Education

Letters to the Editor

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting Nov. 14

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COUNSELING DEPARTMENT REPORT

Maureen Mazzarese, Director of Counseling in the Westfield Public Schools, prepared a report summarizing the department’s missions, goals and practices in supporting our K-12 students and their families.  Here are some highlights which briefly summarize the comprehensive report:
 

  • At every grade level, counselors are working with students individually, in small groups and in classrooms to address students’ academic, social and emotional success and well-being.
     
  • Counselors have developed groups dealing with challenges such as social anxiety, anger management, social skills, study skills, grief and divorce.
     
  • Peer leaders at the intermediate and high school levels are trained by counselors, including 80 students each in Roosevelt and Edison as part of the Character Education program.
     
  • Counselors coordinate Intervention & Referral Services teams and serve as anti-bullying specialists and school safety team members.
     
  • Counselors contribute to school wide goals around resilience, school climate, anti-bullying and character education.
     
  • Counselors are trained in the NYU Anxiety model to try to address the nationwide rise in the incident of childhood and teenage anxiety.
     
  • Counselors are working harder on anxiety prevention and building resilience in in students.
     
  • Counselors participate in evening parent programs.
     
  • At WHS, counselors meet with students in large groups to develop resumes, to do Career Interest Inventories, and to assist in Essay Writing and Common Application Workshops.
     
  • From September 6 – November 13, a total of 3,440 WHS students have come into the Counseling office.
     
  • A review of recent data regarding the college process reveals:
     
    • Since 2013, the numbers of students applying Early Decision and Early Action to colleges has almost doubled.  To accommodate the change, the college counseling calendar adjusted accordingly.
       
    • As of November 1, the department sent 3,533 transcripts to colleges – doubling what is typically sent.
       
    • An average of 2 to 3 college admissions counselors meet each day with perspective applicants.

 

Ms. Mazzarese reported that as a leader in Union County schools in developing Student Growth Objectives (SGO) for counseling, she has shared some with other districts who were grateful for the information.  Ms. Mazzarese also expressed her gratitude to the Board of Education in demonstrating its support of the counselors.

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POLICIES

The Board approved for second reading the following policies: 5120 Assignment of Pupils (Pupils), 5200 Attendance (Pupils), 5240 Tardiness, (Pupils) 5308 Pupil Health Records (Pupils), and 5350 Pupil Suicide Prevention (Pupils)

The Board approved for second reading to abolish policy 5230 Late Arrival/Early Dismissal (Pupils).

CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAM

The Board approved overnight field trips and district field trips.

The Board approved Boys’ Volleyball as a boys’ varsity sport for the 2017-2018 school year. All costs for the 2017-2018 school year will be covered by funds donated to the program.  Allowing varsity status will permit them to compete at that level.  
 

FACILITIES

The Facilities Committee will be reviewing proposed changes to the Use of School Facilities Policy concerning third party use of our facilities.  Letters were sent out to the third party organizations. 

 

LONG RANGE PLANNING

FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN FEASIBILITY STUDY

I provided an introduction to this report by recapping of one of our district’s goals:

On September 19, I presented to the Board and to the public three key district goals for this school year. One of the goals was to determine the feasibility and community support for full day kindergarten.  I announced that I expected this examination to be concluded by May 2018. 

This goal is a direct result of the consensus in 2016 of the District’s Strategic Planning Committee, which represented a cross section of the community.  One of the strategic directions is to assess if there is a value, need and support for full day kindergarten within our public school district. 

At last night’s Board meeting, Mark Friedman, who serves as the Chair on the Long Range Planning Committee for the Board, provided an update regarding where we are now in this evaluation.  He invited all Westfield residents to participate in a brief online survey.  Mr. Friedman emphasized that the Board wants to give its constituents the opportunity of providing input regarding the feasibility of a full day public school kindergarten program. The survey is posted on the district’s homepage at www.westfieldnjk12.org under “Important Messages.”  The deadline to complete the 3-minute survey is Monday, November 20. 

