CAPITAL & MAINTENANCE PROJECTS REPORT 

Business Administrator Dana Sullivan provided a report on capital and maintenance projects for 2021 and 2022, noting that the district creates a five-year capital plan for planning purposes and that the district’s architect and supervisor of buildings and grounds join her in meeting every year with each principal to update the plan and re-prioritize projects as needed.

Mrs. Sullivan reviewed planned capital reserve projects for Summer 2021, including classroom renovations at Roosevelt and Jefferson Schools, interior door replacements at our elementary schools, along with exterior door replacements at Jefferson, toilet renovations at Jefferson and Washington Schools, HVAC upgrades, and continued work on the memorial courtyard at Westfield High School to honor the late principal Dr. Derrick Nelson. 

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For Summer 2022, possible capital reserve projects include continued work on the HVAC and WHS courtyard, along with upgrading or replacing network switches in all buildings. Projects that fall under the maintenance reserve fund, which are annual standard repairs, include floor refinishing, repairing, and replacement; painting classrooms, stairwells, hallways, and offices; renovating the locker room at the high school, replacing security system components, and driveway and cement repairs.

In answer to questions from Board members, Mrs. Sullivan explained that bidding laws governing public school projects are very strict as to the process and paperwork required.  She noted that the district’s architectural firm, Fraytak, Veisz, Hopkins, Duthie, P.C., works closely with her office to prepare detailed bid specifications, outline the scope and cost of any project, submit applications to the state, and review incoming bids.

FACILITIES

Facilities Committee Chair Michael Bielen reported that the capital and maintenance reserve projects outlined in Mrs. Sullivan’s presentation were among the topics at a recent committee meeting. Mr. Bielen noted that more than 4,500 plexiglass dividers have been installed in certain classrooms at the elementary and middle schools and that they are working well. Committee members discussed possible ways, from a facilities standpoint, to open schools more fully.

LONG RANGE PLANNING

Long Range Planning Committee Chair Gretchan Ohlig stated that the district’s intent to return to full day, in-person learning in September was discussed at a recent meeting as the district continues to monitor guidance from the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health. She also stated that more substantive conversations are needed between the Town and the Board regarding proposed plans to renovate the Edison athletic fields.

POLICIES

The Board approved for first reading the following policies:

  • 2415                Every Student Succeeds Act 
  • 2415.02           Title I – Fiscal Responsibilities 
  • 2415.05           Pupil Surveys, Analysis and/or Evaluations 
  • 2415.20           Every Student Succeeds Act Complaints 
  • 4125                Employment of Support Staff Members 
  • 7425                Lead Testing of Water in Schools

The Board approved for first reading to abolish Policy 2415.01 - Academic Standards, Academic Assessments and Accountability.

Policies Committee Chair Brendan Galligan noted that minor changes to most of these policies were needed to switch references to the No Child Left Behind Act to the Every Student Succeeds Act. The policy to be abolished was specific to the No Child Left Behind Act, which is no longer in effect, Mr. Galligan stated.

The Board approved for second reading the following policies:

  • 0145                Board Member Resignation and Removal 
  • 7450                Property Inventory (Property) 
  • 7510                Use of Facilities 
  • 8462                Child Abuse and/or Neglect (Operations)

CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAMS

The Board approved for second reading the following curricula:

MATHEMATICS 

Algebra I Workshop  

Algebra II Workshop  

Geometry Workshop 

 

SOCIAL STUDIES 

U.S. History I  

U.S. History I Honors  

U.S. History II  

AP U.S. History 

 

WORLD LANGUAGES 

English as a Second Language 

FINANCE

The Board accepted with gratitude a gift to Wilson Elementary School in the amount of $1,072 from the Wilson Elementary School Girl Scouts.

TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATION

Technology and Communication Chair Gretchan Ohlig reported that, at a recent meeting, Chief Technology Officer Brian Auker and Network Manager Arvin Vidal addressed committee member questions about the possibility of storing additional district network systems on the Cloud. Mr. Auker and Mr. Vidal explained which systems already exist on the Cloud and which are stored locally for specific reasons. Ms. Ohlig noted that Mr. Auker said that his team will continue to explore and take advantage of moving additional systems to the Cloud when appropriate.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

I spoke about the continuing work our administrators and I are doing as we open our schools more fully, including many discussions on possible ways to extend in-person instruction by allowing students to eat lunch at school while still meeting the required 6 feet of distance. Given that some parents have said they are not comfortable having their child eat lunch at school, one idea under consideration is to have those parents fill out a special form before taking their child(ren) to eat lunch elsewhere. 

