Board of Education Questions & Answers 2018-2019
Board of Ed Q & A
April 8, 2019
Questions and Answers
NEW HIGH SCHOOL LIBRARY/MEDIA CENTER
- Now that the library is open, it has become a popular place for students to congregate – both during the common lunch period and at other times of day. It has made clear that there may be a need for more space.
- As the new spaces are being used, the high school administration will be looking at the space utilizations and reviewing any changes that may need to be made.
CULTURAL DIVERSITY PRESENTATION
- It was great to see the turnout for Dr. Joshi’s Conversation on Diversity. I just wish there had been more people to hear her presentation.
- Can we create a task force/liaison for children of color?
- Can we have Dr. Joshi speak to high school and middle school parents in smaller groups?
- We will be continuing staff training with Dr. Joshi during the next school year, and we will look forward to hearing more from her, and ways in which she, and other experts, can continue this conversation with the community.
- We asked parents who attended the Dr. Joshi presentation to let us know if they would be interested in serving on a task force/advisory group. We are compiling those names and will be following up with them. If you or anyone you know is interested, please have them email us at email@example.com .
Board of Ed Q & A
March 4, 2019
Questions and Answers
MILLBURN HIGH SCHOOL LIMELIGHT PLAYERS
- After the success of this weekend’s Guys and Dolls, it would be great to offer a third show as a Sunday matinee. Would that be possible for next year? What is needed to make that happen?
- This is only the 4th year of the Spring Musical, and it has grown in popularity and ticket sales each year. We will be reviewing those results, costs and other factors to decide whether a third show is warranted.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
- The Superintendent and the Program Committee addressed some positive efforts being made, along with the ongoing work with diversity training.
- Can you tell us what was done for Black History Month, and plans for next year?
- Maybe we can get the student clubs involved
- Dr. Burton’s Reported on this at the 3/4/19 BOE Meeting: "I wanted to provide an update on the celebration of Black History month around the district. Mr. Arlington collaborated with approximately 20 teachers spanning all buildings and grade-level bands in the development of a resource list of ideas, activities, and conversation starters in acknowledgment and celebration of Black History Month. These resources were well-received by the staff as they let Mr. Arlington know that they were excited to try out some of the ideas and resources. This is the first time we ever put out guidance that was created collaboratively with teachers and was well-vetted.
- We are planning to share out at our next meeting a comprehensive view of the implementation during the month of February and we will also hear about the efforts of our HS students who will be conducting their program on March 14th. The work moving forward is to make teachers' implementation of these ideas systematic and integral to our instructional program. In conjunction with the district’s cultural diversity and global awareness efforts, please save the date on the evening of April 2nd for the parent presentation with Dr. Khyati Y. Joshi of the Institute of Equity and Social Justice at FDU.
- We are making efforts to acknowledge these special months, while the important work is being done to infuse the curriculum with the history of all of our cultures all year long.
- We will have a presentation at the March 18 meeting, and will post that after that time.
BEFORE & AFTER SCHOOL CARE
- We understand there are discussions underway regarding providing before and afterschool care at the elementary schools. Can you tell us about that?
The school district is in the process of reviewing recommendations, and working with a subgroup of the PTOC to look at the best ways to implement such a program.
We are identifying needs to put together an RFP process to select a vendor/partner.
Board of Ed Forum
January 27, 2019
Questions and Answers
HEALTH & WELLNESS
- What happened to the Health & Wellness initiative? What is being done at each school for health and wellness?
- Students need more fun at the high school - bring the Homecoming back -- bring alumni back
- We are all committed to doing what’s best for kids. Health & Wellness is a priority
There are now Health and Wellness committees at each school, addressing issues that are specific to each individual community and that are developmentally appropriate. There are many initiatives at each school that are a result of health and wellness committee conversations. Consider this week’s Great Kindness Challenge at Hartshorn School as just one of the many activities that have been implemented due to a greater focus on Health and Wellness. Another example is the MHS Student Center and the A.C.E. (Addressing Adversity, Creating Balance, Enhancing Communications) program. Resources and assistance are everywhere. We added a guidance counselor at Washington School this year through at Title I grant. That helps articulate from elementary to middle to high school. It is a challenge to add more as we work to balance the budget.
