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Proposed Budget Makes Class Size Top Priority for Westfield Public Schools

Salaries and benefits comprise 80 percent of budget

The following is Westfield Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan's synopsis of the Westfield Board of Education meeting held Tuesday, Feb. 19 taken from the district's website

2013-2014 PRELIMINARY BUDGET

Business Administrator Dana Sullivan presented the 2013-2014 Preliminary Budget that was created with the following priorities:

  • Class size
  • Cost Effective Planning
  • Enrollment Needs
  • Literacy Initiative
  • Security & Safety
  • Special Education
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Programs
  • Technology Initiative

The budget is preliminary since we have not yet received information on state aid, which is expected on February 28.  State aid has dropped dramatically since 25 years ago when it represented 11% of our budget. In 2012-2013 state aid was 3.89% of our total budget. This year there is new state software for budget purposes, of which we have received only a portion.  For planning purposes, districts have been told to assume that state aid will remain at the same level.  With state aid as an estimate (assuming the same amount as last year), the $96,402,166 preliminary budget includes:

  • A total operating budget of $92,022,250 (a reduction from 2012-13, due to purchase orders for goods/services not yet received and additional fund balance and maintenance reserve this year for security and maintenance.)
  • Local tax of $86,360,678, which represents a 2% increase in the tax levy – less than what the State allows.  In 2002 the local tax levy approached 9% and has been declining ever since.
  • 80% allocated toward salaries and benefits, since education is labor intensive with the majority of the budget directed into the classroom
  • Staffing changes based on enrollment and curriculum, which include:
    • Intermediate Schools – Additional 4.4 teachers, 1 Resource Room teacher, 0.4 custodian
    • Westfield High School – 0.2 additional Mandarin teacher
    • Special Education – 1 self contained classroom teacher at Roosevelt, 1 self contained classroom teacher at Wilson, and 2 paraprofessionals (cost offset by decrease in out-of-district placements)
  • First Grade – Reduction of 2 first grade teachers due to enrollment
  • Westfield Cost Per Pupil, $11,666, is less than the state average of $13,290, and less than comparable school districts

There will be three more public meetings on the budget – March 5, 19 and 21.  The Public Hearing, at which time the Board is expected to adopt a final budget, is scheduled for March 21. 

ASSESSING STUDENT GROWTH IN FINE ARTS

Dr. Linda King, Supervisor of Visual & Performing Arts, gave a presentation entitled: Measuring Student Growth in Westfield’s Visual and Performing Arts (Curriculum Mapping, Benchmarks and Assessments). This included a detailed explanation of the on-going department initiative to apply curricular concepts and consistently monitor student growth. This is being done in accordance with the theories of Kim Marshall, whose teacher evaluation model was recently adopted by the district and is currently being piloted by Dr. King.

All visual and performing arts staff members formed professional learning communities in August according to their specific grade and subject specialization. These groups have met regularly to map their curricula with pacing guides, essential questions, benchmark standards, and lessons. Dr. King provided examples of some of these documents as part of her presentation. Much of the work in this area includes the development of assessment tools to prove student growth. Samples of paper tests and quizzes where shown, along with rubrics and centralized grading standards. Perhaps the most innovative of these tools, however, are those that employ technology. Dr. King shared several video clips of students using programs on computers, Smart Boards, and iPads. This included Smart Music, a program that “listens” to students playing instruments and scores note accuracy; Zondle, a quiz and game app that allows teachers to create questions and provides instant results; and Brainpop, a website that has numerous classroom applications for student interaction. Dr. King closed her presentation by explaining that her staff will continue to focus on curriculum mapping, benchmarks and assessments this year in order to best serve the students of Westfield while also providing experiences representing excellence in the arts.

RECOGNIZING STUDENT MUSIC AWARDS

Board President, Richard Mattessich congratulated Westfield High School students accepted to the 2013 Central Jersey Music Educators Association (CJMEA) Region II Ensembles: Clayton Beyert - Wind Ensemble; Jonathan Clancy and  Alex DiFabio, Symphonic Band; and Francis Wong, Orchestra. These students auditioned among hundreds of other students from throughout the Central New Jersey Region.  The Region II Orchestra performed on Sunday January 6 at Montgomery HS in Skillman, NJ. On Sunday, January 13, the wind/percussion students performed with their respective ensemble at Montgomery High School. On Saturday, January 19, these students auditioned for the New Jersey All-State Ensembles with hopes of joining the best musicians in the state at the New Jersey Music Educators Association Conference.

Mr. Mattessich also congratulated the following WHS students for being accepted into the 2013 Region II Chorus among 600 students who auditioned: Anna Bloomfield, Isabella Gelfand, Aidan Hughes, Hasitha Kakileti, Maddie Kevelson, Katherine Ko, Megan Pinna, and Melanie Snyder.The students performed on January 27th at the Monroe middle school. 

The following students were recognized for being chosen in the very select All Eastern Choir: Liz Griesmer, Allie Hecht, Michael Kirkland, Matthew Lynn, and Jack Mustard. They will perform at the National Association for Music Education Conference in April. Cindy Xiao, violinist, will represent WHS and NJ in the All Eastern Orchestra.

John Brzozowski is the WHS choral teacher, Chris Vitale instructs the band students, and Raymond Wojcik teaches the students in the orchestra.

 PERSONNEL

The Board accepted with regret the retirements of the following : Mary Beth Mansfield – Edison Intermediate School Nurse, who has served the children of Westfield for 25 years; Anthony Tomasso – Special Services – Learning Disabled Teacher, who has taught in Westfield for 37 years; Jacquelyn Stotler – Franklin School – 3rd Grade Teacher, who has 18 years of teaching in Westfield; Robert Pasternak – WHS – Social Studies, who has taught in Westfield for 12 years; and William Gelber – Franklin School – Speech Language Specialist, who has provided service to Westfield students for 34 years.

POLICIES

The Board approved for second reading the following policies: 2240 – Controversial Issues; 5308 – Pupil Health Records; 5331 – Management of Life-Threatening Allergies in Schools; 6111- Special Education Medicaid Initiative (Semi) Program; 6510 – Payroll Authorization; 6830 – Audit and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report; 7422 – School Integrated Pest Management Plan; 2415.04 – Title I – District-wide Parental Involvement; 5111 – Eligibility of Resident/Nonresident Pupils; 5465 – Early Graduation; and 8464 – Missing Children.

The Board affirmed my decision on a HIB investigation.

CURRICULUM

The Board approved the following curriculum:  French 6, 7, & 8, and French I, II, and II Honors.  Copies are available in the Office of Instruction.

FINANCE

The Board accepted, with gratitude, the following gifts:

  • From the Westfield Theatre Guild:  $3,600 to the Westfield Board of Education to be used toward Westfield Drama Department productions.
  • From the Westfield Coalition for the Arts:  $700 for master classes to Westfield High School for demonstrating the use of a potter’s wheel; $1000 to be used for the new Westfield High School Winter Guard program; and $500 to be used for two guest clinicians to work with the Wind and Jazz ensembles, as they prepare for local festivals.

AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORTS

Committee Chair Mitch Slater reported that the committee will meet on Friday to discuss website improvements, among other topics.  Mr. Slater, Ginny Leiz and Rosanne Kurstedt attended the recent TECHSPO conference to learn about new technology for schools.  Mr. Slater also presented at the conference on the topic of social media.  Paul Pineiro, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction; Brian Auker, Chief Technology Officer; and Arvin Vidal, Network Supervisor, were also in attendance.

LIAISON REPORTS

Ginny Leiz attended the Recreation Commission meeting which included discussion of improvements to Jefferson School’s field and the possibility of upgrading Tamaques Park tennis courts. 

At the Union County Educational Services Commission, Mrs. Leiz learned that there may be County students available for free technical support work in the summer. 

Rosanne Kurstedt attended both the Franklin and Roosevelt PTSO meetings, where fundraising and Board of Education topics were discussed. 

Gretchan Ohlig attended the Library Board meeting.  The Library had provided space for students to study for mid-terms.  She also was present at the PTC/PTO Presidents meeting, where the district budget was discussed and representatives from the Recreation Commission reviewed communication procedures with the schools. 

Lucy Biegler attended the PTO meeting at Tamaques, where teachers presented helpful information to parents on the literacy initiative.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

PARENTING PROGRAMS

  • The Counseling Departments at Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools will be hosting the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s 15 Minute Child Breakprogram on Thursday, February 21, at 7pm at Edison School’s auditorium from 7 to 8 PM. The 15 Minute Child Break is a ONE HOUR multi-media presentation that will include the importance of the parent or caregiver’s role on substance abuse prevention; as well as how to talk to children about drugs, signs of use and abuse to look for, current terminology, and trends of use.  This presentation is an opportunity for all parents and caregivers in ALL schools to come out and find out the role they play and the power they have in preventing their children from abusing drugs and alcohol. 
  • The WHS PTSO invites all Westfield parents to participate in a community event onWednesday, February 27, at 7:30 pm in the Westfield High School Cafeteria B.  The event is being held to make parents aware of the responsibilities, potential consequences and liabilities when knowingly or unknowingly hosting parties with alcohol or drugs on their property. Panelists will include: Westfield High School Principal Peter Renwick, Athletic Director Sandy Mamary, Coordinator of Counseling K-12 Maureen Mazzarese, and Prosecutor Tony Prieto.  Information will also be available from the WHS-PTSO.

STEM ACTIVITIES FOR NATIONAL ENGINEERS’ WEEK

All next week, our secondary schools will be engaged in activities designed to raise awareness about integrating the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Edison and Roosevelt Schools have prepared design challenges for students which culminate on February 28 with labs that will determine the effectiveness of their designs. At Westfield High School, Math and Science teachers have over two dozen activities planned. In addition to the activities, students will also enjoy guest speakers from a wide range of STEM fields including: neuroscience, genetic engineering, cryogenics and Chemistry. All the elementary schools have STEM activities planned in the coming weeks.

SCHOOL SECURITY

On Saturday, February 16, the Emergency Services Unit of the Westfield Police Department and administrators from our School District participated in an Active shooter drill at Westfield High School. The goal was to help school staff understand what to expect when law enforcement responds to a threatening situation at a school.   Following an informative presentation, the staff in attendance participated in building exercises. This information will be shared with all administrators.  We very much appreciate the continued cooperation of our local enforcement officers in our mutual goal of providing safety in our schools. 

KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION

Lincoln School will hold an additional registration date on Thursday, February 28, from 1 – 3 PM for children who will become eligible for kindergarten in the 2013-2014 school year.  This applies to all children who are residents of Westfield reaching the age of 5 on or before October 1, 2013. Please call for an appointment at 908-789-4455. Information regarding documents that are required at registration is available at www.westfieldnjk12.org/lincoln

INTERMEDIATE – FINE ARTS

Congratulations to the following Intermediate students, who were accepted into the Central Jersey Music Educators Association Region II Ensembles. At Roosevelt Intermediate School, Erica Lawrence will participate in the Concert Band and Jack Butera, will be in the Percussion Ensemble.  At Edison Intermediate School, Alistair Kapadia, Dale Beyert, Sofia Gonzalez-Nolde, and Arthur Xiao have been selected to the Concert Band.

Congratulations to these Intermediate students for making the Central Jersey Music Educators Association Region II Orchestra: At Roosevelt, Charlotte Perez, Mira Yang, and Jane Krause; and at Edison, Amy Liang and Soo Min Chung.

Selected to the Region II Chorus for intermediate schools were Edison 8th grader Lucy Hale and RIS 7th grader Leah Andrews. 

INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLS

  • On January 17th the Science Olympiad Team from Roosevelt Intermediate School competed at the regional competition at New Jersey Institute of Technology.  Roosevelt’s team placed 4th overall,  and the following students took home medals in the following events:

Justin Elbert and Christopher Hoerrner - 5th place Biology Blitz;

Esther Nam and Nick Walker - 5th Place Anatomy;

Jack Mieselman and Tommy Riley - 6th Place Disease Detectives;

Victoria Napolitano and Juliana Yang - 5th Place Dynamic Planet;

Angus Applegarth and Aaron Coleman - 4th Place Mission Possible;

Avery Wenta and Aaron Coleman - 5th Place Shock Value; and

Victoria Napolitano and Shannon Pyle - 6th Place Write it, Do it.

Congratulations to all of these students and their teacher, Jeffrey Robbins, as they progress to the state competition at Middlesex County College on Tuesday March 12th. 

 

  • Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools participated in the national movement of No Name Calling Week, designated for January 21 – 25 this year.  Throughout the schools, students found innovative ways to become involved, working with counselors and the entire student body on the impact of verbal bullying and strategies for coping with and putting an end to name calling.
  • Eighth graders at Roosevelt Intermediate School in Westfield and Cedarbrook School in Plainfield wrapped up this year’s Plainfield Westfield Exchange Program on February 1.  Meeting in Roosevelt’s cafeteria, the students shared their opinions of the Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men and one of its major themes: The struggle to achieve the American Dream.  The students from each school studied the novel for four weeks, which included two visits between schools to share ideas.  Roosevelt also established an online wiki for students from both schools to communicate between meetings. In addition to examining the connections between the novel and the world, the students were asked to reflect on what they learned from each other and each community during the exchange program.  Following the discussion period, the Plainfield 8th graders remained for lunch and attended afternoon classes with their Westfield counterparts. Roosevelt Principal Stewart Cary noted the success of the program and the importance of our students learning at an early age the need to work together and understand varying points of view.

