The Annual Spring Gala for the Wyckoff Education Foundation is fast approaching on Friday, March 24, at the Indian Trail Club. Tickets, which sell for $100, are still available through this Website
“Lights, Camera, Auction” is the theme for a night that includes dinner, cash bar, and a silent auction featuring numerous items and services for bidders.
A nonprofit foundation started in 1990, WEF raises money to purchase tools to enhance education for all Wyckoff schools, fund innovative teacher grants, sponsor educational activities and cultural assemblies that enhance education. Over the years WEF has given back over $1.8 million to benefit Wyckoff schools grades K-8. In the past WEF has sponsored video equipment, musical instruments, robotics equipment, a district wide online Library catalog and the purchase of laptops, iPads and Chromebooks.
Wyckoff Superintendent Rich Kuder says WEF has been instrumental in transforming Wyckoff’s education system in its relatively short history. "We are fortunate to have such a generous and supportive group of parents who are willing and able to support innovative work in the district," Kuder says. "The WEF has enabled us to fund innovative educational programs in the way that a bsuiness funds research and development. Their ongoing support has allowed us to make significant investments in educational technology and programs that continue to benefit our students. The support of Markerspace and STEAM programs is just the most recent example."
Proceeds from this year’s Spring Gala will go toward continued implementation of STEAM initiatives for all Wyckoff schools. STEAM refers to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
Educators and parents who are trying to keep up with the latest buzzwords in education have probably mastered STEM, but now art has been added to create STEAM, and at least one hot, new compound word has been added as well: makerspace.
A makerspace, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is “a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.”
This means there is not one cookie-cutter design for makerspaces and this is certainly true in the Wyckoff schools where all five school buildings now boast makerspaces to help get students excited about new ways of learning. Among the elementary schools, Lincoln School was the first with a makerspace assembled in a formerly empty classroom that teachers are now visiting with their classes. The same is true at Sicomac School. A room at Coolidge School is a makerspace and sometimes used for WEL or band. At Washington School, makerspace materials are being brought into teachers’ rooms while a dedicated room for the makerspace is planned for the fall.
The materials in a makerspace can be any of many on a long list that includes wooden blocks, scissors, paper, glue, whiteboards, programmable robots, Legos, word puzzles, Tangrams, circuit-making kits, K’nex, Rubik’s Cube, Jenga, and even the old Simon, an electronic pattern-matching game that parents might remember from the 1980s. “Teachers have the freedom to create whatever kind of lesson they want to in there,” says Stacey Linzenbold, a veteran Wyckoff teacher who is the instructional coach at Washington and this year became the district’s Makerspace Coordinator for K-5.
Linzenbold recalls an activity that was developed for a kindergarten class that was reading The Gingerbread Man. "We created a challenge where the kids had to figure some way to get the gingerbread man across the river," she says. Some students designed and created boats and some came up with bridges. The beauty of the makerspaces, she says, is that “kids will be developing the sense ‘I have control over something I want to work on, design, and change.’”
The gingerbread activity is now being used by other kindergarten teachers, but Linzenbold says the key to expanding use of the makerspace is to give teachers freedom to come up with their own ideas. “It's better to let it grow organically than having created a curriculum first and then demanded that everyone do it,” she says. “Teachers can use the makerspaces in any way that they feel appropriate."
At Eisenhower Middle School, the learning-by-doing approach has spread throughout various curricula and the building has a new STEM Lab and other classrooms used for robotics and other classes. The task for veteran teacher and media specialist Kristin Caputo was to create a makerspace where kids could work more informally on their own and explore their interests in design, problem solving, and creating. The makerspace in the school’s Media Center consists of several tables and a few shelves well stocked with everything needed for origami and word puzzles to the programmable robots, circuit-making kits, and Pitzco cut-out cars.
Caputo says the makerspace attracts about 40 kids a day during Eisenhower’s daily TIEE period, a time set aside for extra help and enrichment. Another 30 kids come into the space during each of the school’s three lunch periods. A sixth-grade class that Caputo teaches, “Technological Literacy and Digital Citizenship,” has helped introduce students to the makerspace and now they come on their free time because they want to explore. “I’ll help them as much or as little as they want,” Caputo says. “At the middle school, they want to do what they want to do.”
Caputo sees another benefit of the makerspace, which counters what many critics worry about in the age of technology. “It’s getting them to open up something and do it and have a conversation,” she says.
Research shows that women lag behind men when it comes to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Efforts to close the gap have met with some success, but now Wyckoff’s schools are taking up the cause with the brand new “Girls’ STEM Club” set to debut in April in two elementary schools and the middle school.
Coolidge, Washington, and Eisenhower are all launching the clubs this spring, thanks, in part, to a federal Title I grant intended to address areas of weakness in science education. Wyckoff’s Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Grace E. White was the driving force behind the grant, which will help pay for materials and the time of teachers who are advising the clubs.
