West Orange Education Association and BOE Reach Tentative Contract Agreement; Drop/Block Scheduling Presentation Given by WOHS Administrators
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 • 2:13am
WEST ORANGE, NJ - Last night's two and a half hour Board of Education meeting provided the public with plenty of information on proposed curriculum changes at West Orange High School, the impending resignation of Superintendent Anthony Cavanna (http://thealternativepress.com/articles/west-orange-board-of-education-announces-resignat), and the news that a tentative agreement has been reached with the West Orange Education Association (the Teacher's Union) and the district. No additional information was provided because the agreement has not yet been finalized.
In opening statements, Interim Superintendent James O'Neill noted that the recent release of HIB/violence reports are being misrepresented in the media. He said that numbers presented now reflected instances of HIB (harrassment, intimidation, and bullying) and many incidents were therefore reported twice. He called the administration at West Orange High School 'exemplary' when it came to correct and diligent reporting and operation of the high school.
Bill Kehoe, West Orange Rec Director, presented Connie Salimbeno, Director of Special Services, with a check for $3,292 from the Lefty Boland Grant Committee, for Special Education teacher needs. Purchases would include document cameras, IPads, IPad apps, and special calendars.
National Merit scholars were recognized. (http://thealternativepress.com/towns/west-orange/articles/west-orange-high-school-students-receive-outstand).
The presentation outlining West Orange High School's initiative to adopt a Rotating Drop Schedule at the High School beginning in September, 2013, then commenced. Mike Figueiredo, Small Learning Communities Coordinator; Annette Dade, Assistant Principal, Ryan Del Guercio, Student Services, and Michelle Martino, English teacher, all discussed various components of the initiative, which will be posted on the district website at http://www.woboe.org.
Rotating Drop Scheduling, in the context of West Orange High School, means that class periods would be extended from 42-53 minutes. Instead of having every class every day, students would have classes four times per week in each subject. Rotating drop schedules are already being utilized at the middle schools. Although students have classes in a subject four instead of 5 times weekly, it is still the same amount of time. It is coordinated into four blocks, called A, B, C, and D days. If there is a snow day, for example, on Day A, the students will come into school the next day and have their usual Day B schedule. If time needs to be made up, it will be done at the end of the school year. This schedule also calls for a 'common lunch'. This allows for friends to lunch together; for students to meet with teachers; for clubs to meet; for homework and projects to be worked on.
Figueiredo passionately described how studies have shown that student achievement is increased when more time is allocated to content area, as well as when the more time students are engaged in learning, the higher their acheivement.
Annette Dade explained how this allowed daily collaboration with staff, would decrease discipline (with less periods, less 'down time' hallway encounters); increase community time with teachers and students, and decrease student pullout time.
Several schools were visited by high school Administrators and Michelle Casalino, Board Member. They included Watchung Hills and Livingston High Schools. Feedback from staff and students regarding this sort of scheduling was nothing but positive, enhancing the climate of the school and decreasing discipline issues.
Michelle Martino said that pre-existing time set apart for teacher training in establishing this "21st Century Classroom" was already established under professional development days. Media and technology would be used, such as Edmodo, to help bridge the gaps between teachers and students, and integrate student's various subjects into a globally relevant learning experience.
Ryan Del Guercio discussed the logistics in establishing a common lunch, describing the use of the Tarnoff Cafeteria, PVW Cafeteria, and the gym, plus classroom areas close the cafeterias, kiosks, and the courtyard (weather permitting) as solutions. Lew Kelly, Band Director, voiced his support of the schedule, saying, that they could make it work.
Mr. O'Neill then discussed the financial particulars of the change. He said that the following numbers were probably inflated, but that one time start up costs for tables for the gym would be 215K, inclusive of small wares and hardware changes to the serving lines (85K). Recurring costs would include the addition of cashiers, runners, and servers in the amount of 78K yearly (this to be worked out with the food service purveyor, Sodexho); and four more Science teachers, with an expectant salary range of $180-240K.
Comments from the public ensued, and of particular interest was Mr. O'Neill's response to Ron Charles' questions regarding the district's contracted bus services. The district met with Hunterdon County Services Commission, who validated the district's concerns as to drivers, on board cameras, GPS installation on buses, and missed pickups. According to O'Neill, repairs, installations, and changes were being addressed and would be completed by the end of this week. Additionally, several bus drivers who had complaints leveled against them, had been discharged.
Rounding out the evening were Mr. O'Neill's comments regarding a tentative agreement between the teacher's union and the school district. Because the agreement was not yet finalized, he was unable to say more than that at this time.
The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 12, at Redwood School.