After notifying Board members earlier, I announced at the meeting that I will be retiring effective July 1, 2021.  It has been my honor to have served the Westfield Public Schools as a principal, assistant superintendent, and as the first female superintendent.  There is much work to be done between now and June 30 and I will be working hard with the Board, our district staff, and parents for the benefit of our students right up to my last day in the district.  I am grateful to our Board members for everything they have done and will continue to do on behalf of the district.  And I thank them for their kind words of support at the meeting.

AUDIT REPORT

The Board received an overview of the annual audit of the 2019-2020 school year, prepared by Hodulik and Morrison, P.A., a division of PKF O’Connor Davies. Auditor Andrew Hodulik reported that the Westfield Public School District’s accounting practices are in full compliance and that our financial information is accurate and consistent in application according to rules of the State and accounting standards. Business Administrator Dana Sullivan reported that much of the process was conducted virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, with her office staff sharing documents and materials electronically. Mr. Hodulik’s staff did spend some days in the district reviewing documents, Mrs. Sullivan noted. Mr. Hodulik confirmed that the district’s internal controls are operating effectively and designed appropriately. Equating it to an A+ grade for the district, Mr. Hodulik stated that his firm has issued a clean report, with no non-compliance issues.

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PERSONNEL

The Board accepted with regret the retirement of three staff members, effective June 30, 2021.  Barbara Piatkowski has spent all 24 years of her career in the district at Franklin School as a beloved physical education teacher.  She is a role model with lessons that are well-planned and structured to include social and emotional learning.  A veteran special education teacher, Karen Federico retires after 32 years of supporting students at Roosevelt and Edison Intermediate Schools.  Mrs. Federico has skillfully provided for the individual needs of her students while meaningfully embedding life skills into her lesson plans.  Also a special education teacher, Randi Goodstein has been assisting our youngest learners for 35 years at Wilson, Jefferson, and Franklin. Mrs. Goodstein is effective at finding the best way to connect each of her students to their individualized learning.  We wish a happy and healthy retirement to all.

FACILITIES

The Board heard a presentation from the district’s architect George Duthie, of Fraytak Veisz Hopkins Duthie, P.C., regarding plans for improvements to our HVAC systems districtwide, including proposed equipment and project costs.  Mr. Duthie stated that the multi-phase project will take place over the next several years, depending on the availability of capital reserve funds:

  • Phase 1 will provide enhanced ventilation, air conditioning, and upgraded heating systems to elementary school multi-purpose rooms and to all nurses’ suites, except at Westfield High School which already received an upgrade.
  • Phase 2 will upgrade the ventilation systems in rooms which are used for limited, smaller student gatherings.
  • Phase 3 will upgrade the ventilation systems in main offices, guidance, and other office areas, as well as faculty rooms and similar spaces.

Mr. Duthie noted that all classrooms have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that are in good working order and that the district has upgraded the ventilation in these rooms by providing bi-polar ionization air treatment devices.

In response to a question from Board member Sahar Aziz, Mrs. Sullivan confirmed that most classrooms have window air conditioning units.  Ms. Aziz asked whether central air conditioning could be installed in all facilities; Board vice president Brendan Galligan replied that such a project would be extremely cost prohibitive.

POLICIES

The Board affirmed my decision on one HIB incident.

CURRICULUM,  INSTRUCTION AND  PROGRAMS

The Board approved voluntary Intern/Student Teacher candidates for the 2020-2021 school year. 

LIAISON REPORTS

Board member Robert Garrison reported on a recent meeting of the Town of Westfield Recreation Commission.  Mr. Garrison said residents wishing to renew their membership to the Memorial Pool or to become new members should visit westfieldnj.gov/pool.

Mr. Garrison also thanked Councilwoman Dawn Mackey and Deacon Keith Gibbons for organizing the recent remembrance of the 49 residents of Westfield who have died due to COVID-19.  Mr. Bielen noted that the recorded ceremony can be viewed at facebook.com/townofwestfield.  

Board president Amy Root reported that she attended the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, which was modified due to COVID-19 restrictions.  Mrs. Root stated that a video of the 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Commemoration Service also is available for viewing at facebook.com/townofwestfield.

Additionally, Mrs. Root mentioned that she attended a series of virtual meetings as Board liaison, including the Union County Educational Services Commission, an executive meeting of the Franklin School PTO, as well as a virtual gathering of the Westfield High School PTSO at which discussion included how COVID is affecting fundraising and activities and ways to properly acknowledge our 12th graders in the spring.

Mr. Galligan stated that he and other members of the Westfield Board of Education attended a recent virtual meeting of the Union County School Boards Association, an event, he said, is always educational as school board members from around the county share best practices.  In response to a question from Ms. Aziz, Mr. Galligan noted that the subject of vaccines for K-12 educators is handled by the New Jersey Department of Health.  I added that a logjam currently exists between federal and state handling of the process and that we continue to ask questions and work with health professionals to try to make the process as efficient as possible for our staff.  I noted that, once our educators are vaccinated, our students will not yet have received vaccinations and that I will continue to closely monitor developments.

Board member Tara Oporto asked about the status of a Board recommendation to the U.S. Department of Defense that the late Dr. Derrick Nelson be posthumously awarded the Soldier’s Medal, the highest peacetime award for valor given to a member of the U.S. Army, including the Army Reserve in which Dr. Nelson served for more than 20 years.  Mr. Galligan noted the turnover in defense department officials in recent years and stated that he and Mr. Garrison will try to expedite the process with the new administration.

Mr. Galligan noted Councilman Michael Dardia’s attendance at the meeting as the Town’s liaison to the Board of Education. Mr. Dardia reported on recent vandalism of holiday decorations and asked anyone with knowledge to share that information with authorities.

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
HIGH SCHOOL
With in-person ceremonies sidelined due to COVID-19, 163 Westfield High School 12th graders – who were inducted last spring as juniors into the National Honor Society – received their NHS certificates, pins, charms, and gold tassels from NHS advisor Scott Rutherford in December. A list of the inductees can be found under “Recent News” on the district website.  Congratulations to all!

DISTRICT
Congratulations to the casts and crews of our high school and intermediate school fall productions, which were performed virtually and livestreamed to enthusiastic audiences.  A lot of hard work and ingenuity went into these first ever virtual shows. Special thanks to play directors Daniel Devlin (WHS), Kimberly Jonny (Roosevelt), Michael Altmann (Edison), production manager Matthew DiFabio, the dedicated theater parent community, and all who contributed to and supported these productions.

This is a reminder that registration for kindergarten and grade 1 for the 2021-2022 will be open through Friday, January 29.  Registering students early helps the district to determine staffing needs for the budget for the next school year. Instructions and forms for the new online registration process are posted on the district website (westfieldnjk12.org) at the “Student Registration” quick link in the upper right of the page and in the dropdown menu on the “Family Resources” tab.

COMMUNITY
The Union County Board of County Commissioners will hold an Emergency Food Distribution Event for COVID-19 on Saturday, January 23 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. in the school parking lot at the Union County Vocational Technical School, 1776 Raritan Road, Scotch Plains.  The food distribution event is DRIVE-THRU ONLY.  The first 1,000 vehicles will receive boxes of produce, dairy, and shelf stable food.  For more information, please call or email the DHS Action Line:  888-845-3434 or 908-558-2288 and dhsaction@ucnj.org

The College Woman’s Club of Westfield is holding an Essay Contest for Sophomore (Female) High School Students who are asked to “reflect on your life and examine your successes and failures by writing a letter to your younger self, telling yourself 5 important things to know about success and failure.”  Contest deadline is Monday, February 15, 2021. Please submit your essay to cwc.westfield@gmail.com.  Additional details can be found on the Community Flyers page on the district website and by visiting visit www.cwclubwestfield.org.

In honor of Black History Month, the JCC of Central Jersey is offering a film series to “explore the relationship between the Jewish and Black communities.”  The three films are:  “Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent” to be streamed on Saturday, January 23 through Monday, January 25; “They Ain’t Ready for Me” to be streamed on Saturday, January 30 through Monday, February 1; and “Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance” to be streamed from Saturday, February 6 through Monday, February 8.  All movies are free of charge.  Register at www.jccnj.org.  Questions?  Contact Randi Zucker at rzucker@jccnj.org or (908) 889-8800 x253.

NEXT BOARD MEETING
The next meeting of the Westfield Board of Education will be held on Tuesday, February 2, beginning at 7 p.m.  The meeting will be held virtually.  Instructions for the public regarding remote access are on the district website at westfieldnjk12.org under the Board tab.   The complete agenda of the meeting will be available on Friday, January 29 on the district website.