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Westfield — Letters to the Editor

Important Information from the Westfield Board of Education

Margaret Dolan, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 • 8:10pm

Synopsis of a Westfield Board of Education meeting on August 26, 2014

OVERVIEW OF SUMMER WORK

On September 3rd, we will welcome 6,250 students to our schools and 96 percent of our recent graduates will be continuing their education. As we start the new school year, we will focus on providing an educational experience that is steeped in Westfield’s tradition of excellence – with students engaged, teachers skilled, and resources available to promote learning.

To prepare students for that experience, we have been very busy this summer. New WiFi access points were installed in every classroom at Westfield High School. Our network switches have been replaced, we have upgraded computers and added more backup power for our data. New computers are scheduled for all of our schools this fall. Our new website continues to grow with content and features, and you can now find us on Twitter and Facebook. A number of instructional technology workshops were held this summer for teachers at the elementary, intermediate and high school levels.

A total of 50 different curricula have been revised for the 2014-2015 school year to continue to motivate our students as well as meet and exceed state and federal standards.  In Westfield High School, our Mandarin Chinese program continues to grow with the addition of Mandarin III.

Over 20 of our teachers representing each of our elementary schools met with Millburn and Summit teachers this summer to work cooperatively in the development of new science curriculum.

Our Summer STEM Camp was attended by 200 Westfield students –a third more than last summer.  This year it featured a day at Kean University’s STEM Center, and we look forward to continue to collaborate with this valuable resource throughout the year. 

Our Extended School Year Program was held again this summer to maintain and strengthen the academic skills of some of our special needs children.

Much activity has taken place in planning for the arrival of all of our students.  Schools arranged orientations for students new to Westfield and for those advancing to a grade in another school within the district.

54 new teachers have been hired—most of whom will replace those who have retired or are on leave.  These new hires have attended the Westfield New Staff Institute prior to the start of school to become familiar with the expectations of our district and our community.  Our Board Vice President, Rosanne Kurstedt, commented on the outstanding job our Human Resources Specialist, Barbara Ball, and our administrators have accomplished in ensuring that our school year begins with a fully qualified staff.

Our summer facilities projects were plentiful.  The major portion of roof work is expected to be completed this Friday at Franklin, Jefferson, McKinley, Tamaques, and Wilson Elementary Schools; Lincoln School; Edison Intermediate School; Kehler Stadium; and the Board Administration Building.  The roofers will continue to work through the weekend, with some metal work and punch list items completed by October 1, as anticipated. 

Security upgrades for all schools will be underway, and a number of these projects will be partially funded with state grants. Motorized gym doors will be installed at Edison and Roosevelt in late September. The old doors were removed and new tracks installed this summer. Roosevelt will have its new boiler installed by October 15.  Auditorium upgrades are expected to be complete at Westfield High School, Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools this fall.  Construction work is complete for a lift at Tamaques School.  We are waiting for delivery of equipment, with installation expected by December. Work has been completed to the ceiling and lighting in the main office of Westfield High School.  A total of 26 floors and 18 ceilings were replaced in the district, and many classrooms have been painted.  Thank you to our maintenance and custodial crews for preparing our schools for the new year and to Mike Morris, who oversees our buildings and grounds.

BOARD GOALS

Rosanne Kurstedt reported that the purpose of the 2014-2015 goals is for the Board to be more productive and efficient.  To that end, committees will be setting their own higher level goals to be more strategic.  Board workshops will focus on how to plan long term and will utilize outside consultants, which will be helpful to current and new Board members who will start their terms of office in January. The Board goals include:

1.    Elevate Board work to be more strategic and forward thinking.
 

2.    Clarify governance structures, roles and responsibilities of the Board, and individual boardsmanship.

 

DISTRICT GOALS

The Board approved district goals for 2014-2015.  The foundation of all of our goals is the district’s Strategic Plan.  The goals which I presented to the Board include:

1.    Develop and make recommendations to address long-term financial needs and potential areas to increase revenue.

a.    Review cost of education index to determine where opportunities for efficiencies exist, using state averages as an index. (December 2014-February 2015)

b.    Strengthen partnership with Ed Fund to allocate grants for targeted district programs. (Summer 2014-June 2015)

c.    Review Board policies and consider possible changes to increase revenue, e.g. building rental policy, advertising policy.  (September 2014-June 2015)

d.    Explore establishment of an Alumni Foundation to fund targeted facility or program needs. (September 2014-June 2015)
 

2.    Ensure the community relations program promotes the work of our district and makes it more responsive to community needs.

