Wyckoff Schools Today
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Welcome to New Faculty and StaffPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 10/4/2017
Welcome to New Faculty and Staff
Administrators in the District were busy this summer hiring new teachers and re-organizing the responsibilities of some returning staff members.
The retirement of Rob Shean, former supervisor of special projects, brought the most significant changes as his former assistant, Priscilla Jurgens, is now responsible for the district’s data collection and analysis as well as managing technology needs. Stacey Linzenbold, meanwhile, was named the new supervisor of special projects and will be responsible for supervising and evaluating special-area teachers, which includes physical education, music, art, and others.
Jennifer Ascrizzi returns from a maternity leave to become the instructional coach at Washington School, which is a post formerly held by Linzenbold.
The District also hired eight new tenure-track teachers during the summer. Eisenhower Middle School welcomed Courtney Morfing in science, Sarah Clooney in mathematics, and Krystal Knyfd, a resource room teacher. Two new resource room teachers at Washington School are Morgan Repetto and Kimberly Reilly. The new art teacher at Lincoln School is Shannon Goffan and the new vocal music teacher at Coolidge School is Kyle Cosman. Lauren Malaney is a new instructional coach who will work with special education and general education teachers throughout the district.
Five leave-replacement teachers came aboard this summer in the elementary schools. They are Allie Van Hooker and Sarah Marini at Washington, Paige Visbeen and Stephanie Vlcancich at Coolidge, and Allison Casillo at Lincoln.
Three new secretaries are Jessica Campagne in the District’s accounts payable office, Karen Marchisin at Washington, and Carol Gneiding at Coolidge. Tony Percapio is the new employee in the District’s maintenance department.
The new group of faculty and staff are primarily a local group from the New Jersey and New York, but their college years took some of them a bit farther to Penn State, Kutztown University, and as far as Hawaii Pacific University. Their student teaching and subsequent teaching jobs have been across New Jersey from Mahwah to Flemington and as far away as the Windward District on Oahu in Hawaii. Members of the group have come to education with a variety of prior jobs, including waitress, museum educator, buyer’s assistant, camp counselor, art therapist, and tennis instructor.
An informal poll of the new employees shows dog lovers far outnumber cat lovers in the group and hiking is a popular activity outside their classrooms. Their sports allegiances are widely varied. But there is much agreement on the reasons for their call to teaching: helping kids learn, shaping young minds, sharing a love for learning, helping to foster self confidence, and “because I’m a big kid at heart.”
Summer Brings School ImprovementsPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 10/4/2017
Summer Brings School Improvements
Summer is the season in a school district for improvements to the physical plant, including everything from new air conditioning to new telephones.
Washington School and the first floor of Coolidge School are cooler this September as the District moved forward with its air-conditioning plans during this past summer.
The improvement plan brought new units and air conditioning in all of Washington except for the gym. In Coolidge, new Univent air-changing equipment was added to first floor rooms. The plan calls for extending the improvements to the second floor next summer. The home-economics room at Eisenhower also was air conditioned.
A new bottle-filling fountain at Eisenhower Middle School
The District’s maintenance personnel also installed bottle-filling water fountains and replaced bathroom partitions in multiple schools. The main office at Sicomac was refurbished and Coolidge now has a new curtain on its stage.
The new phone system, which is district-wide, will allow teachers more capabilities than previously possible with the intercom telephones. The new phones not only allow teachers to place calls outside the building, but also allow for more options within a building. One key capability, for example, is that every teacher will have the opportunity to respond to an outside intruder by using the phone to call the entire school into a lockdown without having to call the principal and have him call the lockdown.
New Calendar Adds Teacher Development TimePosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 10/4/2017
New Calendar Adds Teacher Development Time
The calendar for the 2017-18 academic year has one significant change from traditional calendars of the past. Teachers this year will have additional hours of professional development on five mornings, which means students will arrive later on a delayed-opening schedule.
