The following is a synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting held on March 24, 2020.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the March 24 Board of Education meeting was held remotely, with Board members and members of the community joining in from remote locations using an online videoconferencing platform. Board president Peggy Oster thanked members of the public for their patience as the Board adjusted to conducting a virtual Board meeting.

I noted that our focus on strength and resilience over the past several years has been severely tested these past few weeks.  The interruption to our daily lives is without parallel in recent history and I recognize how difficult this is for our students, our families, and our staff.  The response has been inspiring, however. I am impressed by the fortitude of our entire community. Our staff is working day and night to focus on the well-being of our students and I am confident that we will continue to provide richer, more meaningful remote learning experiences.

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Mrs. Oster reiterated that we all are adjusting -- students to a new learning approach and many adults to working from home every day.  She thanked the school community for “working with us to do the best job we can, which is what we are all about as a district, whether learning virtually or in a classroom.” She noted that adjustments have been made to the initial distance learning plan and that additional improvements will be made as needed.

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

I provided a report on the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC), a performance review by the New Jersey Department of Education that occurs every three years and that requires months of preparation and included an on-site visit by a team led by the Union County Executive Superintendent.  The district received the following scores on five key components of a school district effectiveness:

  • Instruction and Programs - 91%
  • Fiscal Management - 100%
  • Governance - 100%
  • Operations - 100%
  • Personnel - 100%

Westfield is a high performing community and I am very proud of these results.  It is nearly impossible to receive 100% for the Instruction and Program category because - while we received 100% on our documentation and other paperwork - the score is based, in part, on results of state student assessments.  I thank all of the members of the QSAC Review Committee for their dedication and hard work.

I also reported on the first year of the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment for Science.  In the spring of 2019, Westfield students participated in this science assessment which is administered to all New Jersey public school students in grades 5, 8, and 11.  The 2019 assessment is a baseline year which means that students and the district will not have those scores factored into measures for school/teacher accountability or performance.  The NJSLA science assessment is not a high school graduation requirement.  Our students scored well above the statewide averages for the tested grades in science for this baseline year.

PERSONNEL

The Board unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Paul Duncan as the next principal of Franklin School, effective July 1, 2020.  Dr. Duncan, who is currently assistant principal at Franklin, was an outstanding candidate in a field of 80 applicants.  The search committee felt strongly and passionately that Dr. Duncan stood out as a compassionate and committed leader.  I am impressed with his obvious commitment to the growth and success of our elementary students, his data-driven research on education and learning, and his evident respect for others.

Mrs. Oster extended best wishes to Dr. Duncan while Board vice president Amy Root, who served on the search committee, stated that Dr. Duncan emerged as the clear choice to succeed Dr. Eileen Cambria and that members of the Franklin School community are excited about his appointment.

The Board also accepted with regret the retirement of the following staff:

  • Diane Eisen, Tamaques School – Special Education                                   6/30/2020 
  • Carole Harazim, Westfield High School – Resource Center                        1/31/2020 
  • Sally Susan Heyder, Jefferson & Lincoln Schools – Librarian                         6/30/2020 
  • Michael Kozlowski, Edison Intermediate School – Special Education        6/30/2020

Mrs. Harazim was a special education teacher in our district for 15 years who truly loved and helped her students over all of those years.  As a former classroom teacher, Ms. Heyder, who has been with the district for more than 25 years, expanded her deep love of literacy which she shared with her students as a librarian.  Both Ms. Eisen and Mr. Kozlowski (28 and 40 years, respectively) are caring and committed special education teachers who are adept in connecting with each of their students. We wish all of them well in their retirements.

FACILITIES

Business Administrator Dana Sullivan reported that projects for Summer 2020, including plans to install new interior doors at our elementary schools, will need to be reassessed in a couple of weeks, in light of  COVID-19 developments.  While Mrs. Sullivan said that she has received guidance on how to conduct a virtual bidding process, she noted that she does not want to award a contract on which the district may not be able to move forward.

POLICIES

The Board approved for second reading the following policies:
 

  • 2200 Scope of Curriculum (Program) 
  • 2415.06 Unsafe School Choice Option (Program) 
  • 2700 Services to Nonpublic School Pupils (Program) 
  • 9120 Public Information Program (Community) 
  • 9400.1 School District Staff/Media Relations (Community) 

The Board also approved for second reading to abolish Policy 2415.03 regarding the Highly Qualified Teachers (Program).  At the February 25 Board meeting,  Policies Committee Chair Brendan Galligan noted that this policy, which addressed a specific mandate under the now defunct No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), is outdated, that the State has increased its standards, and that the district will continue to hire highly qualified and competent teachers.

FINANCE

The Board approved the revised  tentative budget for the 2020-2021 school year.  Mrs. Sullivan explained that the revised budget reflects a couple of possible capital improvements for Summer 2021 and that important budget totals for 2020-2021, including the tax levy, are not changing.

The Board also accepted with gratitude a gift of $2,162 from the Westfield High School PTSO to purchase a ceiling projector for Room 141.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Via the virtual Webex platform allowing members of the public to type in comments and/or questions during public comment, a former Board member thanked current Board members for their service.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

This is an important announcement from the Rotary Club of Westfield:  The families of St Joseph’s Social Service Center/The Elizabeth Coalition are in crisis. With schools closed, the school lunches many students depend on are not available, and they aren’t receiving the “second lunch Tuesday” sandwiches Westfield schools have provided for many years. With this program on hold while our schools are closed, we are appealing for your help. Please make sandwiches, individually wrapped and labeled with ingredients, with no condiments.

It is vital that every step of preparation follows safe food handling and sanitation practices; we must eliminate any risk of virus transmission.  Please visit the Rotary website at www.westfieldrotary.com for a list of requested food items.  Please drop off donations before 11:00 am each Wednesday. There are 2 drop-off locations- north side at the home of Ellen Windorf, 529 Hanford Place, and south side at the home of Ray Kostyack, 438 Poe Avenue. Drop off the food into bins, and please use gloves. We will also deliver donated canned & dried/boxed foods. If you are able to, please also consider making a financial contribution to the St. Joseph Social Service Center. You won’t find a more worthy organization.  Visit sjeliz.org to learn how to contribute to their annual appeal.  Thank you for your support.