff has been busy preparing all 10 of our schools to provide safe learning environments for our students. Learning will be enhanced with a total of 60 revised curricula which are in place for 2017-2018. 

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As the school year approaches, teachers are attending technology workshops to sharpen their skills. We are rolling out additional technology tools this school year, with a particular emphasis on grades 6 – 12.   

Our wellness efforts continue. Over the summer our principals and counselors worked on ways in which students and staff can build resiliency, largely based on the growth mindset. Westfield students attended special needs programs over the summer to strengthen academic skills and to prepare them for the new school year.  The added benefit to the in-district program is that it continues to be a considerable cost savings.  

This summer marked the fifth year that STEM camp has been offered by the district.  Paul Pineiro — Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Program — reported that the program, under the leadership of Sean Bonasera and Laura Paiva, with the support of our talented teachers, attracted 384 campers in grades 3 - 8.  He noted that an emphasis of the camp was the hands-on “trial and error” method, which he explained is at the heart of the next generation science standards.  I invite you to take a look at the fun and learning that those campers experienced this summer:  https://vimeo.com/231389527

PERSONNEL

The Board approved the appointment of Dr. Paul Duncan as Assistant Principal of Franklin Elementary School. I am confident that Dr. Duncan is an excellent fit for Westfield and the Franklin School community. More than 120 applicants were screened for the position, previously held by Scott Lipson, who accepted a school principal position in Morris County.  Dr. Duncan is a 17 year veteran in education, most recently with more than 10 years as an elementary teacher in Warren Township, where he also served as Assistant Principal and Supervisor of the district’s summer school.  In accepting the position, Dr. Duncan noted that he is thrilled to be joining Westfield, where he said, the tradition of excellence has been evident.  He also thanked Dr. Cambria for the warm welcome he has received at Franklin School.  

FACILITIES

Dana Sullivan, Business Administrator, provided a summary of the many projects undertaken this summer:

 

  • Roosevelt and Edison Intermediate School auditoriums — Extensive renovations to the auditoriums are going well and on schedule, with completion expected in mid-December.
  • Solar panels — Installation of panels on the roofs of Westfield High School, Tamaques, Wilson, Roosevelt and Edison is complete. The system is expected to be operational this fall.
  • Electrical Gear Replacement at Edison — To avoid a major electrical issue, work is now complete on an electrical gear replacement in the school.  
  • Roosevelt Chair Lift — To provide accessibility, a chair lift (small elevator) from the second to third floor of RIS has been installed.  Once state inspections are complete, it will be fully operational.  
  • Roosevelt Boilers – Old boilers have been removed, and two new boilers will be installed and operational before October 15.
     
  • Fire Alarms — New alarms are being installed in Tamaques, Washington, Wilson, Lincoln, and Edison.  All of the old systems are fully operational and will be until the new systems are fully functional.
  • Gym Floors – New gym floors and wall padding have been installed at Tamaques, Jefferson and Washington. 
     
  • Westfield High School Gym Ceiling – New ceiling tiles have been installed in the main gym.
     
  • AED’s – Outdoor AED’s are in the process of being installed at Westfield High School, Roosevelt, Edison, Tamaques, and Kehler Stadium. The Westfield Foundation and the Town Recreation Department are purchasing 9 additional AED’s to complete the placement this fall at all their fields and at all elementary school fields.
     
  • Air conditioning – Wiring was installed and more than 30 air conditioners have been placed in Westfield High School and the intermediate schools.
     
  • Black Top Repairs and Concrete –Front steps at Franklin have been replaced and the blacktop at Jefferson and Tamaques repaved.
     
  • Painting – Classrooms were painted at Roosevelt, Franklin and Wilson, and in the gym and front hallway in Jefferson.  
     
  • Wood Floor Replacements – 5 classroom floors at McKinley were replaced. 
     
  • New Ceilings and Lights –  These were installed in 8 classrooms at Edison as well as the locker room, 2 classrooms at McKinley, and the teachers’ room at Franklin. 
     
  • Water Testing – In early June, all water outlets used for cooking or drinking were tested.  Only six of the hundreds of initial samples came back with lead levels exceeding state acceptable levels. When flush samples were taken– after water ran for 3 minutes – levels were no longer unacceptable.  All six outlets were immediately taken out of service and will be repaired and retested before they are put back into service.