The survey includes an introduction with information summarizing what would be necessary to consider undertaking a full day kindergarten program. 

  • All Westfield Public Schools are currently at or near capacity. The School District worked with a professional demographer to study enrollment projections, which indicate that K-12 enrollment will stay at approximately the current levels for the next five years.
     
  • 90% of public school districts in New Jersey offer a full day program. The Westfield Public School District provides a half day kindergarten program in which state educational standards are fulfilled. Approximately 200 students attend either a morning or afternoon session at Lincoln School, while another 200 or more attend private programs.  
     
  • Besides working with a demographer, we also worked with a professional architecture firm to consider possible venues for expansion to meet state code and to be cost-effective.  In order to accommodate 400 – 450 full time kindergarten students, the District would continue to operate Lincoln as a kindergarten facility and would have to build additional kindergarten classrooms onto one or more existing schools.  
     
  • Given the funding mechanisms for public school districts in New Jersey, a bond referendum would be required to secure capital needed for facility expansion. This would result in a tax increase of approximately $40 for the average Westfield home for the life of the 20 – 30 year bond.
     
  • The School District would have to hire additional teachers and incur other costs in the operating budget for a full day kindergarten program at an approximate increase per household of $250 annually.
     
  • The facilities to accommodate full day kindergarten would not be available until the 2019-2020 school year or later. 

Mr. Friedman stated that the Long Range Planning Committee looks forward to reviewing the survey responses as part of the overall evaluation process, and reminded residents that the survey closes on Monday, November 20. 

 

FINANCE 

The Board gratefully accepted the following gifts: $738.04 from the Jefferson School PTO to purchase special acrylic paint and supplies for multi-grade level sculpture projects at Jefferson School; $500 from the Lightbridge Academy to purchase 12 new music stands with cases for the Westfield High School Music Department; coaches’ communication headsets and a football sled used for blocking drills for the Westfield High School football team from the Westfield Boosters Association valued at $15,000.

 

TECHNOLOGY

Technology Committee Chair Peggy Oster announced that the committee met to discuss changes in the district’s website, since the provider has been acquired by another company and will not be in service next year.  Mrs. Oster stated that the goal is to find a new and better website for the district to serve all the users.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL

College Nights are once again scheduled at Westfield High School. On Thursday, November 16, from 6:30 – 8:30 PM, Westfield High School (WHS) will host more than 155 colleges and universities at its annual College Night. This event gives students and their parents an opportunity to gather information about colleges and universities nationwide. The college representatives will be in the WHS Varsity Gym, Gym 5 and Cafeteria B.  A list of colleges and universities is posted on the WHS Department of Counseling Services’ website. Hosted for many years by Westfield High School’s Department of Counseling Services, College Night offers a forum for students and parents to talk one-on-one with representatives from colleges and universities. The department works diligently to provide students access to an array of post-secondary options.

Also, tonight (November 15), the WHS Counseling Department and Parent Teacher Council Special Education Committee is hosting a panel discussion “College Planning for Students with Accommodations.”  It will be held from 7:00 – 9:00 PM in WHS Cafeteria B.  Parents and high school students are invited to attend.

WHS PERFORMING ARTS

Westfield High School is performing The Man Who Came to Dinner, a comedy which premiered in 1939. This week’s matinee performance will be held on Thursday, November 16, at 4:00 PM, and Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM.  It will be held in the Westfield High School auditorium, 550 Dorian Road.

WHS ATHLETICS

There is a lot to celebrate in athletics this time of year.  First, congratulations to the Boys Cross Country Team who are State Sectional Champions!  Both the boys and girls are also Union County Champions.  The Union County Soccer Co-Championships were won by both our boys and girls varsity, and Girls Volleyball also earned the County crown.  Football remains undefeated.  Congratulations to Bev Torok who reached the 400th varsity win milestone in Girls Volleyball. 