a.    Review current community relations program. (October 2014)

b.    Utilize the district website to communicate via social media and to provide community access to examples of work in our schools. (August 2014-June 2015)

c.    Redesign the parent portal to allow parents to provide required approvals electronically and to update data relevant to their children. (Summer 2014)

d.    Develop a system to allow additional community input into the Board’s policymaking. (July 2014-November 2014)

e.    Develop and conduct a community survey to form the basis for the 5-year Strategic Plan. (November 2014-June 2015)
 

3.    Analyze data from the 2013-2014 teacher and administrator evaluation system and develop professional development to address areas in need of improvement.

a.    Review data from staff and administrator survey, rubrics and student growth objectives from the 2013-2014 school year. (September 2014-October 2014)

b.    Develop professional development based on identified needs. (October 2014-December 2014)

c.    Provide professional development through meetings, workshops and online resources (October 2014-May 2015)

ANTI-BULLYING SCHOOL SELF ASSESSMENTS


Anti-bullying specialists and other members of the safety teams in each of our schools performed self-assessments regarding the district’s compliance with the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.  The assessment represents the period of July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014.  The NJDOE developed 8 core elements of the assessment, the results of which are to be presented publicly.  The 8 core elements include the assessment of: 

·         HIB Programs, Approaches or other Initiatives

·         Training on the BOE approved HIB policy

·         Other staff instruction and training programs

·         Curriculum and instruction on HIB and related information and skills

·         HIB personnel

·         School-level HIB incident reporting procedure

·         HIB Investigation Procedure

·         HIB Reporting

The rating categories for each of the elements range from 0 – 3.  The majority of our ratings were either a 2 (meets all requirements) or 3 (exceeds the requirements).  Where the scores were lower, we are implementing changes to make improvements.  The entire report will be posted on the district website after submission to the state.

PERSONNEL

Numerous personnel appointments were approved to ensure the full staffing for the new school year.  The list can be found on the agenda page of the Board of Education website.

POLICIES

·         The Board approved for first reading the revised 2014-2015 School Calendar.  The only change to the calendar is the additional professional development day on June 24, 2015
 

·         The Board approved for second reading the following policies: 2320  Independent Study; 2361 Acceptable Use for Computer Network, Computers, Personal Electronic Devices and Technology Resources; 2411 Guidance & Counseling Services; 2423 Bilingual & ESL Education; 2622 State Standardized Pupil Assessments; 2622.1 District Pupil Assessments; 3282 Digital Communication and Use of Social Networking Sites by Teaching Staff; 4282 Digital Communication and Use of Social Networking Sites by Support Staff; 5300 Automated External Defibrillators; 5500 Conduct-Discipline; and 5330 Substance Abuse.

·         The Board approved for second reading to abolish the following policies which are now incorporated into other policies:  0147 Board Member Travel Expenses; 1440 Travel Expenses for Administrators; 2411.1 Guidance Program – Elementary Schools; 2460.8 Special Education – Pupil Records; 3440 Travel Expenses for Teaching Staff; and 4440 Travel Expenses for Support Staff.


CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAM


The Board approved a field trip to France for WHS students.

The Board approved for second reading Mandarin Chinese III (World Languages).
 

FINANCE

 

·         Finance Chair Mark Friedman reminded the Board that the roof project will be completed for $3.5 million less than anticipated.  Business Administrator Dana Sullivan stated that the district will not have to issue all of the debt approved by the voters.  She attributed the savings to good planning and a competitive climate of the bidding.  We also were successful in receiving low rates on bonds as a result of the strength of the town and the district.

·         Ginny Leiz announced the successful agreement between the Board of Education and the Westfield Association of Administrators and Supervisors (WAAS) from July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2017. Mrs. Leiz noted that the leadership team in the district, represented by 25 administrators and supervisors, are responsible for translating strategic plans into initiatives.  The salary increase under the new WAAS agreement is 2% annually with some health insurance concessions agreed to by the WAAS.

 

  • The Board accepted the following gifts:  $15,418 from the Wilson School PTO for the purchase of a laptop cart; $1755.92 from the Washington School PTO for the purchase of Scholastic News and Time for Kids; $2,354 from the Washington School PTO for the purchase of an auditory sound system and eight printers; $22,688 from the Tamaques School PTO for the purchase of a laptop cart; and $100 from Kenneth MacRitchie to Roosevelt Intermediate School for the Ian MacRitchie Technology Award and the Walton Burriss Music Award.

LIAISON REPORT

Rosanne Kurtstedt reminded the public that the PTC Special Education Parents Committee meeting will be held Wednesday, September 10, at Edison Intermediate School’s library from 7 – 9 PM.


ANNOUNCEMENTS

WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL

  • Inside Jersey – published by the Star Ledger -- ranked Westfield High School #1 in Union County in open enrollment high schools. 
  • New Jersey Monthly Magazine ranked Westfield High School as one of the top 25 schools in the state – rising to the 21st spot.  This year the magazine focused on academic performance – such as SAT and AP scores.  Westfield High School students’ academic performance has continually been high.  It’s the ranking methodology of various publications that varies from year to year.
  • Congratulations to Hi’s Eye -- Westfield High School’s Student run Newspaper.  It Earned the All American Honor Rating – the highest possible -  from the National Scholastic Press Association. The weekly newspaper, the pride of Westfield High School since 1935, earned marks of distinction in 4 of 5 categories: Coverage/Content, Writing/Editing, Layout/Design, and Leadership, with judges praising the writing quality, the story ideas, the responsible journalism, and the fact that Hi’s Eye is a weekly paper. One of the several judge's positive comments to the student staff which were shared this month with advisors Nicole Scimone and Rosemary DiBattista included: 

"Overall, very impressive what you are able to do on what appears to be a weekly basis. Very few high schools do this!"

  • Peter Renwick, Principal of Westfield High School, was the only school principal in the country and one of the few educational administrators invited to attend the National Forum on Education Policy this summer hosted by the Education Commission of the States.  As a new appointee to the ECS, Mr. Renwick joined lawmakers, practitioners, and policy experts in Washington, D. C. for three days to find common ground on tough education issues. He noted that the meaningful information and timely research on a number of relevant educational issues presented at the forum will have a direct impact on the Westfield Public Schools in the next few years.

 

FINE ARTS

"The Sondheim Review – a quarterly magazine dedicated to the work of the musical theatre and Broadway composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, has included in its Fall 2014 publication a stunning commentary on Westfield High School’s production of Anyone Can Whistle.  The Sondheim Review praised the “obvious collaboration taking place, the connection of each performer to her or his role, and the remarkable product of this work that ultimately showed up onstage.”  Congratulations to our directors, students and musicians and crew for an outstanding spring musical that is still receiving professional praise!  Director Dan Devlin stated that for a high school production to be included in the Sondheim Review is an extremely rare feat and may very well be the first time an article about a high school has been written for the publication.

INTERMEDIATE

Edison Intermediate School Principal Matthew Bolton was the keynote speaker at the 4th Annual Paramus Summer Institute on the Teaching of Writing.  He addressed over 250 teachers, administrators, and parents regarding the importance of providing students with a context for learning that allows for engagement in authentic tasks.  The Director of the Institute, Thomas Marshall, stated that Mr. Bolton’s presentation offered very practical information that participants felt immediately empowered to implement.

ELEMENTARY

  • Congratulations to Westfield’s Franklin Elementary School students Alex Keri and Owen Mason who won the top spot worldwide in the 2014 Smithsonian Global Invention Challenge for the 8 – 10 age group. Students ages 5-18 from around the world are challenged to think about a real world problem and invent a solution. Alex’s and Owen’s invention features varied random number generators that help teachers randomly pick teams, call on students, assign tasks, or create a fully randomized seating chart. Alex and Owen call their invention The Teacher’s Toolkit, created through an application programmed in Scratch -- a free educational programming language developed at MIT.  Alex, Owen, and a number of other students led Scratch workshops for students in the fourth and fifth grades during lunch and recess.
  • Congratulations to Franklin Elementary School student Emilia Wheatley who won the annual New Jersey Tar Wars poster contest, marking the seventh time the school has earned the honor in the last ten years.   Emily’s poster depicts a ballerina on a grand stage in a beautiful theatre with the caption: "I would rather light up the stage, (and not a cigarette)." Her entry represented the State of New Jersey in Washington, D.C. at the American Academy of Family Physicians Tar Wars national competition, earning a spot in the top 10.  

 

ATHLETICS


Five girls from Westfield High School represented Team New Jersey in the Under Armour Underclassman All-American Lacrosse Tournament held this summer at Towson University in Maryland.  The team included the following 4 recent Westfield High School graduates who will be continuing their lacrosse careers in college:  Samantha Paoletti now at Boston College; Lauren D'Amico at Dartmouth; Mallory Weisse at Northwestern University; and Alyssa Cox at Virginia Tech. The team also included Hannah Liddy, who will be entering her junior year at Westfield High School where she is a three-sport varsity star.

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING – Tuesday, September 9, when a Board Workshop will be held in the 2nd Floor Conference Room at 302 Elm Street.  The next formal meeting of the Board will be held Tuesday, September 23, in the Board Room – Room 105 – at 302 Elm Street.  All meetings begin at 7:30 PM.

We look forward to starting the new school year on Wednesday, September 3, when our students enter each of our 10 schools. 

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