Student Safety Data System (SSDS)
The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) requires a report twice a year on Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse as well as Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB). Our most recent report for the period January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019 outlines the number of incidents, along with HIB trainings and programs. This report coincides with School Violence Awareness Week which was observed across the state from October 21-25, 2019.
During the period of January 1, 2019 and June 30, 2019, the district reported a total of 28 incidents in the categories meeting the state’s definition of violence, vandalism, substances, weapons and/or confirmed HIB instances. There were a total of 29 other incidents leading to removal and 5 alleged HIB investigations, along with 14 HIB trainings for staff and 36 HIB programs for students, staff and parents.
Each school has one or more anti-bullying specialists and there is a district anti-bullying coordinator appointed each year. Our schools list their specialists and their coordinator on their websites. We undergo a great deal of training in the anti-bullying process, and we continue our efforts in this important area, including a review of the Code of Conduct and the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights within our schools. We encourage students to be “upstanders” and, as mentioned when I presented at our last Board meeting on the Week of “Extra” Respect, to respect themselves and others.
School Self-Assessment for Determining HIB Grade
Additionally, each year a School Improvement Panel (SIP) at each school provides a self-assessment of how the school is meeting requirements under the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. The panels review what has been accomplished in terms of programs, trainings, or instruction for students and staff. The Board approved the 2018-2019 School Self-Assessment for Determining HIB Grades for all 10 schools which the district will submit to the NJDOE for approval.
The Board approved for first reading the following policies:
- 0131 Bylaws and Policies (Bylaws)
- 0141 Board Member Number and Term (Bylaws)
- 0142 Board Member Qualifications, Prohibited Acts and Code of Ethics (Bylaws)
- 0142.1 Nepotism (Bylaws)
- 5611 Removal of Pupils for Firearms Offenses (Pupils)
- 5613 Removal of Pupils for Assaults with Weapons Offenses (Pupils)
- 8130 School Organization (Operations)
- 8465 Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Acts (Operations)
- 9150 School Visitors (Community)
Policies Committee Chair Brendan Galligan noted that the committee has completed its policy review with this cycle taking six years. The Board also affirmed my decision on three HIB incidents.
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAMS
The Board approved district field trips and overnight field trips as correlated with curriculum.
The Board approved for first reading the following curricula:
English Language Arts
English IV AP Literature & Composition
English IV AP Language & Composition
Visual & Performing Arts
General Music, Grades K-5
Chorus, Grade 5
Instrumental Music, Grades 4-5
The Board also approved the 2019-2020 School Nursing Plan and a voluntary Student Teacher/Intern candidate for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.
Board member Tara Oporto thanked the music educators who shared their passion for teaching at the last meeting of the Curriculum, Instruction and Programs (CIP) Committee.
The Board accepted with gratitude the following donations:
- Gifts from the Westfield High School PTSO to be used as follows:
- $ 4,400.00 - To purchase an HDU sign
- $ 5,790.00 - Painted Cafeteria B
- $13,455.80 - Painted Auditorium lobby
- $ 9,618.75 - Painting of front hallway and cafeteria hallway
- A gift of $360 from the Westfield Coalition for the Arts to go towards masterclasses for the 7th grade woodwind class at Roosevelt Intermediate School.
- A gift of $349.70 to purchase an iPad and a case from the Jefferson School PTO for use in the nurse’s office.
- A gift of $175 from the McKinley School PTO to cover the cost of a nurse to accompany the third grade classes on their walking tour of Westfield on October 23, 2019.
Finance Committee Chair Peggy Oster reiterated the Board’s gratitude to the district PTO/PTSOs for their time and generosity in supporting our schools.
Mrs. Oporto reported on a recent meeting of the Lincoln School PTO at which topics of discussion included staff training using CPR manikins and a possible PTO shed to store supplies outside. Mrs. Oporto also stated that the Lincoln PTO will hold its annual Book Fair on Monday, November 4 through Wednesday, November 6 from 1:15 - 7:45 p.m. each day.
Board member Kent Diamond stated that security vestibules and the upcoming “School Safety and Security for Parents” presentation by the NJDOE’s Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning were discussed at a recent meeting of the Tamaques PTO. Mr. Diamond also reported on his attendance at a meeting of the Westfield Memorial Library Board of Trustees where it was stated that the library will again offer extended hours to Westfield students during mid-term and final exams.
Board member Brendan Galligan reported that several board members joined Business Administrator Dana Sullivan and I at the New Jersey School Boards Association annual convention. Mr. Galligan noted the many professional courses available to attendees including offerings on building security, social and emotional learning, special education, and other important topics.
Board President Peggy Oster reported that she and Board Vice President Amy Root met on October 29 with Mayor Shelley Brindle. Mrs. Oster noted that she and Mrs. Root meet every two to three months with the mayor as part of a cooperative relationship with town administration to “make Westfield the best that it can be.”
Mrs. Root mentioned a recent visit of the Westfield Green Team to Franklin School where members of the team reiterated the 3-Rs of responsible conservation: reduce, reuse, recycle. She stated that Town Councilman David Contract and other members of the Green Team are always willing to share their presentation with other schools who wish to invite them.
The Board heard from a resident who encouraged board members to look more broadly at long-term district improvement projects and to possibly combine them rather than dealing with each individually. This resident also expressed disappointment that the board is not going forward with school security vestibules at this time, and she expressed support for assigning a School Resource Officer (SRO) at some of our elementary schools, if not all of them.
