Whether you are a student, a parent, an educator, a business owner, or another member of our community, I noted the challenges, frustrations, and anxiety we all feel as our worlds have been turned upside down by COVID-19. Even as we work to provide a level of meaningful, in-person instruction and extracurricular activities for our students, I asked that we all take a moment to reflect on what is most important and that is our health and the health of others.
We rely on our public health officials and other medical professionals who are working tirelessly to keep us safe. They have years of training and expertise, and they have the most reliable and up-to-date information regarding this deadly virus. I welcomed the district’s school physician, Dr. Susan Kaye, to the virtual Board meeting to help explain the importance of the community coming together to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to provide context as to district decision-making when it comes to keeping schools open.
Dr. Kaye, a 37-year resident of Westfield whose children attended Westfield Public Schools, has been the school physician since 1998. She noted that all of us want our students in school and participating in extracurricular activities. However, she cited rising COVID cases and hospitalizations in the local community and stated that the school district and the Westfield Regional Health Department closely follow local data in determining whether to move a school to all-remote instruction and to suspend extracurricular activities. She said that these decisions are never made lightly and that they are meant to protect, not punish, our community. As a resident, she said, she worries about individuals who are unmasked and/or not socially distanced when she walks around Westfield. And she reminded all of us that the choices we make affect not only the ability for students to remain in school and to play sports, but the health and safety of our most vulnerable members of the community.
Board members thanked Dr. Kaye for her insight and asked questions about testing sites, contact tracing, and mask-wearing. The school physician noted that 60% of people across New Jersey are not responding to contract tracers, and she reminded the community that being outdoors does not guarantee an individual won’t contract COVID if he/she does not adhere to important COVID safety protocols, including remaining at least 6 feet apart and wearing a mask.
STUDENT SAFETY DATA SYSTEM (SSDS) & SCHOOL SELF-ASSESSMENT
The State requires school districts to report on the Student Safety Data System (SSDS) and on Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) twice a year. I provided an overview for the time period January 1, 2020 – June 30, 2020 and reviewed the 2019-2020 school self-assessment under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. I noted that the number of incidents was down during this time period as the district moved to all-remote learning in March due to COVID-19.
In our schools, we strive to instill in our students respect for self, others, and the community. The importance of fostering respect is interwoven in curriculum for all grades and within the Code of Conduct. Our K-12 curriculum includes texts and materials with themes of inclusiveness, diversity, and equity which provide the opportunity for classroom conversations about bias, bigotry, and hate. The district holds appropriate trainings and workshops on topics such as Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), legal updates, Board policy reviews, and responsible use of social media for staff and parents.
Programs for students include social problem solving, character education, and leadership programs. Despite our efforts, there are occasions when conduct does not meet our expectations. As always, we will work to provide a school environment in which all students can feel safe. We want our students to understand that the way they treat one another matters. This is important work that we do.
In answer to a question from Board President Peggy Oster regarding cyberbullying, I noted that we are seeing examples of it but no increase in the number of incidences as of yet. I pointed out that our school counselors continue to share examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior with students while encouraging them to reach out if they need assistance.
The Board accepted with regret the retirement of Lincoln School paraprofessional Mary Ann Kukis, effective November 30, 2020. Mrs. Kukis has provided 9 years of tireless and dedicated support to our youngest learners. We wish her well in her retirement.
Facilities Committee Chair Michael Bielen said that committee members continue to receive updates from the Town of Westfield regarding a preliminary review of athletic fields at Edison Intermediate School as part of a larger proposal to upgrade a number of fields in Westfield. Mr. Bielen and other Board members noted that this review provides early input for the proposed project and that the Town and the Board will continue an in-depth review to determine its feasibility as it pertains to the Edison fields.
The Board approved the 2019-2020 School Self-Assessments for HIB Grades for Westfield High School, Edison Intermediate School, Roosevelt Intermediate School, Franklin School, Jefferson School, McKinley School, Tamaques School, Washington School, Wilson School, and Lincoln School
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAMS
The Board approved for second reading the following curricula:
Global Connections, Grade 5
The Ancient World, Grade 6
European Transformation & the New World, Grade 7
United States History, Grade 8
Exploring Global Studies, Grade 9
Global Perspectives, Grade 9
The Board also approved Student Teacher/Intern candidates for the 2020-2021 school year.
Board member Robert Garrison attended a recent meeting of the Wilson School PTO and reported that technology and creative ways to conduct fundraising were among the important topics discussed.
Board member Brendan Galligan provided a reminder that all recorded sessions from the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) Virtual Workshop 2020 are available for member viewing.
Mrs. Oster reported that the Westfield High School PTSO continues to work on virtual ways to support students, staff, and the community. She noted that the WHS PTSO has provided mini-grants to teachers and that the PTSO is committed to supporting the high school.
