Westfield Board of Education Meeting on May 19, 2020
By Superintendent Margaret Dolan
Board President Peggy Oster opened the meeting with a recognition that this is the time of year when the Board normally would invite to the next several meetings the many students who achieve and accomplish so much, on so many levels in our district. She expressed disappointment that the Board could not host the students in person, but introduced a video to recognize their achievements, beginning with our talented student-musicians. Mrs. Oster noted that another video tribute will be played at the Board’s June 16 virtual meeting to recognize student achievement in athletics, academics, and the performing arts.
I provided an overview of the district’s updated Health-Related School Closure Preparedness Plan as required by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The plan includes information on district demographics, equitable access to instruction, and distance learning overviews for elementary, intermediate, high school, students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELL). The plan also outlines how the district is working cooperatively with our food service provider and local community groups to provide meals to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, how our facilities team continues to clean, disinfect and monitor our buildings and grounds, and what summer programs will be in place, particularly the Extended School Year (ESY) Program for students who have been identified as those would benefit from additional instruction and related services.
Mrs. Oster asked whether the building principal is the appropriate person for families to contact with any questions or concerns. I replied that they can reach out to their principal or me.
In noting the new staff to be approved by the Board, I pointed out that Human Resources Specialist Barbara Ball and her team have been hard at work, ensuring that we are hiring strong teachers who can work both in a classroom and through distance learning, as we are mindful that there are so many unanswered questions about the start of a new school year in September.
LONG RANGE PLANNING
Long Range Planning Committee Chair Gretchan Ohlig reported that Full Day Kindergarten was the topic at a recent committee meeting, with members deciding that, while ongoing discussions are important, it does not make sense to move forward at this time. Ms. Ohlig also stated that the committee discussed what a return to school in September might look like. She noted that the district is wisely planning for any scenario.
The Board approved the District Public Health-Related School Closure Preparedness Plan.
Business Administrator Dana Sullivan noted that the district rejected the two lowest bidders on a partial roof replacement at Jefferson School because the contractors did not submit the required paperwork indicating that they had been prequalified by the State to perform this type of work. A contract was awarded to Northeast Roof Maintenance for this project with construction scheduled to take place during the summer.
TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATION
Technology and Communication Committee Chair Robert Garrison reported on updates provided by Chief Technology Officer Brian Auker and Coordinator of School and Community Relations Mary Ann McGann. Mr. Garrison noted that, per Mr. Auker, more than 6,000 meetings are held each week via Webex and Google Meet. He added that, according to Mrs. McGann, Dr. Dolan’s recent newsletter received a 65+% open rate, well above industry standards and that visits to the district website and social media have significantly increased. Mr. Garrison thanked Dr. Dolan, Mrs. McGann, and Mr. Auker for the important information provided in The NEWS Letter and on the website and social media. He also encouraged the school community to follow the district’s Facebook page @westfieldpublicschoolsnj and Twitter feed @westfieldnjk12.
Mr. Garrison extended congratulations to New Jersey Commissioner of Education Dr. Lamont Repollet who has been selected by Kean University as its next president.
Board member Brendan Galligan reported that he attended several New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) virtual meetings and seminars which he said provide important and informative tools for school districts.
Mrs. Oster stated that she planned to join a virtual meeting this week with Board of Education presidents from neighboring school districts. She also commended the Town of Westfield for its continued virtual efforts to recognize Westfield’s 300th anniversary. She and Board member Michael Bielen noted that various activities and opportunities to get involved are posted at westfieldnj.gov/300.
Board members discussed the various plans surrounding WHS graduation while acknowledging the challenges and difficulties caused by COVID-19. Ms. Ohlig thanked the WHS PTSO for the tremendous work they have done in navigating and planning. I also applauded our seniors, teachers, and parents who have been creative and understanding.
A recording of the entire Board of Education virtual meeting will be posted on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org under the Board tab.
The Westfield Police Department organized a community food drive, in partnership with the Westfield Public Schools, the Westfield faith community, and the Westfield United Fund. The food drive took place on Wednesday May 20 from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. There were two drop-off locations for the community food drive – the Westfield High School parking lot and the Roosevelt Intermediate School parking lot. Residents were asked to put food donations in the trunks of their cars so that the drop-offs could be contact free. Each driver remained in their car, opened the trunk, and a Westfield police officer retrieved the items.
Five Westfield student teams demonstrated creativity, ingenuity, and presentation skills in specific problem-solving categories at the Gateway Regional Odyssey of the Mind Tournament on March 7 in Sayreville, with three teams placing first, second, and third in various categories. A team comprised of students from Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools placed 1st in the “Mechanical Problem,” building a networking device capable of transmitting an image, email and text message between three different network segments. The team also was required to include a pop up advertisement, a malware character to “infect” the network, and an anti-virus hero to rescue the network. The Franklin Elementary School team – new to the tournament this year – placed 2nd in the “Balsa Wood Problem,” building an adjustable balsa wood structure that could sustain a maximum weight without breaking. These two teams were eligible to advance to the state Odyssey of the Mind competition, which has been cancelled due to COVID-19. A team from Tamaques Elementary School placed 3rd in the “Classics” category and two primary teams from Tamaques and McKinley Schools participated in the competition as well. Primary teams are not given awards but gain valuable collaborative, problem-solving, and presenting skills. Congratulations to all of our Odyssey of the Mind teams. Keep up the good work!
A General Meeting of the Parent Teacher Council was held on Wednesday, May 20, beginning at 10:15am via Zoom.
The next Board of Education virtual meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 9 beginning at 7:00 p.m. We look forward to honoring the four recipients of the 2020 Westfield High School teacher and staff awards. Instructions for how to access our virtual Board meetings can be found on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org. Click on the Board tab and choose “Virtual Board Meetings” in the drop down menu.
I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.
Margaret Dolan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Westfield Public Schools – A Tradition of Excellence
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