Mrs. Sullivan explained that the district creates a five-year facilities plan, and with the exception of long term referendum-funded projects, a good deal of the work is funded out of capital or maintenance reserve.  Finance Chair Mark Friedman remarked that this is an indication of good management to have reserve monies which are invested back in infrastructure.

 

POLICIES

The Board approved the results of the School Self-Assessment Report for all 10 of our schools. 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, 2016 – June 30, 2017.  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 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 district takes this very seriously. 

 

CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAMS

  • The Board approved anticipated field trips and overnight trips correlated with curriculum.
  • The Board approved for second reading the following curricula:

    Intermediate Practical Arts:
    Technology, Design and Engineering I – Grade 6
    Technology, Design and Engineering II – Grade 7
    Materials, Design and Engineering – Grade 8
    Robotics, Engineering and Design – Grade 8

 

FINANCE 

The Board gratefully accepted the following gifts: A 48-inch floor fan valued at $350 from Mr. and Mrs. James Lane for the Edison Intermediate School gymnasium; $9,200 from the Jefferson School PTO to Jefferson School to purchase 30 Chromebooks and a Chromebook cart; $11,784 from the Jefferson School PTO to cover the cost of painting the gymnasium; and 9 AED units and materials valued at $20,000 from the Westfield Recreation Department and the Westfield Foundation to be used at all fields, including all elementary school fields.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

A MESSAGE OF CONDOLENCE

This week we lost one of our own. Jake Tooley, a 2016 Westfield High School graduate, perished in a fire.  Our prayers and thoughts are with the family and all those who knew our student athlete. Our counselors, together with by a representative from Imagine, have been at Westfield High School to provide support.
 

BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHTS

The Westfield Public Schools will welcome parents to Back-to-School nights at each of our 10 schools from September 7 through October 5.  Please check each school’s website for the exact dates and times. 

 

COMMUNITY

  • The Achievers Program at the Westfield Y will kick off on Wednesday, September 13, at 7:00 pm.  Light refreshments will be served. Achievers is a college readiness, career development and life skills program open to minority teens (grades 8-12) from throughout Union county.  The program seeks to inspire participants to become leaders in their community and achieve academic excellence by providing tools and activities that prepare them for life. To participate, teens must complete an application form and be committed to attend and participate in workshops and events. There is no minimum GPA requirement and the program, including SAT Prep and materials, is free of cost. For more information, please contact Nadya Lawrence, Coordinator at nlawrence@westfieldynj.org or call 908-301-9622, x412.
     
  • The Boys and Girls Clubs of Union County has school supply donation boxes in downtown Westfield throughSeptember 14 to help ensure that every child goes back to school with the basic tools needed.  The boxes are located at The Town Bookstore and at Athleta, both on Broad Street.   The supplies needed include items such as spiral bound notebooks, washable felt markers, highlighters, #2 pencils, composition notebooks, and pocket folders. 
     
  • Congratulations to Westfield High School teacher Jane D'Alessandro, who together with students in the school’s service group Kids on the Block, collected 1,025 pairs of jeans and pants this year for homeless teens, refugees and people residing in local shelters. It was the second year that the teacher, students and members of the community participated in the project inspired by dosomething.org.

 

BOARD OF EDUCATION CANDIDATES

The following Westfield residents have declared their candidacy for three seats on the Board of Education: Lynn Brenner, Simon Cirasa, Kent Diamond, Anthony Marotta, and Peggy Oster.  Board of Education members whose terms are expiring as of January 2018 include Christopher Langhart, Mark Friedman and Peggy Oster, who is seeking her second term on the Board.  The election will be held Tuesday, November 7, 2017.  A Board of Education Candidates Night — sponsored by the Parent Teacher Council — is scheduled for Wednesday evening, October 18, at Westfield High School. The three individuals who will be elected in November will each serve a three-year term from 2018-2021.

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING

The next Westfield Board of Education meeting will be held Tuesday, September 19, at 7:30 p.m.  The complete agenda will be available on Friday, September 15, on the Board’s website

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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