Wyckoff Schools Today
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District Bids Farewell to Superintendent KuderPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 12/21/2018 6:10:00 AM
District Bids Farewell to Superintendent Kuder
The end of 2018 marks the close of Dr. Rich Kuder’s time as superintendent of the Wyckoff School District. The Board of Education has appointed an interim superintendent and a search for a full-time replacement is under way.
For the District, this is the first change at the top since Dr. Kuder became Acting Superintendent in March 2010 when former Superintendent Janet Razze left on medical leave. Kuder was then the Interim Superintendent for the 2010-2011 school year before the Board chose him as Superintendent for the start of the 2011-2012 year.
Kuder came to Wyckoff in 2001 to begin a close-to-ten-year tenure as the principal of Eisenhower Middle School prior to becoming superintendent. His departure 17 and one-half years later has brought notices of appreciation from teachers, administrators, parents, and the Board itself.
At its December 10th meeting, the Board presented Dr. Kuder with a framed proclamation that lauds him for “exemplary dedication, integrity and visionary leadership” and for “his selfless commitment to the District in order to provide an exciting and engaging educational opportunity for all children of Wyckoff Township.”
Board President Rob Francin pointed to the District’s emerging reputation as a leader in educational innovations under Dr. Kuder. “We are here because of Rich’s vision,” Francin said. “He created an environment where staff can try new things, challenge themselves, and even make mistakes.”
Dr. Kuder thanked the Board for the “privilege to be here almost 18 years.” He added: “I’m grateful for teachers, administrators, and parents and our Board who’ve supported our work.” He gave special credit to teachers for turning the vision into reality. “We’d be nowhere without you.” he said. “We can have all these great ideas, but it takes you to put them into place.”
For Dr. Kuder, his departure from Wyckoff means a chance for “the opportunity of a lifetime” with Whittle School & Studios, a new, venture capital funded, global network of international, bilingual schools serving students from pre-K to grade 12. His post will be as an administrator overseeing grades 1 through 9 in Whittle’s flagship school in Shenzhen, a manufacturing city and hub of innovation in southern China.
He says recruiters from Whittle came to him because their philosophy and objectives are in line with Wyckoff’s. “These are the progressive things Wyckoff is involved in that resonate with world-class practices that people are embracing in education: personalized education, interdisciplinary work, emphasis on social-emotional learning and growth of kids, integration of instructional technology into kids’ work, and using concrete experiences to ground deeper learning.
“I feel blessed to have been able to spend nearly 18 years of my career here in a town that cares so much about and supports education, is a wonderful community with supportive parent organizations like the PTO and WEF, and has excellent administrators and teachers,” he added. “You can’t ask for more. I leave with fond memories of people and moments. All of this makes it hard to leave.”
Wyckoff Welcomes Interim SuperintendentPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 12/21/2018 6:08:00 AM
Wyckoff Welcomes Interim Superintendent
The Board of Education has appointed Dr. Jeffrey P. Feifer to be the Interim Superintendent for the remainder of the current school year while the process of hiring a full-time superintendent continues.
Dr. Feifer has had a 46-year career in education that includes 24 years as the superintendent of the Closter Public Schools where he also served as an elementary school principal for nine years. He also has been as interim superintendent for a long list of districts that includes Hillsdale, Ringwood, Old Tappan, Oakland, Oradell, and Norwood.
Feifer, who officially takes the reins on January 2nd, has already met with faculty members at all five Wyckoff schools and attended musical concerts at a few with departing superintendent Rich Kuder.
In his letter of application to the Wyckoff Board, Feifer said his time in Oakland had made him familiar with Wyckoff, Franklin Lakes, and the Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District. He said he had “great admiration and appreciation” for what he saw as a “commitment to maximizing student achievement while providing a supportive and nurturing environment.”
Rob Francin, president of the Wyckoff Board of Education, calls Feifer “phenomenal” and is happy to have him coming aboard. “Jeff was a superintendent and has been in education for a long time in New Jersey. He is very well versed as superintendent and as an interim. He knows what the District needs to keep the District running and also how to assist the board in finding the right permanent candidate.” Francin adds that Feifer also gives the District flexibility to retain him as the interim superintendent if the process of hiring a permanent superintendent goes beyond June 30th.
Dr. Kuder, the departing superintendent, also praised Dr. Feifer. “When I heard that Jeff Feifer was available to serve as interim superintendent, I was very happy because I had worked with Jeff before and know him as a consummate educator and professional.”