There are many different perspectives and we are trying to respect them all while watching the COVID data.  Our elementary school and Lincoln School principals work together constantly to ensure that rules and procedures are consistent across these different school communities. Students in Grades K-5 whose families chose in-person learning are in five days a week and, on Monday, April 12 we look forward to welcoming grades 6-8 for five mornings of in-person learning. 

After a few days of transition, as of Monday, April 26, all high school students who wish to come in for 4 mornings of in-person instruction will be welcomed for Marking Period 4.  I stated again that our ability to welcome students back for more in-person learning depends on the number of COVID cases in our community.  We continue to work closely with the Westfield Regional Health Department to monitor COVID data and we will continue to communicate with parents as new decisions are made. We hold discussions daily on next steps to bring students back.

In answer to a question from Board member Tara Oporto about offering more in-person hours to Lincoln students, I noted that lunch and bus schedules provide some challenges but that we continue to work to try to make that happen.

Board member Sahar Aziz asked about the status of teacher vaccinations. I stated that Westfield and the State do not require teachers to be vaccinated but that many have already done so and that more continue to be vaccinated each day. We are also keeping an eye on when students will be allowed to receive the COVID vaccine because a great deal of the current transmission is among children.

Board member Robert Garrison noted that the latest numbers of COVID-19 cases from the Westfield Regional Health Department indicate that children ages 10-19 represented the largest number of cases.

PUBLIC COMMENT

The Board heard from six residents including three seeking additional information about when students will be able to return to full day, in-person instruction. One resident asked about district policy about a student attending school remotely when out for a minor illness and another updated the Board on State high school graduation requirements.  Two of the residents expressed concerns about a recent Black History Month assembly at Westfield High School.

In response to those requesting specific dates for a return to full day, in-person instruction this school year, Board President Amy Root stated that when the district is able to provide a date and/or additional information, it will but that there are too many variables at this time.  Mrs. Root also noted that the District Restart Committee is not a decision-making body, that it provides ideas and input to the superintendent, and that it does not keep formal minutes.

Mrs. Oporto also expressed concern about remarks made by the recent WHS assembly speaker and asked that Board policies be reviewed to ensure that assembly speakers are properly vetted. Mrs. Aziz noted that differing viewpoints provide opportunities for conversation with students and help to build their critical thinking skills.

I noted that the district works hard to provide multiple perspectives and points of view. We’ve done a great deal of work with our teachers through professional development on facilitating appropriate and respectful classroom discussions. When concerns were expressed, the high school offered a second opportunity to view the assembly, followed by teacher-led discussions. A small number of students and some parents took advantage of the opportunity.  

In reference to district policy regarding a student attending school remotely for non-COVID illnesses, I noted that there are many classrooms that now have no remote students and that teachers cannot adapt a lesson on a given day to provide remote learning to a child who is out sick.  

A recording of the entire Board of Education virtual meeting can be viewed on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org under the Board tab.

ANNOUNCEMENTS
WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL

Congratulations to Westfield High School 11th graders Ashley Talwar and Justin Anderson for earning perfect scores on subject area tests of the December 5 SAT.  Ashley scored 800 on the Math subject test, while Justin earned an 800 on the Math Level 2 test.

DISTRICT
Sending a shout out to all who participated in Community Service Week during the week of March 22, with special thanks to our Parent Teacher Council and Parent Teacher Organizations for organizing meaningful activities and collections for those in need.  While our school community is civic-minded year-round, efforts that took place during Community Service Week included collecting donations of Spanish language books for an aftercare program, creating child comfort and support kits for children in shelters, and collecting granola bars and other nutritional treats for service men and women and first responders.

This is a reminder that Wednesday, April 14 is the deadline to submit nominations for the 2021 Charles Philhower Fellowship Award to recognize an outstanding full-time elementary teacher in the Westfield Public Schools. Nominations should specify ways in which the teacher has demonstrated outstanding teaching, interest in children, and continued pursuit of professional growth. The teacher must be a full-time faculty member in grades K – 5 in the Westfield Public Schools for a minimum of five years. Send a letter stating how your nominee meets the criteria to: The Charles Philhower Fellowship Committee of the Rotary Club of Westfield, c/o Superintendent of Schools, 302 Elm Street, Westfield, NJ 07090 or email to rotaryphilhower@westfieldnjk12.org. More information, including a list of past Philhower Award recipients, is posted on the district and school websites under “Recent News.”