Kristin Caputo, a media specialist who will be advising the Eisenhower club with science teacher Kate Krsnak, says the club is about creating “leadership and comfort” for girls who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. Caputo has been in touch with technology companies eager to get girls interested in these subjects and she hopes they will provide additional funding for the club and role models who can talk to the girls about their careers. “We want that ribbon of woman power going through our school,” Caputo says.
While girls at Eisenhower have just been asked to sign up for the club, Stacey Linzenbold, the instructional coach at Washington, has more than 30 girls in 4th and 5th grade already on her list for the Girls’ STEM Club there. She says interest has also been strong at Coolidge where Jodi Levine, a veteran teacher and technology specialist, is that club’s advisor.
“Girls feel more confident and comfortable experimenting when they are just with their own gender,” says Linzenbold. She says parents have also been enthusiastic about the new club, noting at least two emails with the same message: “This is so exciting for my daughter.”
(The following letter to parents was included in weekly newsletters distributed by principals on March 10.)
This spring, all students enrolled in New Jersey public schools will again be participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) Assessment. The Wyckoff Board of Education requires all students to participate in statewide proficiency assessments. PARCC is designed to assess the curriculum content and skills that our students experience every day in our classrooms. The results of the test can provide you with important information about your child’s progress and attainment of State Standards, and also provide the District with important aggregated objective data to help us assess our programs and the delivery of instruction.
The assessment can also provide your child with valuable experience in taking online assessments in the future. As you may know, in the near future, assessments such as the SAT will be given in an online format.
There is no “opt-out” protocol by which parents can elect to have their children exempt from taking the test. If a parent decides to grant permission to his/her child to refuse participation in the assessment, the parent is required to notify the school by submitting a signed, written letter at least five days prior to the administration of the grade level test. Emails will not be accepted. The student’s test will be submitted to the State as a “void”, with “refusal to test” as the reason for the testing irregularity. Once a test is voided, no make-up test is allowed.
Students whose parents have refused for them to participate in the PARCC will remain in the classroom and be allowed to read a book, but will not receive any type of alternative instruction during the testing period. The student will not be permitted to use any technological device, including, but not limited to a laptop, cell phone, iPad, iPod, etc. All testing protocols relative to silence during the test administration and breaks, as well as other rules detailed by the PARCC Coordinator and Test Administrator, will apply to all students in the room. All efforts will be made to ensure an uninterrupted testing environment. Any student violating the established testing parameters will be subject to discipline. A student who refuses to test during the PARCC administration and does not have written consent from a parent will face disciplinary action.
The testing schedule in Wyckoff provides windows within which the testing will occur. These are as follows:
Grade 3 April 27 – May 5, 2017
Grade 4 April 26 – May 4, 2017
Grade 5 April 25 – May 3, 2017
Grade 6 & 7 April 27 – May 3, 2017
Grade 8 April 19 – 25, 2017
Additional details of this year’s PARCC test can be found on the district website: http://www.wyckoffps.org/Page/4860.
On the day of the test, the students should bring the following as requested:
Please be advised that there are specific State guidelines that all school districts must adhere to during PARCC testing. First and foremost, students will not be admitted to the testing classroom after the late bell. Please do not schedule doctor or dentist appointments during the testing days, as we are not permitted to interrupt testing for late arrivals or early dismissals. In addition, students are forbidden to have cell phones in their possession in the classroom during test days. Any student found to have a cell phone will have his or her test voided for that test section.
As always, we appreciate your cooperation. If you have any questions, please contact your child’s principal.
Richard D. Kuder, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Grace E. White
Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction
The beginning of the new year has brought two new members to the Board of Education. Daniel P. McHugh and Timothy Murtha were elected to replace incumbents Nicholas Mamola and Dr. Samir Taneja who did not seek re-election. The November election also saw the reelection of Christopher Della Pietra, who has held his post since 2012.
“I always say ‘actions speak louder than words’ and running for the Board of Education allowed me to demonstrate to my children the importance of putting yourself out there and being involved in organizations that have an impact on people's lives,” says McHugh, who has a daughter in Eisenhower Middle School and a son in Coolidge Elementary School.
McHugh is a 13-year resident of Wyckoff, has been active as a coach in numerous recreation sports, and is a field agent for the Knights of Columbus Insurance Agency. He has a Bachelor's of Science degree from Ramapo College and a Master's of Business Administration in Finance degree from Montclair State University.
Education is also something of his family’s vocation, he says, noting his wife’s career in education-related companies, and his sister’s role as a high school teacher, and a brother-in-law who has been a principal and assistant superintendent.
Murtha is a 15-year resident of Wyckoff and has five children who are current students or have already gone through Wyckoff’s schools. He is an options broker on Wall Street and is also certified as a high school business teacher and a middle school mathematics teacher.
He ran for the Board of Education because he saw a benefit in bringing together his various experiences. “I thought with my financial background (I was a options market maker on the floor of the exchange for 20-plus years before I became a broker) and limited educational background, I might be able to help out with the Board,” he says.
