Westfield Board of Ed Discusses Bullying, Dedicates Room to Late Music Teacher

Left to Right: Dana Sullivan, Christopher Langhart, Mitchell Slater, Dr. Margaret Dolan, Richard Mattessich, Gretchan Ohlig, Mark Friedman, Brendan Galligan, Lucy Biegler. Credits: Alexandria Addesso
Credits: Alexandria Addesso

WESTFIELD, NJ — The superintendent’s report on Violence, Vandalism, Substance Abuse and Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) was given at the board of education meeting on April 14.

“We are required sometime during the springtime to report on any incidents reported between September '14 and December ‘14,” said Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan.

The state of New Jersey requires all school districts to report all such incidents twice a year for time frames between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 as well as Jan. 1 and June 30. The report mentioned six incidents in the violence, vandalism, substance abuse category which resulted in five short-term suspensions and one complaint filed where the police were notified.

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“We are working with children, and children are not perfect so we do have incidents,” said Dolan.

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In terms of HIB, there were seven investigations in that time frame. Two were confirmed and then affirmed by the board of education — one at Washington Elementary School and the other at Edison Intermediate School. One of the incidents had to do with either a mental, physical or sensory disability and the other with some other distinguishing characteristic. As a result there were five suspensions (as multiple students were involved in the incidents), two student-counselor conferences and two parent-counselor conferences.

 “We find, in general, our parents take this very seriously,” said Dolan.

She went on to state that anyone who wants to report a HIB incident should contact one of the school anti-bullying specialists and that staff training and student lessons continue to be in place to prevent bullying.

“We do want all of our students to feel safe in school,” said Dolan.

New curricula approved for a first reading included visual and performing arts classes and environmental science. Board Vice President Gretchan Ohlig asked Assistant Superintendent Paul Pineiro to discuss the national next generation science standards.

 “It’s not about right and wrong, it’s about having a problem to solve,” Pineiro said, adding that the new standard focuses on STEM, primarily engineering and trial and error learning. “That’s what science should be, he said.

The board approved dedicating the new Writing and Arranging room at the high school to Raymond Wojcik, who was a music teacher at WHS that for the past 19 years before he died from cancer last summer. The board held a solemn, unannounced moment of silence after the announcement. Wojcik wrote grants to the Westfield Education Foundation and Coalition of the Arts to purchase computer equipment and software for the room.

Also approved was the participation in Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification Program. To attain the certification the district form at least one Sustainability Leadership Team and pursue sustainability initiatives with faculty, students and parents.

Board member Christopher Langhart mentioned that a discussion about possibly turfing the field at Tamaques Park came up at the Town Recreation Committee Meeting on April 1. He added that such a project could help the shortage of turf fields in Westfield.

The next BOE meeting will be on April 28 and will include a public hearing on the 2015-2016 school district budget.

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