The five mornings (Oct. 9, Dec. 11, Feb. 12, March 19, May 20) were built into the calendar to reduce problems associated with professional development occurring at various times, which required teachers to be out of their classrooms and replaced with substitute teachers.
Dr. Rich Kuder, superintendent of the District, noted the importance of professional development in a recent letter to parents. “We do not use packaged or ‘canned’ programs in our classrooms,” he wrote. “Our success, and our students’ growth, depends heavily on the quality of the teacher in every classroom. To continue and maintain this mindset and approach requires time, energy, and funding.”
He acknowledged, however, that starting school later on the five days will disrupt schedules for families. “We recognize that this may be an inconvenience for some families,” he wrote. “This year-long pilot program will help us meet an essential need without pulling teachers from the classroom.”
To alleviate such concerns, the District has arranged with the Wyckoff YWCA to provide “before-care” services in all five school buildings prior to the start of school on the five delayed-opening days. Fees for the program are $155 for the five mornings at Eisenhower and $210 for the five mornings in an elementary school. Families can also opt for fewer than five mornings as well. More information is available from the YWCA here.
District to Pilot New Way of Assessing Teacher GrowthPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 10/4/2017
District to Pilot New Way of Assessing Teacher Growth
Teachers and administrators in the District are working together to develop a mechanism for measuring teacher quality that would be an alternative to the traditional methods of classroom observations and written evaluations.
SDGP is the new acronym in an arena already rife with SGOs, SGPs, PDPs, and others. The Self-Directed Growth Plan would allow teachers to be assessed based on their implementation of innovative ideas in addition to, or in place of, their students’ PARCC scores or the students’ performance on assessments that measure particular Student Growth Objectives.
The SDGP concept, which is state approved, can be traced back about 10 years to Dr. Adam Fried, superintendent in the Harrington Park district, who helped spread its use to nearby districts in Bergen County. Wyckoff faculty in all the schools have been encouraged to volunteer for the pilot program and a September information session elicited a good degree of interest. Proposals from faculty members are being evaluated, according to Lincoln School Principal Patrick Lee, who is a member of a District committee coordinating the SDGP effort.
Lee explains that SDGP promises to inspire highly rated faculty members to investigate innovative ideas in lieu of having to endure the traditional observations and post-mortem discussions twice a year from an administrator. Lee expects to see groups of faculty work together to implement and evaluate classroom practices that might include, for example, new questioning techniques, managing differentiated groups, the use of flexible seating, etc. “You’re going to learn and refine your instructional practices as a result of what you ascertain through your research,” Lee says.
Lee says SDGP encourages teachers to work collaboratively, which is a natural outgrowth of Professional Learning Communities approach the District has used for many years. Teachers who develop an SDGP proposal might come together within one building, across buildings, across grade levels, within one subject, or across disciplines, he notes, adding that groups will probably include three to five members.
Lee says faculty who qualify to participate in SDGP should not worry that a bad outcome in their research will reflect poorly on their job performance. “Everyone will be successful that attempts this in good faith and works at it,” he notes. An innovation found to be ineffective is still something everyone can learn from, he adds.
New Initiative Focuses on Cultural CompetencyPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 10/4/2017
New Initiative Focuses on Cultural Competency
Another new feature for District staff members this year will be a focus on cultural competency, which seeks to better prepare teachers and other staff for changing demographics in the District. A goal is to make staff better prepared to educate and serve students whose cultural backgrounds might be different from those traditionally seen in the District.
Dr. Derrick Gay
Dr. Kuder has led the effort, which has been planned by a committee of staff members who began meeting in the last school year. This year’s effort began with a staff survey to measure understanding and knowledge of diversity challenges in the District. Dr. Derrick Gay, a consultant, will use the survey results to prepare for his first session with the District’s faculty on October 9. He will return to the District on subsequent occasions to continue his work.