- Challenge Success is a direct offshoot of the Health & Wellness committee. It takes time -- we are poised for significant shifts. It won’t be overnight. Health & Wellness doesn’t stop - it continues at the schools, and through the many programs we bring to students and parents. We have our interdistrict Superintendent Consortium sharing parenting programs. We partner with PTOC Parent Education, MMAC, Ed Foundation to bring information and programs to parents about how to support our students. At Hartshorn this week the Great Kindness Challenge is focusing that whole school community on kindness. You can’t be healthy without it.
- There is a Student Liaison sub committee also looking at ways to bring more fun and social activities to the school.
- For the health of our children we need to change the school hours. What are we going to do to move forward?
- When is the implementation of change in the start times expected? Timeline?
This topic is being addressed at the high school with the work of Challenge Success.
There are actions we have taken with the schedule at the high school this year. The common lunch is giving students time during school day --time to connect with teachers, clubs, activities, research, or study. We do not have a definitive timeline. We are looking to the results from the Challenge Success surveys and the work of the teams. If it is decided to make a change, it would not be for fall 2019, but possibly for 2020.
One possibility that has been floated would be to flip the elementary times with secondary. There are factors that must be reviewed (e.g. transportation, athletics, extracurricular activities, childcare issues for parents and staff, contractual obligations, safety, traffic). We need to make sure the changes are meeting the needs of all students, parents, and staff.
We need to make the right decision for our schools, not just what other schools have done, and make sure we are doing it in a way that is thoughtful and has the intended benefits for our school community.
In Princeton, as an example, they used the survey results that came out of their work with Challenge Success to come to the decision to change school hours. In the coming weeks our Challenge Success teams will be sending out school climate surveys to students and parents to gauge the issues, stressors and priorities for our schools. For example, the surveys will provide us information in areas such as:
- Health & Stress
- Family Norms
- Parent Expectations
We will use the data received from these surveys to inform the work of the Challenge Success teams at the Middle and High Schools. The data will also be used as we continue to be proactive in making decisions and providing programming in the areas of health and wellness, school hours, and school schedules.
- What is Challenge Success?
Challenge Success is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education and Dr. Denise Pope. Their mission is to “partner with schools, families, and communities to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and a healthy balance with their engagement with learning and family time.
Training with staff took place this fall with the Middle and High school teams. This is a 2+ year plan, and the methodical process used by Challenge Success will help us make these decisions the right way for our community.
FIELDS & FACILITIES
- What are the plans for improving the situation with the school fields and the quality of the fields for use by the recreation department?
- Also the new gym in the Middle School is beautiful, but unusable for the recreation department as it is too small and has no seating for spectators.
- The Joint Facilities Committee is made up of township and school district representatives. The recreation department does the scheduling, and the committee works on the maintenance of fields. There have been many discussions attempting to find additional fields and space, as well as areas that might be turfed. We are trying to make sure we are meeting everyone’s needs with the limited fields in town. Our Buildings and Grounds department is compiling a new Long Range Facilities Plan. This may lead to some potential for upgrades over the next few years. These concerns (especially Miller Field) will be a priority in the Long Range Plan.
- B. New Middle School Gym: Dr. Burton explained that the room that is now the Innovative Space was used originally for physical education. The construction of the new gym was based around maximizing the space we had, with the limitations of the parking lot, the proximity to this main building and the geothermal elements underground. The architects designed the new gym with the most available space to give the middle school the ability to schedule physical education classes in a more functional facility for our students.
- Reminder that there are large costs involved in these projects. The HS Baseball Team’s Diamond Club raised funds for the baseball fields and dugouts and gifted those to the district in the amount of $426,000. We welcome any local athletics organizations to partner with us and the township in support of improving playing fields in Millburn.
MIDDLE SCHOOL LUNCH
- Why does the middle school split lunch between the cafeteria and the auditorium? Can’t students have other options, and shouldn’t they be able to go outside for a recess?
- In regards to lunch schedule, there will be more options for going outside.
- The new building has created a courtyard that may be used. There is also a courtyard off of the current cafeteria that will allow for more opportunities to go outside.