Murtha has a Bachelor's in Finance degree from Villanova University and a degree in Arts with a minor in Education from Ramapo College. He has coached recreation sports in Wyckoff for 15 years and currently coaches football, girls’ travel basketball, and boys’ lacrosse.
Pat Salvati is not exactly a new face in the Wyckoff area. The District’s new Business Administrator was the Assistant Business Administrator at Ramapo-Indian Hills from 2006 to 2012.
“It’s nice to be back in the FLOW District,” she says, after spending the last four years as the Business Administrator first at Little Falls and then in River Edge. “I look forward to joining the administrative team here,” she says. “It has been very welcoming so far. I feel at home already.”
Salvati arrived in December to replace Alan Reiffe, who retired after 15 years as Business Administrator. She credits Reiffe with taking time during the two months prior to his retirement to meet with her and implement a smooth transition. They also had four days of overlap in the District Office before Reiffe’s final day. “I think that helped prepare me well,” says Salvati, adding: “I will continue to provide Wyckoff with the strong financial leadership it’s been accustomed to.”
The Business Administrator, who is also the Secretary of the Board of Education, is in charge of the operations of the District. This means everything from keeping Board minutes, to developing budgets, to doing financial analyses, handling day-to-day financial management, and ensuring compliance with State rules and regulations. Buildings and grounds, transportation, purchasing, and insurance are also among her many duties.
Salvati says she is happy to have the opportunity to build upon what Wyckoff already has in place. “I look forward to supporting our excellent educational program,” she adds.
The many policies and regulations developed by the Board of Education are not just for the Board or the bored. They affect the lives of thousands of students plus the staff members and administrators in the District and now they can be viewed online under the Board of Education tab on the District’s Website.
Ever wonder about the policies and regulations governing “student attendance?” A quick search shows 10 pages of information deemed relevant. A search for “snow” turns up two policies and three regulations. “Technology” appears in 14 policies and 11 regulations.
The policies and regulations have always been available for public review, but having them searchable online is expected to make them much more accessible and useful for interested parties. "The searchability function is a useful tool for our adminsitrators," says Dr. Kuder. "There are thousands of pages of policies and regulations that guide decisions in the Wyckoff School District. The ability to search them efficiently allows our administrative team to use them effectively to inform their decisions. Parents also have the abiltiy to use this same search function. I believe that parent accessibility allows for greater transparency and ultimately trust."
Students eating in the cafeteria at Eisenhower Middle School have had a new view this school year. A glass wall on the west side of the room is literally a window into the future of STEM and possibly into their personal futures as well.
The view into the new 1,200-foot STEM Lab shows numerous big-screen monitors, lab benches, and 3-D printers, and a laser cutter that are already being incorporated into the school’s classes and clubs related to technology, robotics, design, and art. The new facility, which was constructed during the past summer and completed in October, replaced an old stage that had been used infrequently for plays and concerts in the cafeteria since a new, modern, multi-purpose room opened in 2007.
The Board of Education paid $376,000 for the construction of the STEM Lab and the Wyckoff Education Foundation donated $50,000 toward equipment.
“Nobody has built a space like this,” says Eisenhower’s Principal Chris Iasiello when asked how the Eisenhower lab compares to facilities at middle schools in nearby towns. “We really want kids to be little engineers where they’re creating things and bringing them to life.”
Iasiello says the lab will feature ways of building that are not high tech. Drills, hammers, and other tools will be used on wood, foam, and plastic. The high-tech angle, though, is very impressive as art teacher Monique Sarfity works with students to create images with Corel Draw that can then be cut into metal with the Epilog Mini laser cutter. Other students are designing their own figurines, which are then brought to life in the 3-D printers.
“We’ve built a cool innovative space we think we can continue to grow into,” says Iasiello. The District is continuing to work on curriculum development with Chris Anderson of the Center for Excellence in STEM Education at The College of New Jersey.
The middle school lab is part of a larger district-wide initiative to create “Maker Spaces” in all Wyckoff public schools. Dr. Kuder sees these Maker Space/STEM areas as an important part of a child's education in Wyckoff. "As we grow these programs around the District, we are hoping to provide our students with many opportunities to engage in the design process as described in the image below:
Traditional classrooms and subjects are not always well-suited and accommodating of student tinkering and experimentations," Kuder adds. "We get more focussed on product than process. These new spaces and resources in the District allow us to focus on process, as much as, or more than, product. This enhances critical problem solving and creativity."
Registration of all incoming kindergarten students new to the District for the 2017-2018 school year is scheduled for February 15 and 16 in the Eisenhower Middle School Media Center from 8:30am - 1:00pm.
The February 15 signup session is for students whose last names begin with A - L.
The February 16 signup session is for students whose last names begin with M - Z.
Parents will need to complete the Student Information Online Registration and the appropriate registration and residency forms, which can found on the Registration Information Page. In addition, the following forms are necessary for Kindergarten registration only. Please click the links below to print each form.