Dr. Gay describes himself as “an internationally recognized consultant to educational, artistic and philanthropic organizations around the world on issues of diversity, inclusion and global citizenship.” He has been an administrator at a number of prestigious prep schools in the United States. He holds degrees from Oberlin College, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Faculty in Focus: Dan Dodd Keeps Kids Fit at WashingtonPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 8/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
Faculty in Focus:
Dan Dodd Keeps Kids Fit at Washington
Dan Dodd has shaken things up at Washington School in his four years as the school’s physical education teacher. A personal trainer and competitive cross-fit athlete, Dodd has introduced students to new activities and to a team-first approach that has kids setting personal goals and rooting for each other rather than reacting negatively toward classmates who are not the fastest or strongest.
Dodd was a football and baseball player at Indian Hills High School before continuing his baseball career at Rowan University and he added a personal trainer certification before arriving at Washington School in 2013. “I liked him right away,” says Principal Scott Blake, who cites Dodd’s local roots in Oakland and his upbringing as the son of a teacher and police officer. Being a college athlete was also a plus, says Blake. “They generally have good time management, demonstrate responsibility, and are good team players,” he says.
Blake recalls that Dodd’s arrival coincided with an expansion in physical education classes to one hour from the former 45 minutes, so it was the perfect time for innovative ideas. Dodd says students have responded well to new activities he has introduced, which may include an old-fashioned relay race with pushups in the middle, for example. “They seem to really enjoy it, which is the end goal,” Dodd says.
“I’m trying to make games apply a little more to fitness and things they can do after school,” adds Dodd, who says his greatest joy is seeing kids playing his games on their own after the dismissal bell.
Teams of Washington students carry a tube full of marbles during Wizards’ Challenge Day.
He notes that many students are active in soccer or basketball or baseball, but many are initially reluctant to try new skills due to their over-reliance on adult coaches or possibly a fear of failure. “A lot of them have a lot of over structure rather than saying 'Let’s go be active for an hour and half,’” he says, noting that many students have discovered new skills when exposed to new activities.
On the other hand, those who struggle with physical tasks also enjoy the activities because of Dodd’s team approach that might, for example, have teams competing to see which team has the fastest average time in a race. “We talk a lot about logical personal goals,” he says. “We also discuss trying to use other people’s strengths” to raise each team’s performance.
Washington School recently held its fourth annual Wizards’ Challenge, which Dodd began as a day of games. It started for the upper grades, but now includes all grades and features age-appropriate tasks for teams of students to complete. They might include climbing on the pentaweb playground equipment to find letters and make words or something more physical like doing burpees as a team.
Dodd also completed his own challenge recently as part of a competitive cross-fit team. In fact, he invited his students to come see the Northeast regional competition involving 200 teams at an arena in Albany, N.Y. One boy made the trip with his parents to root on his P.E. teacher, who brought his student down close to the action and posed for pictures with him.
“The guy’s a fitness freak,” concludes Principal Blake. “It’s something he takes seriously but what’s cool is he tries to make fitness fun for kids.”
Accolades for Award WinnersPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 8/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
Accolades for Award Winners
The Board of Education used parts of its two June meetings to recognize students and staff who had won awards during the school year.
Ten students from Washington School were recognized for helping their school turn in a fifth-place showing in Arcademics.com’s Third Annual Arcademics Multiplication Cup. The students showed off their multiplication skills for 65 hours and answered 138,043 multiplication facts correctly. The top 10 achieving students were: Erol Sonmez, Emre Sonmez, Niko Smilovic, Colin O’Shea, Nick Arena, Thomas Santos, Jason Sansone, Scott Vivinetto, Avery Orlando, and Colin Feeley.
Two fifth graders from Sicomac School were recognized for winning awards in the “Fair Housing Poster Contest,” an annual contest sponsored by the Northern Bergen County Community Housing Resource Board. Gabriella Rice earned third prize in the contest, while Jacob Marcos received an honorable mention.
WEA Scholarship recipient Patrick Gunn (center) with his parents
Steve and Angela Gunn.