ELEMENTARY

  • Fifth grade teacher Betsy Freeman has reported exciting STEM-related news at Franklin Elementary School. Three of her fifth grade students were recognized in the ePals-Smithsonian Invent-it Challenge. Hundreds of K-12 students from around the globe participated; their challenge was to find a real-world problem and come up with an invention to solve it. Dustin Paden was named Winner in the 9-11 age group for his Drip Gripper invention that recycles water.  Dustin will receive a scholarship to a one-week invention camp, some high-end LEGOs, and Smithsonian and ePals merchandise. Rachel Saxon received the Helping the Planet Award for her invention to help rescuers clean marine animals disabled during an oil spill. Matt Rock received the Helping People Award for conceiving his Shielded Wire invention that would reduce the number of downed wires and subsequent blackouts during storms.  Congratulations to these young inventors!
  • The spelling bee final sponsored by the Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield was won by Mira Mehta, a fourth-grader at Wilson Elementary School. More than 100 students participated. Taking second place at the competition held January 28 at Westfield High School was Abbey Zidel, a Jefferson School fifth-grader, while third place was earned by Jake White, who is in fifth grade at Washington School. The runner-up, coming in fourth, was Maxwell Switlyk, a fifth-grader at Franklin School.
  • Franklin Elementary School Nurse, Robin Ince, has been selected as a 2013 Woman of Excellence in the field of Health Education in Union County.  The award recognizes and honors annually women who reside and/or work in Union County and have distinguished themselves by making major contributions in their field. Robin began her career here in 2000 as a substitute nurse and since 2001 has been a School Nurse/Health Educator at Franklin School. She is a strong advocate in anti-smoking campaigns in the schools, with her students receiving awards at the state and national level for annual Tar Wars Poster contests.  We congratulate Mrs. Ince.

SANDY RELIEF

· Efforts continue by our faculty and students who are aiding those affected by Hurricane Sandy. In Monica Gundrum’s second grade class at Tamaques School, students raised $545 in the Give a Hand, Wear a Band bracelet sale for the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. 

· The WHS Community Service Club served dinner to approximately 150 individuals at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Bay Head on Jan. 25 and again on Feb. 15. They also sat with children and adults and talked with them at length as dinner was served. According to WHS Community Service Club Advisor, “Our students were incredible.”  The service club also is going to deliver meals and toiletries to homeless individuals and other families in need in Newark on Feb. 23 and March 16 through our work with Bridges Outreach.

ATHLETICS 

· On Jan 27, the Boys and Girls Swim Teams both earned the Union County Championships. Senior Ellie Reinhardt, Juniors Sarah Cronin and Caroline Baldwin and Freshman Gwyn Devin broke the County and Westfield High School records for the 200 yard freestyle relay. On February 19, both the Girls and Boys Swim Teams competed for the State Semi Final and won!  They will swim for the State title on Saturday on The College of New Jersey.

· Peter Fagin tied the Group 4 State Indoor Track Meet Record with a 15 foot pole vault height to win the State Title on Saturday, February 16.  This is also a school indoor record.

· Last week, four Westfield High School student/athletes signed letters of intent to perspective colleges and universities.  They include: Meghan Reilly - Javelin, Lehigh University; Jake Heroux -Boys Soccer, Loyola; Shane Kronick - Boys Soccer, Penn State; and Henry Smith - Boys Soccer, Gettysburg.

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING will be held Tuesday, March 5, at 7:30 PM at 302 Elm Street.  We will continue our discussion of the 2013-2014 school district budget.

 

Margaret Dolan, Ed.D.

NR9 February 23, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Why is their Top Priority not a wage freeze for the Teachers instead of overtaxing us again?
South Westfielder February 23, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Because wage freezing is not a strategic plan that focuses on providing a quality education program for our children. You can bet, though that it is being talked about in effective cost of planning. I would rather have the BOE focus on providing quality education and if a wage freeze is an action they have to take on it as part of their plan to shift costs elsewhere, then so be it. Showing your ignorance here, NR9.

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