Congratulations to 17 Westfield High School student-athletes who signed national letters of intent last week to play next year for colleges and universities. Among the girls: Whitney Shyposh -  Crew, Rutgers University; Muriel Maloney - Swim, Monmouth University; Sydney Paoletti – Lacrosse, Columbia University; Catherine Moriarty -  Lacrosse,University of Florida; Natalie Bond Lacrosse, Stanford University; Molly Ryan – Basketball, Tufts University; Melina McDevitt – Soccer, Tufts University; Kylinn Kraemer – Soccer, Montclair State University; Grace Elliott – Soccer, University of Scranton; and Stephanie Borr - Volleyball for Brandeis University.

Among the boys, Eric Bebel – Swim, Bryant University; Ryan Bebel – Swim, College of William & Mary; Sam Pugliese – Lacrosse, Jacksonville University; Luke Hunziker – Lacrosse, Colgate University; Pat McIlroy – Lacrosse, Lehigh University; Mark Walter – Soccer, Muhlenberg College; and Dan Sokolin – Soccer, Dickinson College.

Athletic Director Sandy Mamary remarked, “These student-athletes demonstrate a strong work ethic in the classroom and on the athletic surfaces.  Their dedication and passion is evident and the Westfield School District is very proud of them. Our coaches work tirelessly within each program and the Tradition of Athletic Excellence continues.”


WHS COMMUNITY SERVICE CLUB

The Westfield High School Community Service Club is raking leaves for a cause.  Each weekend until the leaves disappear, the student volunteers will rake leaves for Westfield residents and in turn, ask for donations which will go toward hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and Texas.  Please contact Club Adviser Warren Hynes at whynes@westfieldnjk12.org to schedule an appointment.

 

INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLS

Students at Roosevelt Intermediate School (RIS) in Westfield took part in the national Mix It Up Day event, joining more than three million other students across the country to help break down social barriers. Roosevelt’s event was held on November 3 with the entire school community participating. The event began to take shape weeks earlier with the counselors presenting lessons to all the students on the importance of being an Upstander – someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. The preparations culminated on November 3rd when all 6th, 7th and 8th grade students were asked to move out of their comfort zone during lunch periods and sit with someone new.  Each table displayed a large photograph of a person whom the students designated as an Upstander role model.  In addition to having serious discussions about that individual, students played fun games like sharing what their favorite movie or color is and answering questions pulled from a box such as:  “If you wrote a book, what would it be about.” Eighth grade peer leaders directed the ice breaker activities.  According to the Teaching Tolerance organization – which encourages Mix It Up Day, “Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.”
 

BOARD OF EDUCATION ELECTION
 

Board President Gretchan Ohlig congratulated the newly elected Board of Education members Kent Diamond and Lynn Benner, who will join the Board in January.  Ms. Ohlig also congratulated current WBOE President Peggy Oster who will serve another term.  Simon Cirasa and Anthony Marotta are thanked for their participation as candidates.

SCHOOLS CLOSED
 

Westfield Public Schools will have an early dismissal on Wednesday, November 22, and will be closed for Thanksgiving recess November 23 – 24. 

COMMUNITY

Westfield residents and/or those working in the town are eligible to apply for scholarships designed for individuals enrolled in library-related courses.  Funding for the awards comes from the Friends of Westfield Memorial Library, a volunteer organization that supports the library and is well-recognized for its annual book sales. The scholarships, of $1,000 and upwards, can be used for credit-bearing undergraduate and graduate courses that will assist the recipients in current or future library work.  The monies will be applied toward tuition with the Friends sending checks directly to the institutions where scholarship winners are enrolled. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis with no set deadline.  Forms are available at the front desk of the library, 550 East Broad St.

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING

The next Westfield Board of Education meeting will be held Tuesday, December 5, at 7:30 PM at 302 Elm Street.  The complete agenda will be available on Friday, December 1, on the Board of Ed website.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends,


Margaret Dolan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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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