The school nurse and a parent from Washington School were also recognized by the Board for winning a $1,000 Environmental Awareness Challenge Grant from the Bergen County Utilities Authority to build a garden. Nurse Lorraine Antonucci and Wendy Coffey, a parent, have already worked on the garden with fourth graders. The two-year project will eventually include a hydroponic garden.
Another grant winner that the board cited was Stacey Linzenbold, the makerspace coordinator for the elementary schools, who will use money from Orange & Rockland Utilities to enhance and enrich students’ understanding of circuitry at the kindergarten level. Students will design and create a “Circuitry Circus” with moving parts, lights, and sounds during the next school year.
The Board also recognized two graduating high school students who were chosen by the Wyckoff Education Association as winners of $2,000 college scholarships in the group’s annual competition. One scholarship is awarded to a graduate of the Wyckoff schools and a second is given to the child of an association member. Patrick Gunn is an Eagle Scout and was a marching band member and editor-in-chief of the student newspaper at Ramapo High School. He plans to study journalism at Syracuse University. Kevin DeLoughry, son of Eisenhower teacher Tom DeLoughry, was involved in the leadership program and student government at Bergen Catholic High School, where he also was on the indoor and outdoor track and cross country teams. He plans to study film at Wesleyan University.
School board members also congratulated Eisenhower seventh grader Matthew Latronica for his high scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) which was offered through Johns Hopkins University’s Center for the Advancement of Academically Talented Youth.
Another seventh grader, Nathaniel Somppi, was recognized as the winner of Eisenhower’s annual Geography Bee and congratulated for his strong showing at the New Jersey Geography Bee at Rowan University in March.
Five other Eisenhower students were recognized for their participation in the Model UN Club, which took part in the International Middle School Model UN Conference in New York City this spring. The five students were James Belov, Nicholas, Belov, Ulysses Bergel, Marra Finkelstein, and James Nassau.
Six more Eisenhower students won recognition for their accomplishments in the New Jersey Science Olympiad competition. Vijay Tummalapenta and Kipal Patel placed 5th for their “Write It Do It” project. Grant Li and Vincent Puccio placed 4th in the wind power competition and Justin Sullivan and Hudson Eisele placed 4th in the bottle rocket competition.
Another science competition brought recognition for three Eisenhower students who received honorable mention in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision contest. Honorable mention means that their project was judged to be among the top 10 percent in the national competition. The work of Patrick Barker, Christopher DeBellis, and Jacob Kurtz was called “Optical Nerve Microcarbon Implant.”
The board also congratulated Eisenhower science teacher Loris Chen for two awards. Chen was selected as a STEM Fellow by the German government’s Transatlantic Outreach Program. She is learning about best STEM practices in Germany this summer and must present a workshop for fellow teachers when she returns to share what she has learned. Chen also received $1,600 in a separate grant competition administered by the National Environmental Education Foundation and Samsung Corp. The grant recognizes Chen’s role in connecting STEM with place-based environmental education.
A dozen Eisenhower students were recognized for their participation in a STEM challenge at Ramapo High School that pitted the FLOW middle schools against one another in a competition to build a Rube Goldberg device with provided materials. The two teams of Eisenhower students included: Katherine Browne, Jenna Caso, David DellaFave, Hudson Eisele, Matthew Latronica, Jackson Lloyd, Jake O’Brien, Esther Park, Kapil Patel, Kyle Piccirilli, Cooper Stine, and Kathryn Swatek.
A reading competition called “Battle of the Books” brought recognition for the five Eisenhower students who took first place in a competition that saw Eisenhower’s team face off against their counterparts from five other middle schools in Bergen County. The five students were: Sarah Chagares, Abigail Connors, Ella Connors, Emma DePersis, and Gabriella Susino.
Playwriting brought honors for eight Eisenhower eighth graders whose plays were chosen as finalists for the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. The eight finalists were: Charlotte Breckenridge, Lauren DeLeo, Marra Finkelstein, Taylor Keogh, Sarah Onderdonk, Jordan Orlando, Tara Sproha, and Sofia Wuensch. Marra Finkelstein’s play, Chow Chow, was chosen for production at the festival.
Awards from The New Jersey Association of Student Councils (NJASC) brought accolades for the Executive Board of Eisenhower’s Student Council. The state association gave awards to Eisenhower’s council for being the top Middle School Fundraiser and for its tally of community service hours. The Eisenhower council raised $5,500 that was donated to Bianca’s Kids, the state association’s charity. The members of the Executive Board were: William Anderson, Riley Benedik, Sarah Chagares, Alexander Emmolo, Camryn King, Stephanie Kologrivov, Owen Rice, and Sabina Taneja.
The Board of Education also recognized excellence on the sports fields by acknowledging the championship softball team at Eisenhower, which prevailed over Harrington Park to win the title. Eisenhower teacher Paige Coppola coached the team. The players were: Lindsay Arone, Madison Bogart, Samantha Bogart, Victoria Cunningham, Caitlin Kinney, McKenna Lont, Siobhan Mathews, Savannah Nowak, Eva Purvin, Savannah Ring, Sydney Samuel, Mikayla Shepard, Brennan Tosney, Gabrielle Unger, and Nina Winborn.
Eisenhower’s other diamond dwellers also took home a championship trophy for baseball. The team, which was coached by Eisenhower aide Frank Picciotto, defeated River Vale to win its second straight title. The players were: Christian Cavagnaro, Tyler Cosgrove, Reid Duffus, Dean Ferrara, Andrew Kozlevcar, Jake Leonard, Ryan Macke, John Pane, Collin Polakowski, Connor Saslow, Connor Sedlak, Quinn Schiller, and Richard Sica.
Two track athletes from Eisenhower were also recognized for their accomplishments. Sophia Vernieri took the gold medal in the 100-meter dash and a bronze medal in the 200-meter race. Darin Donellan received a bronze medal in the shot put competition.
Wyckoff Bids Happy Retirement to NinePosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 8/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
Wyckoff Bids Happy Retirement to Nine
Superintendent Rich Kuder on the final school day with (L to R) Linda Otway, Linda Eckstein, Joanne Valenti, Diane Riess, Teresa Burger, and Rob Shean.
The last day of the school year was an opportunity for the District to say goodbye and thank you to nine staff members who worked an average of 22.5 years in the Wyckoff schools.
A ceremony at Eisenhower Middle School brought all of the district’s faculty together to hear Board President Rob Francin, Superintendent Rich Kuder, and various building principals wish their best to the retirees. The retirees were also recognized at a Board of Education meeting earlier in June.
Dr. Kuder praised Barbara Hannon for her 44 years in the district, serving in Lincoln and Washington in roles that included teaching first and second grades as well as special education. Hannon made her mark as a teacher who always maintained a warm, welcoming environment where students felt respected and encouraged, Dr. Kuder said.
Dr. Kuder thanked Diane Riess for her 25 years of dedication as a special education aide at Sicomac School. He noted her dislike for the spotlight, but that students and parents had recognized her patience, constant encouragement, and intense commitment to her students.
Another retiree with 25 years of service was Rob Shean, who worked in the District office for the last 10 years on special projects, but previously taught fifth grade for 11 years at Sicomac and science for four years at Eisenhower. Dr. Kuder praised Shean’s enthusiasm and focus on students and credited him with leading the information technology efforts that have transformed Wyckoff’s schools.
A third member of the 25-year club was Linda Eckstein, the principal’s secretary at Coolidge School. Dr. Kuder said her energy, enthusiasm and excitement were contagious and had helped make the front office a vibrant and happy environment.
Teresa Berger, who worked 23 years as the art teacher at Lincoln, was an “eternal student,” according to Dr. Kuder. He said she inspired her colleagues and responded to the strengths and needs of all of her students with energy, enthusiasm, and talent that always elicited maximum effort from them.