Search Process for Superintendent Under WayPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 12/21/2018 6:06:00 AM
Search Process for Superintendent Under Way
The transition from Superintendent Rich Kuder to Interim Superintendent Jeffrey Feifer is happening with the flip of the calendar to 2019, but the process for finding a new permanent Superintendent has been going on for months.
After Dr. Kuder announced his intention to retire, the Board of Education hired Sousa & Stern Educational Consultants of Fort Lee to handle the search to replace him. The position has been advertised in a number of publications, including Education Week, The New York Times, and The Star-Ledger, and applicants were requested to send resumes by December 14th.
The Board intends to begin the first round of interviews in January with some applicants returning in February for the next round. The ideal, says Board of Education President Rob Francin, would be to offer the position to the best candidate in the spring so he or she could join Wyckoff on July 1st.
But Francin says that the District is far from desperate. “We’d wait as long as we need to get the right candidate,” he says, noting that Dr. Feifer is flexible about staying beyond July if needed.
Wyckoff’s last search for a Superintendent was in 2010 when Francin was new to the Board and the District was searching for a replacement for former Superintendent Janet Razze who had left on a medical leave. It was also “more chaotic economically,” Francin says, noting the impact of a severe recession on school districts.
“Today, we’re in a much better place,” Francin says. “Right now the mission for the District is much more concrete and we’re really looking for someone who buys into that.”
Sousa & Stern has held community-input sessions with parents, faculty, and administrators to further define what the Board should be seeking in a new Superintendent. This Community Planning Process has focused on identifying the District’s beliefs, strengths, goals, and challenges in the years ahead.
Francin says the Board has a special concern about the state-mandated cap of $169,689 per year for the salary of a superintendent for a district of Wyckoff’s size. The Board of Education has written to Gov. Phil Murphy to request a waiver to the cap, which was put into effect in 2011. The Governor has not responded to the Board’s request, Francin says, noting his continuing interest in working with other New Jersey school districts to get Trenton to change the caps.
“People can go to New York districts and can make more,” Francin says. “Some principals can make more than that in other New Jersey districts,” he adds. Principals’ salaries are not subject to caps, he notes, so some may elect to stay in their jobs rather than give up money to become a superintendent.
Girls Interested in STEM Visit Pfizer LabsPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 12/21/2018 6:05:00 AM
Girls Interested in STEM Visit Pfizer Labs
Nineteen girls from Eisenhower Middle School who are interested in STEM enjoyed an October visit to Pfizer Inc. in Peapack, N.J., to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
The students heard women, who are senior technology and science leaders, talk about their career paths and then enjoyed a panel discussion that featured recent college graduates talking about their college courses and how they balance daily work routines. The girls also visited stations that demonstrated how Pfizer uses technology to solve real-world problems in the health sector.
The Eisenhower students were joined on the trip by female students from American History Middle School in Newark and Black River Middle School in Chester.
Stacey Linzenbold, Wyckoff’s supervisor of special projects, accompanied the girls on the trip along with Chris Giordano, Eisenhower’s assistant principal. She says the day had a big impact on the Eisenhower seventh- and eighth-graders. “They really felt important and empowered,” says Linzenbold. “What they liked best was hearing directly from young women who were a year out of college and planning their way into the career world. They appreciated hearing that they don’t have to know right now what they want to do, but they can follow their interest and figure out a way.”
John Carolan, a Pfizer employee and former member of Wyckoff’s Board of Education, was instrumental in getting this opportunity for Eisenhower’s girls. “Engaging these students early in STEM can increase awareness of the opportunities in these fields,” he said. “I could not be more proud of my company for supporting this event and honored to host these impressive students.”
Staff Share Best Practices at ConferencesPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 12/21/2018 6:01:00 AM
Staff Share Best Practices at Conferences
Wyckoff’s emergence as a leader in makerspaces and design-process learning has earned faculty and administrators recognition this year as presenters at conferences from the Garden State to the Lone Star State.
Stacey Linzenbold, supervisor of special projects, presented this fall with Jason Opremcak, an Eisenhower technology teacher, at the New Jersey Educational Computing Cooperative (NJECC) Conference at Montclair State University. Linzenbold then traveled with Jessica Lacasse, an instructional coach at Lincoln School, in December to Dallas for the Learning Forward conference to tell an audience of professional development practitioners about what is happening in Wyckoff.
The Montclair presentation focused primarily on explaining the array of STEAM-related (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) classes available to students from sixth through eighth grade at Eisenhower.