- There are changes underway with Mr. Connolly, the new principal, who is dedicated to making improvements in the schedules for the health of students.
- Daily gym classes have been added for 6th grade.
- Mr. Connolly is working with teacher teams to pilot some new middle school schedule options.
- The Middle School Challenge Success team, including parents, are working on many of these recommendations. It is a very exciting time to be part of the middle school. Mr. Connolly is passionate about making changes. There are many ideas coming. As mentioned, they are formulating different schedules - possible block scheduling. Mr. Connolly is working diligently with the Challenge Success coaches and his staff to take the necessary steps to address all of the facets of these types of changes. Changes like this take time to ensure challenges are identified and mitigated prior to moving forward.
- How do we give our students individualized attention given the rigorous academics, while in large classes?
We do have class size guidelines. At the Middle and High Schools, given the leveling, a class can be up to 30, but changes are made to schedules over the summer to keep class sizes as close as possible to or guidelines. The guiding principle for grades 6-12 is to target class sizes in the mid twenties (23-27), give or take five (and depending on such factors as subject, level, gender balance,etc.). In some cases, class size will be lower than this range, and in unusual cases, higher, but the goal in all cases will be to construct a building schedule and slate of course offerings that comply with these guidelines, on average.
CODE OF CONDUCT
- How are you educating students regarding recent racial and ethnic incidents? How do these incidents get reported? What are the consequences?
- There was an entire Holocaust education program at MMS years ago. Is there any consideration being given to bringing it back?
- We are actively dealing with these incidents. The Superintendent is notified of any issues immediately. They are addressed by code of conduct policies. They are reported out semi-annually by statute at the state and county levels. At the middle and high school revisions to the handbooks will reflect disciplinary measures as consequences for these type of code of conduct violations with more specificity.
As per the findings of investigations, there may be determinations of HIB (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying) and there are consequences for students based on the offense.
- On a larger scale the district is partnering with Dr. Khyati Joshi of the Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice at Fairleigh Dickinson University as part of our district-wide Global Awareness and Cultural Diversity Learning initiative. Dr. Joshi is facilitating workshops with faculty and staff from around the district toward
addressing greater sensitivity to and awareness of diversity and equity issues to promote the creation of school environments free from the distraction of prejudice, stereotypes and bias in our school community.
- Education about the Holocaust and genocide are still encompassed in many subject areas - social studies, literature and the leadership cycle classes at the Middle School to teach these topics in a broad-based way. There are additional programs and guest speakers that are provided to complement these courses.
- Follow up conversations are held with guidance counselors who help students understand the consequences of hateful and intolerant words and actions
- Provide professional development to train teachers on how to respond to these types of incidents
- Send an emphatic message that symbols of hate are not tolerated.
- The Superintendent has met with leaders of religious and ethnic organizations to partner with the community.
- We educate our our students through literature, social studies and other curricula.
- As hate lands on our doorstep, we have partnered with the greater community to educate families, educate our kids that hate has no place in our schools.
- B. At the January 28th Board of Education meeting, Mr. Arlington shared out the work we have been doing to train teachers and administrators, and to improve our understanding of diversity, equity and social justice issues. We are also focusing on curriculum, for example, a K-8 Social Studies committee worked with Dr. Joshi to create mini-units, and select texts that relate to social justice, as well as holding book clubs to prompt conversations. We have had an audit of books available in our collections, and are adding those that may be needed to round out more varied selections in cultures and history.
- C. We have joined the Central Jersey Program for the Recruitment of Diverse Educators (CJPRIDE), an organization of school district human resources managers who are working together to reach out to candidates, to help diversify our teaching and administrative staff, to be more reflective of our community.
- The Makerspaces are great. Are there any plans to open these up to the public? Or use them to rent or make money?
- Is the MILL being used by all students?
We anticipate the growth of the use of these spaces by students, that will probably involve events for the public. One example is the student hackathons that took place at the high school in the cafeteria, as well as the EdCamp we held in the Fall. Now that they have the MILL, and the new media center in the library, we are seeing a growth in use by students in all areas. In a recent example, a joint class assignment between architecture and social studies classes was showcased in one of the MILL classrooms. All students are welcomed at the Mill.
