Important Information from the Westfield Board of Education
Friday, September 20, 2013 • 8:52pm
Synopsis Of a Westfield Board of Education meeting on September 17, 2013
The Board approved the 2013-2014 District Goals.
As a school district with 10 schools, over 800 teachers and close to 6,300
students, it is important that we move forward in the same direction. Our
strategic plan – a collaborative effort developed by a cross section of
the community -- guides us in setting the right direction. Based on
objectives in our strategic plan, we have established three main goals for
the 2013-2014 school year. We began discussion of these goals last spring,
continued talks over the summer, and at the Board workshop last week, we
finalized their intent.
In summary, the Goals include:
1. Implement the Marshall Teacher Evaluation Model effectively.
We have always evaluated our teachers and it is good practice to do so. To
comply with state law, all public school districts in the state are
required to implement, beginning this school year, one of the evaluation
systems approved by the NJDOE. We spent the last year looking at the
various options offered to make sure the level of teaching in our
classrooms remains high. We have adopted the Marshall evaluation model and
are making sure that everyone has an understanding of and sufficient
training in the process. Quite a few resources have been provided to our
teachers and administrators, including online access of information. We
are working with other school districts, e.g., Millburn and Summit, and
will share our experiences. A District Evaluation Committee will monitor
the implementation of the model, we will conduct surveys, and make staff
recommendations based on the evaluation data.
2. Develop and Use Benchmark Assessments to Measure Growth of Student
Every teacher is developing student growth objectives and the district will
provide professional development to support their success. We will track
student progress and adjust instructional methods based on these
3. Implement new digital tools and media to improve communication between
the school district and all stakeholders.
We have started some work in this area by selecting a new website provider
and arranging for offsite hosting of our website. The offsite hosting is
particularly helpful if there is a power outage within our schools. We will
also be able to utilize social media in an integrated way. In general, the
new website is a more intuitive system. Presentations to focus groups have
begun, teachers have volunteered to start working on new website, and we
are providing many opportunities to train teachers.
Among the personnel items, the Board approved additional lunch supervisors
and substitutes for the 2013-2014 school year.
Business Administrator Dana Sullivan reported that the roof work which
began this summer is coming to an end at Washington and Roosevelt schools.
She anticipates completion by the end of September. The Westfield High
School roof is expected to be completed in November. Work on WHS is
continuing after school and on weekends. Two small areas of the roof are
undergoing the last of the demolition, to be completed by the end of this
week. The cap sheet is scheduled to be installed in late October.
Boilers at Edison Intermediate School will be installed well before October
15, when heat is generally turned on in our school buildings.
The Board approved for first reading policy #0155 – Board Committees.
One HIB incident was affirmed.
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAMS
The Board approved overnight trips for the Washington School fifth graders
annual attendance at Camp Speer-Eljiabar YMCA Environmental Educational
Center in PA; the WHS Marching Band to attend to Mid-Atlantic championships
at the US Naval Academy in MD; and a list of field trip destinations for
2013-2014 which have traditionally been planned over the course of the
Finance Chair Mark Friedman and Board President Rich Mattessich discussed
the $2.7 million state grant that the district is eligible to receive for
the balance of the roof projects next year. They explained that on the
ballot on Election Day, November 5, Westfield voters will have the
opportunity to accept $2.7 million in state aid through a revised bond
referendum. This revised bond would replace the one approved by voters in
December 2012 and would result in a $2.7 million reduction in taxes over
the life of the bond. If the new replacement bond is NOT approved by
Westfield voters on November 5, Westfield will lose the $2.7 million grant
opportunity for the roofing work. Then the previously passed referendum
(December 2012) will remain in effect. The roofs will still be repaired --
but without state aid and without a reduction in the tax levy. If the
replacement bond is approved by Westfield voters on November 5, 2013, there
will be a 40% reduction in the cost of the roof work to be completed during
the summer of 2014.
