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Westfield BOE Goes Back To School

Board reflects on student performance data, district construction projects as new school year approaches

More than 6,300 enrolled students will file back into Westfield classrooms next week, but last night, it was the Westfield ’s turn to go back to school.

Though the board’s first meeting of the 2012-2013 session included some discussion of past performance, there was a clear focus on the upcoming school year, which will include two new district principals, 50 newly-painted classrooms and a recently-installed wireless network that will provide and permit more efficient use of technology throughout the district.   

Superintendent Margaret Dolan began last night’s meeting at by summarizing district events that took place during summer months and to address the 2010-2011 School Report Card that was recently released by the New Jersey Department of Education. Dolan highlighted some of the most relevant data, including standardized test score results and classroom environment factors. 

According to the report, the average combined SAT score of Westfield students in 2010-2011 was 1732, and 89.2 percent of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) examinations received a score of three (out of five) or higher. Additionally, 54.8 percent of Westfield students displayed an advanced proficiency in math on the High School Proficiency Assessment, with 46.2 percent displaying an advanced proficiency in language arts.

The complete Westfield report card can be viewed here.

Though the state report does not rank schools, Dolan attempted to provide a context to demonstrate how such data is used and interpreted by publications that do provide such rankings. For example, Dolan said that the Inside New Jersey rankings place a particularly strong focus on advanced proficiency in math and language arts.

On the other hand, the rankings released by New Jersey Monthly are influenced not only by performance on standardized test scores but by certain school environment factors. Though Westfield’s average class size of 20 students and its 11.7 student-to-faculty ratio compare quite favorably to the publication’s top-ranked schools, the district was ranked 49th in the state due in large part to factors such as the percentage of its faculty with masters or doctorate degrees (63.4 percent in Westfield, 81.7 among the state’s top ranked schools).

Though Dolan said each periodical is free to use the statistics they choose, she said the district’s ultimate focus will remain on ensuring student preparation and not on classroom environment factors that are deemed important by any given ranking system.

“They’re not the goal, they’re the process,” Dolan said.

The superintendent also noted several curriculum changes for the upcoming school year. Two fully-enrolled Mandarin Chinese courses will be offered at the high school and a new robotics class is being offered at the intermediate level. The intermediate school math and science curriculum has been updated to align with national Common Core standards, and there will be a greater literary focus at the elementary school level.  

Jane Clancy, chair of the Facilities Committee, highlighted more than 30 maintenance projects that took place around the district over the summer months and cost a total of $2.7 million. Funding for the projects was provided through the Westfield High School 2000 bond and a safety grant in addition to the district’s operating budget and maintenance reserve account.

In total, 50 classrooms were painted, several school lots and sidewalks paved and rooms re-tiled. Lockers were replaced at the high school, which also received a new storage shed. received a new gym floor and two refurnished bathrooms. An air conditioning unit was installed in the library and a new exhaust system was installed at School.

Ongoing projects include a new exhaust system for the high school gym; replacing the hot water heater at Edison; replacing gym bleachers at Roosevelt; new boilers at and ; chimney repair at Tamaques; and chimney and masonry repair at the Elm Street building.

The board will next meet on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. The location was not yet been determined, and the meeting may again take place at Lincoln School to allow sufficient space for any residents wishing to attend. Residents are encouraged to check the district website to confirm the location of the meeting. 

Sally McBride August 30, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Just think, there couldn't possibly be another person with the same name as mine maybe it's a pen name.
Sally McBride August 30, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Wink Wink Wink
Gary McCready August 31, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Jeff, A few things to keep in mind as to why to do a bond in the first place: - In the really good old days (pre 2005 or so), Boards of Education in NJ used to be able to stockpile "surplus funds" not spent in their budget to spend on projects like roofs (or whatever). Laws were passed to prevent that. However, some funds can be set aside for repairs, etc, but I am not clearn on the rules behind that. - Laws were also passed to limit budget increases, so the budget could not be increased enough just for one year to allow funding beyond the usual expenses. - The state used to contribute up to 40% of a bond's cost through "debt relief", reducing the tax impact of an improvement that could be in a bond, making it overall less costly to the taxpayer. Don't know if that is still being done. - Via using the "bond" method, improvements could be funded outside of the normal budget vote porcess, and that "tax impact" could be maintained by passing new bonds when the old ones expire, which is what I think is the intent here - Lastly, both by grouping large enough projects together (like all the roofs) Westfield may be able to get a better price from a single company and also take advantage of the current relatively low interest rates for bonds. Making all the roofs solar-ready then allows a solar panel project to have a bigger scale and hopefully better return.
Silly McLies August 31, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Gary, the problem is this and former boards did not include in the budgets, dollars for the proper upkeep of maintenance items. They spent every last dime on other items without thinking maintenance and repair is an on-going expense. Refer to the auditors report and the citation related to the inadequate reserves. They didn't have to spend money every year on these roofs, but if they included it in the operating budget, they could encumber the funds in a reserve, build it up and allocate as needed. It's more of a pay as you go method. This is different from the surplus which is more of a rainy day fund vs. a clear reserve for a specific purpose. This to me is the crime here. Instead of making tough choices by including say $500k per year for this upcoming known expense and have to prioritize other things that may not be popular to scale back on, they kicked the can to where we are now. Now we're in an emergency situation requiring bonds. To further insult the voters, they bundle the required work caused by poor planning, or if not poor planning, then poor management by not confronting the need for difficult decisions. The strategy of assuming bonding for this work instead of putting amounts aside each year then forces a "crisis" that is board created.
Walkin Westfield September 01, 2012 at 02:41 AM
why is the repair / replacement of roofs contingent upon the purchase of plastic for the existing multipurpose field?

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