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Synopsis
Of a Westfield Board of Education meeting on April 8, 2014
By Superintendent Margaret Dolan

 

 

GUIDANCE & COUNSELING UPDATE

Director of Counseling, Maureen Mazzarese, provided the Board with an update on services and initiatives of the Counseling Department.  She outlined the mission of the counselors, which embraces services to all students, including academic development, career development and personal/social development.

Ms. Mazzarese affirmed Westfield’s counseling goals, which she called the bedrock of any effective school-based counseling program:

 

  • To develop  programs and procedures that reach all students;
  • To recognize the importance of individual student planning in all areas (academics, career, and social and emotional skills);
  • To develop services that are responsive and timely;
  • To use counselor time effectively and efficiently;
  • To be current in changes and trends in the college application process as well as changes and trends in career opportunities and all post high school options for students;
  • To expand our connections with colleges and universities;
  • To work effectively with administrators, teachers and support staff with an emphasis on mutual respect and appreciation for each other expertise. (The I&RS --Intervention & Referral Services--  Committee is a good example of this collaboration);
  • To develop collaborative relationships with resources in our own community, especially expanding our network of referrals in the mental health care community;
  • To maintain positive relationships with parents and communicate effectively with parents; and
  • To evaluate results by looking at data and narrative feedback.

 

Ms. Mazzarese explained that counselors support students, teachers, parents, supervisors, principals, and child study teams. She provided examples of how the counselors meet their goals:

Elementary

Four elementary school counselors work in six buildings. Collectively these counselors are seeing over 237 students individually, some seeing as many as 65 students per week.  Over 60 students are participating in group counseling each week and entire class lessons are provided when possible. The counselors also serve on every I&RS Committee, 504 Committee and share the responsibilities of scheduling, maintaining records, case managing, and writing action plans. They are all anti-bullying specialists. They are written into Child Study Team behavior plans, are involved in school committees, Professional Learning Communities, In-service, evening presentations for parents, annual reviews, and crisis intervention.  They provide assistance to students in decision-making/problem solving, social skills/communication skills, academic difficulties, impulsivity/self-control, coping skills, divorce/family changes, grief/mourning, anger, friendships, self-esteem, anxiety, and school phobia/avoidance.

 

Middle School:

 

Counselors have caseloads that average 285 per counselor at Edison and 244 at Roosevelt.  They provide individual counseling every day, attend weekly core team meetings and dozens of annual reviews; serve as 504 case managers and I & RS committee members; they participate in NJ ASK test preparation and implementation, Genesis scheduling, classroom lessons, peer leadership, and a grant-sponsored lending library for parents.  At Roosevelt, they are working on a program entitled Effective School Solutions, and Edison was named as a Mix-it-Up Model School, one of just 76 schools from across the country.

 

 

Westfield High School:

 

The student counselor ratio is approximately 205:1, which is in line with comparable districts and with American School Counselor Association standards.  The WHS counselors just completed approximately 1,900 individual scheduling conferences.  There are approximately 450 Junior conferences in progress.  Counselors made 27 classroom visits to review the college application process and provided 34 Naviance and Common Application Workshops.  More than 50 letters of recommendation have been written per counselor. Counselors are case managing 61 I&RS Plans and 54 of the 504 Plans. In addition to many individual and crisis counseling meetings, they are attending more than 150 annual reviews. The department provides an advisory role to three student support groups.  To assist students and families in the college process, the department has provided:

  • 3484 transcripts processed, averaging 8.1 per student (an increase of 13%);
  • 2 college essay workshops;
  • 5 parent evenings;
  • 200 colleges attending WHS College Night;
  • 142 college rep visits; and 
  • 48 counselor college tours, with more scheduled later in the spring.

 

Ms. Mazzarese highlighted many new accomplishments this year.  Counselors were trained early in the school year to develop Student Growth Objectives. She stated that among the districts that regularly attend the Union County Directors of Guidance meetings, Westfield is the only district that required Student Growth Objectives for counselors. We are now a model for others.For elementary counselors the SGO in-service was an opportunity to set some common goals, to plan together, and to support each other throughout the process.

 

At every level counselors are taking advantage of workshop opportunities to help students deal with anxiety, difficult emotions and life experiences.

 

To date, Suicide Prevention In-Service has occurred in 7 of our schools and the remaining three are on the calendar for this month. Counselors have worked with Ms. Mazzarese and their principals to develop a presentation that was tailored to the needs of the school and the age levels of the children and provide staff with essential information, policy review and resources.

 

Middle School Counselors have expanded their Character Education initiatives and peer leadership models to include more classroom lessons and school-wide programs.

 

At the High School, the use of Naviance grows. One of the department’s SGOs is to have all sophomores started on a resume as a way to reflect and plan.

 

Through a survey of 11th graders, counselors identified a group of students who were interested in learning about alternatives to college. To that end, counselors have met with representatives from seven technical or trade schools. Thirty-four of our students attended a college/career day at New Jersey City University where they and the counselors had the opportunity to meet with representatives from dozens of programs and schools.

 

Money saved by technology has allowed for certain technology upgrades in the form of some lap-tops and i-pads that counselors will use in group presentation, college tours, meetings, and for working at home and on the road. The department has used data to re-organize the counseling calendar for next year. For seniors and juniors everything will happen sooner to better align with the college timeline.

 

Next year our Naviance bundle will expand as we integrate Alumni Tracker into our package.  Through the National Student Clearinghouse we will be able to track graduates. The program will allow us to correlate high school GPA’s and test scores with post high school achievement, majors and job outcomes. Ms. Mazzarese explained that with more information about what the millennia generation is doing, the department can advise and counsel better.  She thanked the Board for its continued support.

 

 

PERSONNEL

The Board accepted with regret the retirement of Kathleen Ellis – Lincoln School, Special Education – following 15 years as a Special Education teacher in Westfield.  We wish her a healthy, happy retirement, which is effective June 30, 2014.

 

POLICIES

  • The Board approved for second reading the following policies:  2230 – Course Guides and 2510 Adoption of Textbooks.
  • The Board approved for second reading to abolish the following policies:  3220 Evaluation of Teaching Staff Members and 3222 Evaluation of Tenured Teaching Staff Members. We will instead be following the new state mandated staff evaluation model.

The Board affirmed my decision on five HIB incidents.

 

CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAM

The Board approved the following curriculum as aligned to standards:  Language Arts -English I, II, III, IV and Writers Craft.

 

Pamela Ackerman-Garcia, Supervisor of Language Arts, provided background on the new curriculum that aligns with the Core Curriculum Content Standards.  She noted that the curriculum changes focus on: balancing informational and literacy texts, building knowledge in the disciplines, text complexity, and academic vocabulary.  In the case of Intermediate Language Arts (6 – 8), the format has changed to create a balanced literacy vision characterized by explicit skill instruction and the use of authentic texts.  There is an emphasis on reading informational text aligned to Literature, and the writing focus has shifted to opinion/argumentative writing.  The collaborative approach among teachers from different academic disciplines also is meant to help prepare students for college and careers.

 

The Board approved for first reading following curricula: Language Arts - Intermediate English Language Arts (6-8).

 

The Board approved for second reading following curricula: World Language - French III & III Honors; French IV & IV Honors; French V & V AP; Spanish III & III Honors; Spanish IV & IV AP; and Spanish V & V AP.  Language Arts - School Library Media and Journalism II. Mathematics -  Math of Personal Finance; Calculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Calculus BC; Computer Science 1,2,3; Discrete Mathematics; Probability & Statistics; AP Statistics; Pre-Calculus; Pre-Calculus AP; and Pre-Calculus Honors.  Social Studies - Social Studies K-4.

 

The Board approved four field trips to coincide with curriculum.

 



FINANCE

The Board approved a resolution for the NJSDA Grant Agreement for Roosevelt’s projects:  upgrade temperature controls, phase I; boiler replacement; and security upgrades, year I.

The Board approved tuition for STEM Summer Camp in the amount of $250 per week.