Another resident addressed the Board about the district’s policy and procedures for managing pediculosis (head lice), expressing her concern about the current procedures that allow a child who has active head lice to remain in school. She also asked that parents be notified when a case of head lice is discovered in a school and provided a suggested pediculosis policy she had written which we will examine. I reported that our current procedures are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses and the Harvard School of Public Health. Facts on lice and nits, along with school nurse procedures, can be found on the webpage for each school listed under “Health Services” on the “Departments” tab. I rely on the expert advice of our nursing staff and district physician who, in turn, rely on current guidelines from these national medical organizations. I reiterated, however, that we will have our medical experts again review our policy and procedures.
A member of the Westfield High School lacrosse team asked whether a new head coach had been announced. I confirmed that the Board had just approved the current varsity assistant lacrosse coach William Wertheimer to be Head Coach of Boys Lacrosse for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Board heard from another resident concerned about a questionnaire being used in a social studies class, provided to him by another parent, which he felt asked leading questions and was too political. Members of the Board and I indicated the need for more information about the survey, in what class(es) it is being used, and the broader context of the social studies lesson. I mentioned that our social studies teachers have been trained in teaching civil discourse and know that they cannot take sides on any issue. One of our jobs as educators is to help future generations understand and support a democratic society and to teach them how to disagree with each other in a civil way. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Programs Paul Pineiro noted that this questionnaire has been used at Westfield High School for at least ten or more years and that it is a useful tool to promote honest and good conversations.
A resident expressed strong concerns that the district is not doing enough to combat racial epithets and other expressions of hate written in school bathrooms. I stated that whenever we are made aware of hateful graffiti, we take immediate steps to address it and to try to identify the person responsible. I encourage any student or parent who witnesses such hateful acts to report them immediately to a building supervisor. I also hope our work with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and its program “No Place for Hate” will build on our sincere efforts to educate our students about the impact of hate and the consequences of spreading it.
Mrs. Sullivan reported that she had sent an email to the district’s supervisor of buildings and grounds to have custodians again check school bathrooms for any offensive graffiti. Mrs. Oporto expressed concern about graffiti in bathrooms at town facilities; Mrs. Oster reported that she will notify Mayor Brindle of this discussion.
Congratulations to the following Westfield High School students who earned perfect scores in subject areas of the September ACT: Juniors Kyle Azzaretto (Science & STEM) and Julia Weinstein (English). Seniors Alexander Joseph (Math, Science & STEM), Madeline Katz (Reading) and Ryan Zadrozny (Reading).
The Westfield High School Department of Counseling Services will host more than 160 colleges, universities, and other post-secondary institutions from around the country at its annual College Night on Thursday, November 14 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The event provides an excellent opportunity for students and parents to talk one-on-one with college representatives and to gather information about their schools. A list of attending schools, along with room assignments, will be finalized as the event nears and will be posted on the Counseling department’s webpage at whs.westfieldnjk12.org.
Congratulations to art teachers Becky Davenport and Amy Hynes, who represented Westfield Public Schools at the annual conference of Art Educators of New Jersey (AENJ). Mrs. Davenport teaches at Franklin and Mrs. Hynes teaches at both Lincoln and Franklin. The two art educators presented a workshop on paper weaving for their elementary school colleagues. Mrs. Davenport reported that "it was wonderful to have so many art educators from across the state attend the presentation and share their thoughts.”
Mental health and wellness is the important focus of a new speaker series at Edison Intermediate School, sponsored by the Edison guidance team, school nurses, the School Resource Officer and other educators. The four presentations will be held on November 18, January 23, February 11, and March 10. Each presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the Edison auditorium and is open to the public at no cost. Visit the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org for a list of speakers under the “Recent News” section.
The New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning will share a presentation entitled “School Safety and Security for Parents” on Wednesday, November 20 from 7-9 p.m. in the Edison Intermediate School auditorium. Topics to be discussed include recommended visitor procedures for schools, the importance of situational awareness and the “See Something, Say Something” campaign to report suspicious activity. The presentation will also cover communicating during a crisis, why schools conduct safety drills, and why school security is everyone’s responsibility.
The Westfield Municipal Alliance and Westfield High School Dream Team announce the 7th Annual Anti-Drug and Alcohol Poster, Poetry, and Public Service Announcement Palooza. Students in grades 1-5 are invited to create an original poster while students in grades 6-8 may create an original poem with the theme “Westfield, We Have Better Things to Do: Healthy Choices, Everyday Choices.” High school students in grades 9-12 may produce an original 30-second PSA reflecting the same theme. The submission deadline is November 18. Contest details and entry form can be found in the Community Flyerssection under the Family Resources tab on the district website.
BOARD OF EDUCATION ELECTION
We extend our thanks to the seven candidates who are running for the Westfield Board of Education. Five residents are seeking election to three 3-year terms: Andrew Bauer, Michael Bielen, Patrick Justin Fahey, Brendan Galligan and Amy Root. Robert Garrison is running unopposed for an unexpired two-year term; Brian Morrissey also is running unopposed for an unexpired one-year term. The election will be held on Tuesday, November 5; polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. More information, including Candidate Profiles, a video recording of the recent Candidates Night, and polling locations, can be found on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org under the Board drop down menu.
Westfield Public Schools will be closed on Thursday, November 7 and Friday, November 8 for teacher professional days consistent with the NJEA Convention. Additionally, students in kindergarten through grade 5 only will have early dismissal on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, November 4-6 for parent-teacher conferences.
NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING
The next meeting of the Westfield Board of Education will be held on Tuesday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. at 302 Elm Street. The complete agenda will be available on Friday, November 8 on the Board section of the district website.