Gail Kindle, a secretary who served a total of 17 years in the District office and as the principal’s secretary at Washington School, was praised for being a “go-to” person and jack of all trades. Dr. Kuder said she created a sense of family at Washington while impressing with her creativity and problem-solving skills.
Joanne Valenti, who was an instructional aide at Sicomac for 16 years, will be remembered for her enthusiasm, attentiveness, and caring, Dr. Kuder said.
Dr. Kuder thanked Francene Komsa, a guidance counselor and social worker at Eisenhower, for her 14 years of devotion. Dr. Kuder lauded her for being calm, professional, caring, and tireless. He noted Komsa’s particular skill in hearing all concerns and then solving problems in ways that made all parties feel respected.
Another retiree who contributed to Wyckoff schools for 14 years was Linda Otway of the District’s business office, where she served as accounts payable secretary. Dr. Kuder praised her for her effectiveness and efficiency in being part of an award-winning team in the business office.
Northern Ignite Brings Visitors to WyckoffPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 6/14/2017 3:00:00 PM
Northern Ignite Brings Visitors to Wyckoff
In the same way that Wyckoff educators have ventured to other schools in search of good ideas, educators from near and far have come to the District’s schools to see successful programs and facilities.
The newest effort, known as Northern Ignite, describes itself as “an educational innovation cluster.” It has brought together local superintendents, principals, and technology administrators eager to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about innovative ideas being implemented at schools in Bergen County. “We wanted to have others learn from our journey of implementing Makerspace and STEM education in our classrooms,” says Wyckoff Superintendent Rich Kuder. “While we learn from others, we also want to provide others with the same opportunity.”
Northern Ignite began several years ago to provide professional development to school leaders and teachers and share best practices within Bergen County. This year the goal was to set up a process for school visits.
About 40 visitors from Northern Ignite schools with a particular interest in Makerspace STEM education came to Wyckoff in April. Eisenhower Principal Chris Iasiello says the group spent the morning at his school observing a robotics class taught by Marc DeBlock and a digital imaging class taught by Harold Olejarz. “We got a lot of tremendously positive feedback,” Iasiello says. Norah Peck, the Bergen County Executive Superintendent for Bergen County, was among those most impressed, he adds. “We’re always happy to have other districts learn from us,” Iasiello says. “Peck was pleased to see the overall engagement of the students and the level of work that they were doing,” Kuder adds.
The group also visited several of Wyckoff’s elementary schools to observe various Makerspace activities. Washington School Principal Scott Blake was proud to show what is happening in his school's kindergarten classes. "The visitors were astonished to see kindergarteners creating circuits, coding, and taking toys apart to see how they work," says Blake.
Lincoln School Principal Patrick Lee says the visit gave Lincoln a chance to share what is happening in the school from first to fifth grade. "Students in grade 1 were working on a building challenge using a variety of materials, and students in grade 5 were engaged in coding and Tinkercad work," Lee notes.Sicomac Principal Steve Raimo says the Northern Ignite visitors saw STEM activities in his schools makerspace and in regular classrooms. "It was gratifying to have the endorsement of fellow educators who were impressed by the creative and innovative work being done by the students," Raimo says. The visitors were also impressed by the students' "level of independence and enthusiasm."
District Budget Is ApprovedPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 6/2/2017 12:00:00 PM
A $42.6-million budget for the 2017-18 school year was approved at a meeting of the Wyckoff Board of Education on May 8th.
capital outlays and classroom expenses, which will be lower than in the current school year.
Capital improvements will include telecommunications upgrades throughout the district, as well as air conditioning at Washington and Coolidge Schools.
The spending plan includes a tax levy of $36.8 million, which is an increase of 1.99% over last year’s amount. The budget presentation says the increase works out to be $139 per year based on the average assessed home value of $782,700.