Westfield Board of Education Discusses Bond Referendum, New Technology in the Classrooms, School Rankings and More at Meeting

August 29, 2012 at 8:35 PM

On August 28, at its first meeting of the new school year, the Westfield Board of Education heard that staff and facilities are ready for next week’s opening.

Superintendent Margaret Dolan reported that enrollment continues to grow, with this year’s projected at 6,353 students. Teachers, administrators, support staff and maintenance workers are all in place, with new principals at several schools.

Over the summer, new teachers attended a two-day institute to learn the district’s standards and expectations, Dolan said. Changes to curriculum include a Mandarin Chinese class, a robotics class and revisions to science and math offerings.

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In keeping with last year’s technology initiative, the wireless system is in place in all the schools and new hardware—iPads, laptops and multi-seat computers—is available, Dolan also said. Two master teachers will be helping teachers and students use the new technology.

“It was a busy summer,” Dolan summarized.

Facilities committee chair Jane Clancy reported that more than 30 maintenance projects in all 11 buildings were undertaken this summer, and most are complete. Funding for the projects—which totaled $2.7 million—came from a safety grant, the 2000 bond project, the operating budget and the district’s maintenance reserve.

Among the improvements at the high school are new lockers, an enlarged parking lot and an exhaust fan for the gym. Edison Intermediate School has a new parking lot, two renovated bathrooms, a resurfaced gym floor and fresh glass blocks on the wall. Roosevelt Intermediate School has new dropped ceilings in the classrooms, and new bleachers are being installed in the gym.

At the elementary schools, parking lots and sidewalks were repaved, boilers were replaced and chimneys were repaired. Air conditioning was installed in the Jefferson School library, so now all schools have that feature, according to Clancy.

During the session, the board approved a contract for $17,000 to install a gymnastics spring floor in the high school wrestling gym.

In addition, the board approved a proposal of $51,000 to investigate existing roof areas. Clancy said this would be important information to gather before the district undertakes a project to replace the roofs at the majority of schools.

Board members hope to raise capital funds for the project through a nearly $17 million bond referendum slated for Sept. 24. Even if that referendum fails, however, the work will need to be done.

 “Ultimately, we will have a comprehensive project,” board president Richard Mattessich explained.

Clancy also said her committee had considered lighting and noise issues for a proposed new turf field at the high school, which would also be funded through the bond referendum. Administrators fielded several questions from residents about the heat and safety of turf fields and promised to include information in the frequently asked questions section of the Web site,

In her remarks, Dolan also addressed recent articles in two magazines, Inside Jersey and New Jersey Monthly, rating high schools in the state. She said Inside Jersey focused on advanced proficiency classes in language arts and math, and rated the schools by county. Westfield came out on top for schools with open enrollment.

New Jersey Monthly chose to look at the school environment in addition to student achievement, according to Dolan. By their measures, Westfield ranked No. 49.

With a PowerPoint presentation, Dolan showed that had publishers focused more on academic performance, Westfield High School would have ranked in the Top 10 or Top 20 schools in the state.

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