We are looking forward to welcoming the Westfield High School Class of 2034 to Lincoln School in September! If you have an incoming kindergartner (or 1st grader) -- or know someone who does -- you'll find all of the information you need to register your student on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org and on the school webpages as well.  You can access the Student Registration information by clicking the Quick Link in the upper right corner of your screen or under the “Family Resources” tab.

The PTC Special Education Committee, in partnership with the Westfield Public Schools Department of Special Services, hosted an hour-long virtual workshop focusing on mental health essentials for parents and caregivers on Wednesday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. 

COMMUNITY
Save the Date! On Tuesday, April 13, 2021 from 7:00-8:30 p.m., the Westfield Public School District, in partnership with the Westfield Education Fund (WEF), will host a virtual community learning night for parents of elementary and middle school students. The event will be interactive and will focus on learning practical strategies for having conversations about race with children. Those interested in attending can learn more by visiting the Racial Literacy page under “Family Resources” at www.westfieldnjk12.org.  Please register to attend this virtual event by Sunday, April 11.

Registration is open for the JCC of Central Jersey’s Adaptive Yoga, which runs from April 18 through May 9 and Adaptive Fitness, which runs from April 22 through May 13.  To register, please contact Beth Mitchell, Director of Inclusion and Diversity, at bmitchell@jccnj.org. Each program is limited to 10 participants and a participant intake is required.  Appropriate for ages 9+.

On Saturday March 27, the Westfield Area Chinese American Association held a well-attended event to unite against hate in the wake of recent acts of violence against Asian Americans. Board of Education Vice President Brendan Galligan joined Rep. Tom Malinowski, Westfield’s Human Relations Advisory Commission Chairwoman Alexis Jemal, Police Chief Christopher Battiloro, and other local officials in speaking to the assembled crowd. 

Several students shared their experiences as well. Speaking on behalf of the Board, Mr. Galligan noted that the Board works closely with Dr. Dolan and her team of administrators in the Westfield Public Schools, who provide classroom lessons and school activities to combat bias and bullying and to encourage students to speak out against prejudice and discrimination. 

Our No Place for Hate Committees at the intermediate and high schools, along with developmentally appropriate lessons about race and cultural diversity in all grades, are just two examples of the district’s efforts.  Mr. Galligan also stated that, throughout the school year, our teachers and principals reinforce the message that hateful acts of any kind, for any reason, against anyone will not be tolerated. The school district has worked hard to put into place culturally responsive teaching strategies to create a respectful community of learners. Noting that there is still work to be done, Mr. Galligan stated that the Board of Education and the Westfield Public School District remain committed to fighting acts of hate and to encouraging our students to be Upstanders, not Bystanders.

BOARD
Board Vice President Brendan Galligan will represent the New Jersey School Boards Association as an Ex-Officio member of the Executive Committee of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Mr. Galligan will help to communicate to the NJSIAA questions and concerns of school boards regarding athletic programs throughout the state.  Mr. Galligan currently serves as a delegate on the Board of Directors for the NJSBA.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH
The New Jersey School Boards Association – the district’s consultant hired to conduct the search for a new superintendent – reports that there are 33 applications in response to the advertised position for superintendent. Twenty-three applicants currently hold superintendent or assistant superintendent positions, three are principals, vice principals or assistant principals, 4 are directors or supervisors in their current districts, and 3 hold other positions. There are 17 candidates with earned doctorates. Twenty-eight candidates are from New Jersey, two are from New York, and there is one each from Colorado, Maryland, and Nevada.  

The Board will hold three special board meetings this week as part of the superintendent search:  tomorrow, Wednesday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, April 8 at 6 p.m. and on Saturday, April 10 at 9:00 a.m.  The Board will move immediately into executive session and does not intend to take action at any of these three special meeting. There will be no public comment on the agendas. Meeting agendas are posted on the Board tab at www.westfieldnjk12.org.

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING
The next public meeting of the Board of Education will be held on Tuesday, April 27.  It is expected to begin at 7:00 p.m. and to be held virtually. Instructions regarding remote access to the public meeting are on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org under the Board tab. The complete agenda will be available on Friday, April 23, also under the Board tab on the district website.