- We need more communication. Can there be more opportunities?
- Could the Board send a communication to parents that is a summary of the board meeting in terms of any vital information or changes. Can the Board President, VP and Committee Reports be on the website that night or the next morning?
- Can Board of Education meetings be live-streamed on social media?
- Are the agendas available to the public in advance?
- Is it possible to consider alternating the date of the BOE public forum since it conflicts with the north Jersey region band concert, so parents of musicians are unable to attend?
- We have created an ad-hoc Communications Committee to address 4 areas of communications.
Foundational: Who are we
Directional/Tactical: how do parents find info about the best path for students
Logistical: District Information
Reputational: Why Millburn?
(Caroline Updyke)“I am impressed with paths the district is taking to prepare our children for the world they are entering. We need to be sure we are communicating why we are doing the things we are doing. That will help alleviate stress. At a recent training I was impressed to realize how far ahead we are of other districts in efforts like Future Ready Schools and Challenge Success.”
Dr. Burton: We have heard from parents through Superintendent Roundtables, and, I recently put together a District Advisory team that includes parents across schools & grades. We compiled a sharing out of information from parents to parents of “what you need to know” or “what I wish I knew when I entered xx school or grade.” You can find it on our Health & Wellness page on the website.
We do have public opportunities -- every two weeks at the BOE meetings. There are many ways to get involved in the schools -- one is by joining the Ed Foundation, and attending Millburn Schools Rock on March 15.
- A Board of Summary is something the Communications Committee will be looking at instituting in order to share Board actions with the community.
- We are looking into the feasibility of livestreaming the Board of Education meetings. Agendas are available prior to meetings on our website - usually by the Friday before each meeting.
- We can look into other dates -- thank you for bringing this to our attention.
- Do we do an exit survey of families that leave to go to private school? Reach out to families and use that data.
- Do you have enough enrollment to sustain the Washington school? If not, what will you do with the property?
- We do ask parents, when they withdraw a student using our online system, as an option, to tell us why they are leaving. We do look at these numbers yearly, and it stays fairly stable. We do not see a trend of numbers showing that there is an overwhelming exodus of students to private schools. The changes in enrollment numbers reflect a variety of reasons that people leave, as well as an influx of new students wanting to come to Millburn each year.
- We anticipate 5th grade enrollment remaining near current levels for the future. We also anticipate an increase in school district enrollment due to development projects in town such as the Mack-Cali building on Kennedy Parkway, and plans for a mixed-use development on Woodland Road in the Glenwood section. We expect the Washington School will be an asset to our district as populations ebb and flow.
- For families that may be new to special services it may seem difficult to navigate. What can parents do?
It can be daunting to navigate when a parent realizes their child needs assistance. Our Special Services department is here to help. A parent can call the department, or start with their school principal/specialists to get support. The SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Committee) is also a liaison between parents and the Special Services department. This year a new Parent Support group has been formed to help parents learn the ropes in the special services world. These resources are there for parents if they have difficulty finding the right supports for their child.
The transportation committee was created to deal with some of the larger busing issues and has made great progress and improvements. Why would we not keep this as a standing committee?
- The Transportation ad hoc committee was created in response to the issues in 2017. The Committee’s goals are now handled as part ot the Property Committee. We are pleased and satisfied that the many changes that were implemented as a result of the work of the ad hoc committee are functioning well. Should issues arise again, we will bring back the committee.
- What efforts are made to identify teachers who need additional attention and truly improve teachers who need improvement?
- Would you ever have anonymous surveys for students and parents to fill out to give you additional feedback?
- We have one of the most qualified, dedicated and professional staff that any school district would be proud to have. We follow a rigorous evaluation process, that can include Corrective Action Plans in the rare situation that they are necessary. Measures can and are put in place for improvement.
- Some teachers do offer anonymous surveys to their students to get feedback that helps them improve their practice.
- A small change was made last year to eliminate AP Qualifiers for some subjects for students who qualified with other prerequisites.
- The High School is continuing to review the AP process. Dr. Miron has posted details about testing here: Academics - AP Qualifiers - AP Qualifier Modifications