Some of the offerings have been updated in recent years and others, such as digital prototyping and replicating and music engineering and recording, are new. All of them are grounded in the “design process,” which requires students to identify a problem, think and imagine possible solutions, plan and design their solution, build the solution, and then improve and redesign the solution.
Linzenbold says NJECC sought presenters from Wyckoff after learning that the District had recently earned membership in the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. She says the NJECC audience was particularly interested in the pathway Wyckoff has created for all students to take STEAM courses. “A lot of people are interested in coming to see what we’re doing or to get copies of our curricula,” Linzenbold added.
The Dallas conference, meanwhile, also focused on the design process, but put the audience in the role of students completing an actual activity from Wyckoff schools. For example, teachers were asked to design a free-standing shelter for Native Americans using basic items, such as popsicle sticks, rubber bands, glue, and a cotton swab.
Linzenbold and Lacasse also shared a five-minute video chronicling the efforts of a second-grade class to design and build a model of a house that could withstand a hurricane. And they ended their presentation by explaining their work in teaming with teachers to slowly introduce makerspaces by starting with professional education for teachers, adding opportunities for teachers to design activities, and then supporting those teachers with instructional coaches, and Professional Learning Community time where they can share, evaluate, and revise what they are doing.
The process, Linzenbold says, gave teachers the chance to express themselves, test things out, and then redesign the science curriculum. “This process was just like what we ask the kids to do,” she notes.
District's Business Office Wins Top HonorPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 12/21/2018 6:00:00 AM
District’s Business Office Wins Top Honor
The Wyckoff School District has been recognized for the 15th year in a row for exemplary financial practices. The streak began under retired Business Administrator Alan Reiffe and has continued under his successor Patricia Salvati, who came on board in December 2016.
The Association of School Business Officials International awards its “Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting” annually to school districts that meet its standards for the district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
John Musso, executive director of the association, says the “CAFR informs parents and other stakeholders about the financial and economic state of the district, making it an important communications tool for building trust and engaging with the school community.”
Salvati said she was happy to accept the recognition on behalf of the District’s auditors and the business office. “This certificate recognizes local governments and school districts that go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles,” she added.
Happy Holidays and Thank you!Posted by Rich Kuder on 12/21/2018
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I wanted to take this last opportunity to wish all families in our community a happy holiday season. After more than seventeen years of serving the educational community of Wyckoff, I leave profoundly grateful for my experiences and time in Wyckoff.
- for the opportunity to partner with you to educate your children.
- for the many ways that you support our teachers, administrators and staff.
- for making the education of your children a priority in your family.
I am proud of the work that we have accomplished together and grateful for my experiences in Wyckoff. I leave with many wonderful memories and moments that I will cherish, and I look forward to hearing great things about the continuing work in Wyckoff.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Richard D. Kuder, Ed.D.
District Approves New Policy on VapingPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 11/14/2018
The Board of Education approved a new policy this summer to make it clear that possession of vaping devices or the cartridges of material that are used with the devices will not be tolerated. The new statement is included in an amendment to the previously existing student smoking policy. Many of the changes were made to reflect a new New Jersey law that makes it illegal to sell or distribute vaping devices and material to anyone under 21.
The Board’s action came weeks before Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, used strong words to promise action against what he called an “epidemic” of electronic cigarettes and vaping in America. “E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens,” he said in a statement. “The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It’s simply not tolerable.”
An anti-vaping assembly at Eisenhower in April 2018.
The Wyckoff policy makes it clear that students are not to have the devices or materials in their possession in school, on school buses, or at school-related events. Principals are also empowered under the policy to request an immediate drug test if a staff member who confiscates a vaping device or cartridge suspects that the student who had the device is under the influence of alcohol of other drugs.
The policy is likely to be most relevant at Eisenhower Middle School, since the vaping issue has come up most frequently at high schools and middle schools rather than elementary schools. Eisenhower had a few disciplinary cases last year related to students who were found to have vaping devices in school. The Wyckoff Police Department sponsored a guest speaker on alcohol and drug issues who spoke to the middle school students about vaping. Vaping is also discussed in the school's health curricula. Administrators have also addressed this issue in a faculty meeting where they circulated the actual devices so teachers could see what they look like. Principal Chris Iasiello and Assistant Principal Chris Giordano spoke about the topic at the start of this academic year in grade-level meetings with all students and then again with parents at Back-to-School Night.
“The administration is trying to be aggressive in prohibiting and restricting it from entering the building,” says Iasiello. “It is unhealthy for you. If you bring it here, you are violating the trust of students, teachers and administrators and we will do everything to keep it out.”
But he concedes that some students are still attracted to the devices. “The challenge is that these are cool-looking devices that can be hidden and charged in a USB port and give off low amounts of vapor so it is easy to conceal them.”
Curriculum Work Includes Books About Diverse CharactersPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 11/14/2018
A new school year means hundreds of new books in the District’s schools for young readers to enjoy, but this year’s selections are the results of a coordinated effort to better reflect changing demographics in the United States.
“We looked at our libraries with a new lens,” says Grace White, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, in explaining the process that media specialists in all the schools undertook after learning more about the importance of having books that better reflect American society and the lives of the young readers themselves.
A workshop at School Library Journal helped media specialists analyze books in Wyckoff’s schools.
White credits Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor of education at the Ohio State University, with popularizing the metaphor of mirrors, windows, and doors to express what books mean to children. The Wyckoff District, White says, wants the books in the libraries to reflect the lives of students while allowing others to peer into experiences that are different from theirs with the hope that all of these literary experiences will open new doors for students.
Media specialists in the District attended a workshop at School Library Journal in the spring and then White attended a meeting at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Mass., to learn more about the topic. The result is that many of the books purchased this year will be mirrors and windows for Wyckoff’s readers. “The librarians are doing a great job of finding different kinds of books that represent all kids,” White says.
Superintendent Rich Kuder says many of the new selections are not about the struggles of a child with disabilities, famous people of color, or about holiday celebrations in a particular religion. Instead, they are more likely to be an ordinary story about losing a tooth or taking a field trip and the character involved is in a wheelchair, for example, or wearing religious clothing, such as a hajib. “This is who we all are,” Dr. Kuder says. “This reflects our society and the diversity that exists in our country.”
White says Phil Bidner, a children’s book author known for his emphasis on the diversity of characters, will talk with elementary school faculty in the spring to generate more interest in using books that better reflect changing demographics. This focus is consistent with ideas that Dr. Derrick Gay has brought to Wyckoff through his professional development presentations about cultural diversity last year and again in 2018-2019.
Media specialists say teachers in their various schools have had a chance this fall to see many of the newly purchased books and children are signing them out as well. Trisha Noble at Sicomac describes the feedback as “encouraging” and Jessica Telesmanich at Washington says she’ll be incorporating some of the newer books in her lessons this year.
Other Wyckoff faculty were busy this summer on other initiatives for the new school year. Art teachers created the new Studio Art program in the elementary schools, which is based on student interest rather than abilities. The ETV studio at Eisenhower was rebuilt, while new technology classes related to coding and prototyping were developed. Professional development was also provided to teach newer staff members about Responsive Classroom and the Reggio Emilia approach to early education. Principals also set up book clubs to involve faculty in learning about important education-related topics.
School Buildings See Summer ImprovementsPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 11/14/2018
The Board of Education’s commitment to upgrading facilities was illustrated this summer in myriad projects aimed at improving drinking water, lighting, safety, and the climate for learning. John Doller, the District’s supervisor of buildings, grounds, and transportation, gave a report to the Board of Education in September that highlighted several of the projects completed during the summer months.
Lincoln School installed many new “Univent” heating and ventilation units and air-conditioning sytems, which are part of a larger five-year effort to upgrade such systems across the District. Washington and Coolidge have already received new univents and air conditioning in their classrooms, while more work is still to be done at Lincoln. Sicomac is next on the list and then a large-scale project is planned for Eisenhower, particularly in the older sections of the building that date back to 1963.
A new “Univent” unit for heating and ventilation.
Doller’s staff also built new cement staircases at Sicomac and Lincoln, installed new bottle-filling, filtered-water fountains at Eisenhower and Washington, and new stairway doors at Eisenhower. The middle school also had catch basins rebuilt in the parking lot, exhaust fans added in the second floor hallway, heat-reducing film installed on windows, and new air conditioning in the ETV television studio.
Two rooms at Washington got new flooring, while the District’s office needed work on its septic system. Custom cabinets were installed in several buildings and LED lighting upgrades were added in several schools as well.
Superintendent Rich Kuder says the projects reflect the Board of Education’s commitment to spending about $1.5 million every summer from its regular operating budget on building improvements. ”They represent the Board’s commitment to provide students and staff with outstanding facilities,” he says.
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