The November 5th referendum is NOT an additional bond. The bond is simply
the vehicle the State requires to accept the $2.7 million in state aid, to
invalidate portions of the previous bond to enable a 40% savings in the
roof projects’ costs, thereby reducing the tax levy over the 15 year life
of the bond. It is essentially a “re-do” bond to SUPERSEDE the one
passed in December 2012. There is no additional roofing work or any other
projects that will be added to the November 2013 bond. The projects on the
November bond are among the same that were approved last year. Nothing is
added. On the contrary, the November bond simply represents a reduction in
Westfield’s cost of the roof projects previously approved by the town’s
voters. If passed, the $2.7 million grant will go directly toward a
reduction in the tax levy. It will not go into the school budget.
For more information on the November replacement bond, please check the
district website. An updated Frequently Asked Questions page will continue
to be posted. There is also information about voter registration and
voting by mail.
Gretchan Ohlig attended the PTO Presidents’/PTC meeting on September 12.
Discussions included the November 5th bond as well as policies relative to
PTO procedures, fundraising and gifts to teachers.
Rosanne Kurstedt attended the PTC Special Education parents’ meeting.
District representatives included Assistant Superintendent of Pupil
Services, Mike Weissman; Supervisor of Special Services Pre-K – 12,
Andrea Lo; and Child Study team members . Discussions included the “Easy
IEP” – a new program the District is using to streamline case manager
work, which will provide more time for interaction with students.
Ginny Leiz attended the August 28 Union County Ed Services Commission
meeting. She suggested that our district may want to reach out to them
cooperatively since they too are utilizing the Marshall evaluation method.
FOR ALL PARENTS
On Monday evening, September 30, a special program for parents will be held
in the Westfield High School auditorium, 550 Dorian Road, beginning at 7:30
PM. Hosted by Roosevelt and Edison Intermediate Schools, where the
presentation has been held in the past, the High School auditorium was
selected as the venue this year to accommodate parents at all levels and
any community members who would like to attend. Guest speaker John
Halligan, father of Ryan Halligan, will provide a unique perspective from
inside a family of a child who was a victim of relentless bullying and
cyber bullying. Ryan Halligan committed suicide at the young age of 13 on
October 7, 2003. Audience members also will gain a deeper understanding of
the devastating impact of a teen suicide on a family. There are many
powerful life lessons imparted, including forgiveness and finding ways to
turn a tragedy into hope for others.
WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
A total of 95 percent of the Westfield High School (WHS) graduates of 2013
are pursuing a higher education this fall. According to a report released
by the WHS Office of Counseling Services, 422 students are continuing their
education with 88.3% attending four-year colleges and universities, 5.9%
attending two-year colleges, and less than 1% entering vocational, business
and other post high school institutions. The remaining graduates have
entered the work force, pursued a military career, are taking a year off,
or had future plans that were undecided at the time of graduation. The
class of 2013 is attending an impressive list of 175 colleges and
universities in more than 30 states. Five graduates are studying in Canada
and one has selected a university in Scotland. A complete list of plans
will be posted on the Counseling Department’s website at
Some of you may have watched the recent YouTube video, 'A Teen’s Guide to
Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism.' Westfield High
School Freshman Alexandra Jackman created a video aimed to encourage teens
to understand and accept those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As an 8th
grade student last year in the Teddy Roosevelt Scholars independent study
program at Roosevelt Intermediate School, she wrote and directed the video
as her class project. Alexandra explained that the video is so important
to her because she feels it could help anyone, especially
typically-developing teens, to feel that they can interact and get to know
people with autism and not be scared of the differences. Alex stated,
“People tend to be more accepting when they are more knowledgeable.” In
creating the video, Alex asked the question “What is Autism” to middle
school students and teachers, parents of children with Autism, an Autism
educator and a doctor, and to the founder of Autism Family Times, where
she has been a peer mentor since she was 10 years old. Alex considers her
peer mentorship very rewarding and hopes to continue her involvement with
the special needs community in the future.
NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING - Tuesday, October 1 at 7:30 PM, 302 Elm
SCHOOLS ARE BUSY
With just 9 school days behind us (as of September 17), I have seen student
athletes and the marching band performing well on the fields.
Back-to-School nights have been scheduled almost every night, with almost
100% attendance by parents, which is very much appreciated. Jeff Johnson,
our School Resource Officer, is busy getting to know students and staff at
WHS. He also has provided guidance to two other schools to date, and was
helpful in answering questions to parents regarding social media
implications. I anticipate that the school year will remain busy and
Welcome to a new school year!
Margaret Dolan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools