Friday, November 17, 2017

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Standard-based report cards use numbers, not letters

“We’ll give him a 4 on presentation,” commented interim Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Knops on the report given by Clarendon School Principal Steve Viggiani on the new standard-based report cards for kindergarten through second grades. The “4” signifies “performing above grade level,” according to Viggiani, who was assisted by Huber Street Principal Linda Wilhelm and Director of Curriculum Dr. Daniela Riser. A team (comprised of two kindergarten, two first grade, and two second grade teachers) worked with the elementary school principals and the director of curriculum to create the report cards that will be used during the new school year starting September 7. Principal Viggiani explained at the Board of Education meeting on August 24 that the standard-based report cards use a numerical system and not the traditional letter system. “It’s unusual for elementary report cards to utilize the standard “A,” “B,” “C” system any more,” stressed Viggiani. The teachers involved in creating the new report card system are Faith Ann Rennie, Manal Abukouran, Jessica Hensle, Dawn Leon, Laurie Valente, and Cindy Viera.

Superintendent Knops later explained, “The new report card will provide specific information on a student’s level of proficiency on a given standard.” He noted that “Coffee with the Elementary Principals and Supervisor” would be held the next two months for parents and guardians of primary grade students to further explain the new report cards.

Six new teachers, a computer technician, a special education school secretary, and a high school guidance counselor were approved for employment by the school board at the August 24 meeting. Knops introduced all the new hires (one was absent) and offered brief biographies of each. (Turn to Page 6 for a related article on the new teachers and other staff.) The new employees, several of whom were graduates of Secaucus High School, addressed the board, thanking the trustees for the opportunity to work in the Secaucus district. SHS alumni Matthew Miller, the computer technician, said, “I’m very eager to start!” Donna Waiver, a board employee since 2005, was appointed as the special education school secretary. She was singled out during board members’ comments when Sharon Dellafave, a retired SHS teacher, remarked, “Donna Waiver is so maternal and loving.” Dellafave also urged all the new hires “to enjoy the spirit of collegiality.” She praised all the school principals for their “caring” personalities, calling them “superb principals.” Dellafave also cited the excellent work of the school custodians. “The custodians never disappoint.” She then offered that the district teachers and administrators “work so hard” and that morale is high. “I’m finished!” she exclaimed. Trustee Lou Giele echoed his colleague’s sentiments: “Everyone worked very hard this summer.”

Business administrator and board secretary Grace Yeo gave an update on the upcoming move of the school board office from 20 Centre Avenue near the Town Hall to an office “pod” at Clarendon School. She advised that computer and telephone systems would be shut down on September 15 and furniture and cabinets would be moved to Clarendon the next day, on the 16th. “We’re very excited!” remarked Yeo. Several board members and principals offered congratulations to Susan Smahl on her retirement. She served as the district’s director of special education. Cory Robinson, a parent who addressed the board during the public forum section of the meeting, turned to Ms. Smahl in the audience, and congratulated her. “You helped my son Richard over the years.” Robinson addressed the board about the possibility of fielding an ice hockey team with another town. (He brought up the idea at the July meeting of the school board.) He stressed that the cost of a team would be minimal to the board. “You don’t have to transport the players,” he said. Robinson said there was no collaboration on the matter between him and board president Jack McStowe. “My sons are avid soccer players, and Jack is the director of the town’s soccer programs, so we are bound to meet at games.” The collaboration accusation came about when Tom Troyer spoke during the public forum. Troyer, a former school trustee, told the board members and the “hockey father” (Robinson) that they have the right to speak any time. “You give too much power to the president,” he claimed.

Prior to the general public forum and the public forum on the agenda, the school board attorney recites the rules and regulations governing such addresses, i.e., a five-minute time limit, a basic level of politeness and courteousness towards the board and members of the audience, etc. The attorney also explains that the board may or may not respond to the speaker and comment will not be made unless it can be ascertained that the issue has been brought before appropriate district personnel first. Tom Troyer remarked that the attorney’s recitation “tends to intimidate people.”

Lou Giele advised hockey father Robinson that the committee looking into his suggestion had met the previous week. “We’re still gathering information; we’re not hiding anything. We’re waiting for outside sources,” Giele explained.

Board vice president Ruby Pantoliano was absent. The other trustees are Joan Cali, Lance Bartletta, Norma Hanley, Joe Lewis, and Kathy O’Connell. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the board will be held on Thursday, September 21, at its usual meeting place, the multipurpose room of Huber Street School.

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