Board members heard from three residents on different topics. One resident sought creative approaches to allowing student-athletes to continue their seasons during the pandemic. Another expressed concern about the revised middle school academic schedule as well as the safety of students and staff, asking that the district consider closing all schools through the holidays.
A third resident voiced concern for pregnant educators based on new CDC guidance.
Thirteen Westfield High School student-athletes signed Letters of Intent with colleges and universities, signifying recognition of the seniors’ accomplishments both academically and athletically. The following student-athletes will continue to compete at the college level. Congratulations to all.
- Sebastian Birse, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Lacrosse
- Mia Fleming, University of Southern California, Lacrosse
- Matthew Gruters, Sacred Heart University, Lacrosse
- Katherine Hamilton, Duke University, Cross Country/Track and Field
- Christopher Ho, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baseball
- Jack Kelesoglu, Connecticut College, Soccer
- Laurajane “LJ” Kehler, Colgate University, Lacrosse
- Gianna Mangiamele, Franklin & Marshall College, Volleyball
- Aidan McLane, Fairfield University, Lacrosse
- Chloe Pappalardo, Susquehanna University, Lacrosse
- Mack Prybylski, Villanova University, Lacrosse
- Brooke Scheuermann, Salisbury University, Lacrosse
- Colin Summers, Fairfield University, Golf
The district conducted a state-required test of its emergency alert system on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at approximately 4 p.m. All families and staff members received a text, email, and voice alert with instructions on how to update their emergency contact information as necessary.
The Westfield High School Community Service Club is proud to announce its leaf-raking fundraiser. This annual event brings several hardworking high school students who will practice social distancing and wear face masks to your yard to rake leaves on either a Saturday or Sunday morning (between 9 a.m. and noon) through the weekend of Nov. 29.
There is no set price to have your yard raked, but donations are welcome and appreciated. Proceeds will go to a charitable organization. For more information or to set up a date to have your yard raked, please contact student leaf-raking coordinators Rachel Simpson firstname.lastname@example.org and Anna Tichenor at email@example.com or faculty club advisers Zorana Culjak at firstname.lastname@example.org and Gregory Bowers at email@example.com.
The Parent Teacher Council, along with school PTOs and PTSOs invite students to celebrate their teachers this holiday season by submitting a short story, poem or drawing describing how their teacher has gone above & beyond during this unprecedented year. Winning submissions will be displayed in the storefront windows of Downtown Westfield throughout the month of December. The deadline to submit a submission is today (Friday), November 20. The submission form – entitled PTC/PTO Teacher Appreciation Contest – can be found on the Community Flyers page under the Family Resources tab atwww.westfieldnjk12.org.
The College Woman’s Club of Westfield is holding a Holiday Wreath and Grave Blanket Fundraiser to help support its 2021 Scholarship Fund. Deadline to order is Tuesday, November 24. More details, including how to order, can be found on the district website on the “Family Resources” tab under “Community Flyers.” Learn more about the CWC at cwclubwestfield.org.
The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) is encouraging students to submit entries for the Garden State Film Festival’s student submission category, “New Jersey Hometown Documentary Short.” This category is reserved for films that are written, directed, and shot by New Jersey high school and younger grade school students. Films must be five minutes or less and must focus on some aspect of the students’ hometown, including topics such as profiles of interesting persons, places, time periods, or subjects related to the arts. Students are encouraged to submit entries by January 8, 2021. For more information, visit www.njsba.org and/or the Garden State Film Festival at GSFF.org.
This is a reminder that the deadline to submit an entry for the 8th Annual Anti-Drug and Alcohol Palooza is Wednesday, December 2. The Westfield Municipal Alliance hosts the contest each year for elementary, intermediate, and high school students. Contest details and entry forms can be found under “Health and Welfare” on the Community Flyers page on the district website. Contest information also is posted on the Westfield Municipal Alliance website at www.westfieldnj.gov/wma.
We extend our congratulations to Sahar Aziz, Leila Morrelli, and Sonal Patel who won election to the Board of Education, according to unofficial results. Official results are expected to be announced today (Friday), November 20. We thank all of the candidates for their willingness to serve and their commitment to the community.
All Westfield Public Schools will be closed on Thursday, November 26 and Friday, November 27 for the Thanksgiving recess. Additionally, there will be no afternoon instruction for all students on Wednesday, November 25.
NEXT BOARD MEETING
The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Education will be on Tuesday, December 8. The time and location of the meeting will be announced later. Should the meeting be virtual, instructions for the public regarding remote access are on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org under the Board tab. The complete agenda of the meeting will be available on Friday, December 4, also under the Board tab on the district website.
Wishing you a healthy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.
Margaret Dolan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools