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New West Orange Superintendent Initiates Changes at Board of Education Meeting

Cynthia Cumming

Thursday, August 21, 2014 • 1:29am

WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange Superintendent Jeff Rutzky provided a 45-minute report at Monday night's Board of Education meeting that barely scratched the surface of accounting and business changes in full swing at Central Office.

Since his official arrival on July 1, Rutzky has begun a methodical review of various accounting and business issues in the district with Interim Business Administrators Marlene Wendolowski and Ralph Goodwin. TAP into West Orange reported on July 30 that the district would hire John Calavano, a 17-year veteran of the Somerset School District, as the new Business Administrator beginning Oct. 1. 

Rutzky remained undeterred by the two-month lag time until Calavano's arrival and has dived head first into revamping the BOE meeting agenda and preparing the district for the start of the school year.

Although the time-sensitive task of maintaining compliance with state mandates requiring teacher evaluations and the implementation of online PARCC testing for students in grades 3-11 is a daunting one, it is only one of several issues Rutzky and the district are currently addressing.

The Superintendent’s Report was broken down into several categories. 

District Busing Issues

Regarding the district’s contract with Educational Services Commission, Rutzky and Interim BA Wendolowski discussed operational and policy concerns under review. The Board was apprised of several actions so far taken, including the addition of new dispatchers; additional training for drivers and staff; review of the camera installations on each bus and discussion with ESC regarding driver safety behavior (e.g., if they are found to be on a cell phone, they are immediately removed).

Reviews are underway regarding routes, timelines and discipline issues, particularly at West Orange  High School. When an issue arises with a student at dismissal, buses may be held up at WOHS until it is addressed. Wendolowski said that they wanted revise policy by removing the student and not holding up the buses for departure, which could create delays at the middle and elementary schools.

“Busing is a privilege,” said Rutzky.  "Good students should not be penalized."

Bus evacuation drills are expected to be held once the school year begins and the initial route issues are settled.  In addition, the busing system “Versatrans” is being synced with Power School for district tracking purposes.

Hazel Drop Off and Pickup

As a local elementary school created for ‘walkers,’ busing and parent drop off and pick up has become a major issue at Hazel. Rutzky has been meeting with Hazel principal Dr. Edward Acevedo and the West Orange Police Department to achieve an equitable solution.

Gregory Media Center Ceiling

Emergency work to repair the ceiling in the Gregory Media Center was approved.

PARCC Testing and Revision of Teacher Evaluations

The ongoing conversations regarding PARCC and the impact on the school district (purchase of tablets, laptops,  and Chrome books for PARCC testing purposes); the proposed integration of computer training and keyboarding integrated into to school curriculums, and review of compatibility issues (“Cloud,” “Google.docs” and current systems or lack thereof in student homes) comprised a portion of the meeting.

Rutzky noted that he would be meeting with parents at all schools to discuss PARCC testing in detail.

The board approved an application for a waiver for tenured teacher evaluations in two tiers (a two-part process) to be sent to the state. If approved, evaluations would change from three 20-minute evaluations to two 40-minute evaluations, allowing for better reviews and observations.

Rutzky also proposed the possibility of hosting a Google technology conference in March at West Orange High School that would allow teachers to attend at no cost. The matter was to be reviewed for feasibility.

All agenda items were passed, 5-0.

To see the final agenda from the Aug. 18 meeting and its revamped format, including detailed accounting information, go here.

The meeting is now being aired on local TV channels 36/45. Check local listings for broadcast times.

 

 

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