 

LIAISON REPORTS

Ginny Leiz reported on her attendance at the PTC/PTO Presidents’ meeting in which there was discussion regarding the new website and possible PTO funding for school air conditioning.  Rosanne Kurstedt stated that at the Roosevelt Intermediate School PTO meeting there was appreciation expressed for the Board’s awareness of improvements needed for auditoriums.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

WORLD LANGUAGE

Congratulations to students in the Spanish II Honors class at Westfield High School, who combined their knowledge of language and history to make an awarding winning video.  Earning first place in the Montclair State University Spanish Day film festival on March 28, the video entirely created by Westfield High School freshmen, beat out all other schools in New Jersey including those represented by upper classmen. "En busca de un futuro mejor" (In Search of a Better Future) is a 5 minute video based on historical events concerning forced disappearances in several countries in Latin America in the 1970’s and 80’s.  Attending the award ceremony were Juliana Yang, Max Wasilewski, Zoe Rader, Emily Sackett, Sophie Hurwitz, Noah Bram, Ben Norton, Katie Colleran, Erica Cheung, Jillian Martinez, Emma Pettit, and Emily Oster and teachers Liz Schultz and Katie Foley. The film festival was held during the second half of Spanish Day at Montclair and attended by more than 15 schools and approximately 400 students. The first half of the day consisted of workshops entirely in Spanish.

 

FINE ARTS

Congratulations to Westfield High School’s drama department for receiving 8 Montclair State University “Theatre Night Award” nominations for the school’s fall drama, Metamorphoses.  The nominations include:  Outstanding Achievements in Sound Design; Stage Crew; Costume Design; Stage Direction; and Acting Ensemble.  Also - Outstanding Production of a Drama; Outstanding Overall Production; and Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Drama for Jesse Zimmermann’s role as Myrrha.

 

 

Six Edison Intermediate School students were selected to showcase their art work at the Elizabethtown Gas Company in Union, NJ.  A special awards ceremony was held on March 24 to honor the Westfield students and recognize their unique artist talents.  The students are: Tahani Ahmed, Darika Lara-Rodriquez, Elaina Jones, Amanda Zhang,  Shea Elliot, and Elisha Israel.  Members on a committee from the Art Educators of New Jersey made the final selections.  The chosen Westfield pieces included four paintings, one pen and ink drawing, and one using colored pencil.  The Edison Intermediate School award winning artists are students of Alison Hooper and Helen Frees.

 

WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL

 

Eight Westfield High School students have achieved perfect scores in January on the SAT and in March on ACT standardized tests widely used for college admission criteria.  They include:  Katherine Ko (ACT English); William Crenshaw (SAT Writing); Brian Johnson (SAT Math); Andrew Zale (ACT Science); Griffin Mooney (SAT and ACT Math); Albert Chen (SAT Reading and Writing); William Chen (SAT Writing); and Benjamin Howell (ACT English).  This group of students brings to 29 the total of perfect SAT or ACT scores thus far in the 2013-2014 school year in Westfield.

 

ODYSSEY OF THE MIND

Westfield Odyssey of the Mind will be hosting its second annual Showcase on Wednesday, April 23, from 6 to 8 pm at Edison Intermediate School.  The community is invited to find out what this creative problem solving competition for kids is about and how to get involved.  Admission is free, but donations to support the Westfield Odyssey Program are kindly accepted.  For questions, please email WestfieldOdyssey@gmail.com

 

INTERMEDIATE

 

A reminder that the deadline for receipt of nominations for the 17th annual Intermediate School Outstanding Teacher Award is Tuesday, April 22.  Two intermediate school teachers – one from Edison and one from Roosevelt Intermediate Schools – will be chosen to receive the award on May 14th at an Optimist dinner, and will be honored at a Board of Education meeting in June. Students, parents and staff are encouraged to submit nomination letters to: Outstanding Teacher Award Committee of the Optimist Club of Westfield, c/o Office of the Superintendent, Westfield Public Schools, 302 Elm St., Westfield, NJ  07090.  Letters can also be e-mailed to:  optiaward@westfieldnjk12.org.

 

ED FUND

The Education Fund of Westfield is holding its annual Wine Tasting and Auction on Saturday, April 26th, from 7 – 11 PM at the Echo Lake Country Club.  Proceeds fund grants for teachers in our schools.  For more information, contact westfieldnj.com/edfund.

 

WESTFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS WILL BE CLOSED APRIL 14 - 18.  We wish everyone an enjoyable Spring Break.

 

NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING – will be held Tuesday, April 29, at 302 Elm Street.  We will have the Public Hearing on the 2014-2015 budget at that time.

 

Margaret Dolan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools