Wyckoff Schools Today
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District Approves New Policy on VapingPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 11/14/2018
District Approves New Policy on Vaping
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
Curriculum Work Includes Books About Diverse Characters
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 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 characters involved just happen to be in a wheelchair, for example, or wearing religious clothing, such as a hajib. “This is who we all are,” Dr. Kuder says. “This is just reflecting 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
School Buildings See Summer Improvements
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 received new “Univent” heating and ventilation units, which are part of a larger five-year effort to upgrade such systems across the District. Washington and Coolidge have already received 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.
New Year Brings 30 New FacultyPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 11/14/2018
New Year Brings 30 New Faculty
The start of the new school year has brought a lot of new faces in schools across the District. The 30 new hires for 2018-2019 include tenure-track replacements for faculty who have retired or resigned and a large number of newcomers filling in for teachers who are out on leave.
“What I’m always thrilled about is that we continue to get exceptional candidates,” says Superintendent Rich Kuder. “Wyckoff has created a culture that educators from other districts want to work in, and we are also a first choice for students who are graduating from universities.”
Eisenhower, which has the District’s largest faculty, has eight new hires this year, plus two teachers who have relocated from elementary schools in the District. Washington leads the elementary schools with eight new hires as well.
An informal, incomplete survey of the new faculty members shows that most are New Jersey natives, but New York and Florida are also represented. The College of New Jersey seems to be the alma mater for the largest number, but a wide array of universities are represented from Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
The new hires include several who are parents and many who identify as avid readers, dog lovers, runners, hikers, cooks, and fans of the N.Y. Giants. The jobs they’ve had prior to coming to Wyckoff include babysitter, camp counselor, yoga instructor, martial arts instructor, adjunct professor, and ice skating coach.
Their interest in teaching is often expressed as making a difference or having an impact. Although many talk about helping children reach their potential, and at least one sums it up as “to have a job I love.”
League of Innovative Schools Recognizes the Wyckoff School DistrictPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 11/13/2018
League of Innovative Schools Recognizes the Wyckoff School District
The start of the new school year has brought with it a new award for the Wyckoff School District.
The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools this month added the Wyckoff School District to its network, which it describes as “a coalition of 102 forward-thinking school districts in 33 states.”
Superintendent Rich Kuder says Wyckoff’s schools will benefit a lot from being a member of the league. “When you find like-minded educators, you’ve found your tribe that you want to spend more time with,” Dr. Kuder says. “Whatever the topic happens to be, this is the group you want to be doing it with,” he adds. ”It opens up the opportunities for our teachers and administrators to go and participate in meetings with like-minded districts.”
Dr. Kuder says many districts in the league are larger than Wyckoff and are already wrestling with topics of interest to Wyckoff’s administrators and teachers. “We’re looking at the interoperability of data, looking at badging and grades, computer science and computational thinking,” he says. “What this consortium does is put schools together for pilot sites and then other districts come and watch and learn from those pilot sites. These are cutting-edge practices and that’s exciting.”
The league’s website says its members are selected only after submitting an application that reflects three important criteria: vision and key achievements, potential for impacting student learning and educational leadership, and commitment to networking and knowledge sharing.
A profile of Wyckoff schools on the league’s website says that other districts can learn from Wyckoff about providing equitable access to STEM learning opportunities and sufficient time for professional development and teacher mentoring. The profile also credits Wyckoff with having flexible scheduling that allows for block play in younger grades and TIEE in the middle school. The district’s daily Responsive Classroom meeting time is also cited as illustrating the District’s commitment to encouraging social-emotional connections.
Other New Jersey schools that are members of the League of Innovative Schools include Harrington Park, Morris Schools, the Freehold Regional High School District, and the Pascack Valley Regional High School District.
Digital Promise is a seven-year-old independent bipartisan, non-profit group that describes itself as “passionately committed to spurring innovation in education to improve opportunities to learn.” It was originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education and several philanthropies. Its benefactors now include the National Science Foundation, Google, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Verizon, and several philanthropic foundations.
New Consultancy Model Empowers EducatorsPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 9/4/2018 7:00:00 AM
New Consultancy Model Empowers Educators
Teachers in need of fresh ideas for teaching new topics or working with particularly challenging students have always had experts to turn to in the Wyckoff School District, but the 2017-18 school year saw the start of a new consultancy model intended to streamline that process.
A teacher facing the challenge of a student with a particular behavioral issue, for example, can ask a psychologist, behaviorist, or learning disabilities teacher consultant (LDTC) to visit his or her classroom to observe the situation and to make suggestions.
The consultancy model does not replace the Intervention & Referral Service (I&RS) program mandated by New Jersey. That system still involves a committee of professionals, which may include educators, psychologists, and LDTCs, that meets periodically to offer assistance to teachers and to weigh whether a student should be referred to the Child Study Team.
The consultancy concept is the brainchild of Debra Herold, Wyckoff’s Director of Student Personnel Services, in collaboration with Dr. Jamie Zibulsky, an associate professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “We have a lot of very knowledgeable and talented people who, I felt, teachers were not able to get to quickly enough,” says Herold. “Why can’t they just go right to the person and pick their brain?”
Staff involved in the consultancy model say the innovation has been functioning as planned.
Kellie Wilks-Ramundo, the LDTC at Eisenhower Middle School, has been part of the I&RS committee in the school for years, but sees the consultancy model paying off more quickly. “What I like about it is I get to work more closely with teachers,” says Wilks-Ramundo, noting that she responded within a day or two this year to teachers who sought her help and arranged to visit their classrooms to observe the difficulties they were having.
For example, Wilks-Ramundo offers the case of a teacher who reached out to her due to concerns about a student’s poor grade on an assessment. “By helping the teacher tweak the assessment, and encourage a study guide for the assessment, the student’s performance did go up,” she says, noting that the I&RS process may have taken as many as three months to deliver the same recommendations.
Herold offers an example from the elementary schools in which kindergarten teachers used the consultancy model to ask speech and language specialists for the speech characteristics that are developmentally appropriate at the kindergarten level. “The specialists put together information for what is in the range of appropriate,” Herold notes.
Herold foresees even more uses of the consultancy model in September and beyond now that word of its success is getting out. “I’m hoping next year we hit the ground running,” she says. “I’m excited about it because I think it’s great.”
Science Teacher Earns National Geographic HonorPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 9/4/2018 6:00:00 AM
Science Teacher Earns National Geographic Honor
If all goes well this summer, Eisenhower science teacher Loris Chen will have the new title of Geo-Inquiry Ambassador before school starts in the fall. National Geographic Society will bestow the title upon her after she completes a week-long science institute in Wyoming that will include time in Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
The National Geographic Geo-Inquiry Summer Institute is an all-expense-paid opportunity for a select group of science educators who are already using what is known as “the Geo-Inquiry Process.”
Ambassadors are recognized leaders in their areas and must share their expertise with others. “It looks pretty exciting,” says Chen. “It’s all the things I’m passionate about.” She is already scheduled to speak at the New Jersey Science Convention in Princeton in late October to communicate what she learns in Wyoming.
Chen explains that the Geo-Inquiry process involves getting students involved in posing questions, collecting information, analyzing it, and developing the story of what is happening.
Eisenhower’s 8th grade science students, for example, have used the process in studying the urban heat island effect in climate studies by collecting data from various spots around the middle school’s property. Students explore the effect of various surfaces, such as blacktop, concrete, or soil, on temperatures.
Summer travel for professional conferences and institutes is hardly new for Chen, a 16-year Eisenhower veteran who is also the school’s facilitator for the science department. Her last 12 summers have included teaching-related trips to Japan, Germany, Austria, Costa Rica, Oregon, California, and Maryland.
And the Wyoming trip was not Chen’s only gig this summer. She also traveled to Rutgers University in New Brunswick for two days in July where teachers from across New Jersey were prepared for the Rutgers Eye on Climate Change Teen Summit. This March 2019 event will involve Eisenhower students in exploring climate change with their peers.
Before embarking on her travels, Chen joked that the Wyoming trip probably would be easier than commuting to New Brunswick for two mornings via New Jersey Transit and Uber. The March summit, however, will be a great opportunity for Wyckoff students. “To be able to do this with kids makes it totally worth it,” she said.
Teacher Earns Summer Spot in Nation’s CapitalPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 9/4/2018 6:00:00 AM
Teacher Earns Summer Spot in Nation’s Capital
Eighth-grade social studies teacher Keri Traficante has earned one of only 30 spots in a summer conference for middle-school teachers from across the United States. The two-day event is hosted by C-SPAN, the cable network that broadcasts House and Senate hearings and deliberations as well as other public-affairs programming.
C-SPAN selected Traficante, an eight-year veteran at Eisenhower Middle School, on the strength of an application that explained how she already uses many of the network’s resources in her civics classes “They have such good examples of everything I teach,” says Traficante. “I’d like to be even more informed of the different ways their resources can be used.”
She credits C-SPAN not only for the breadth of its coverage, but for making it easy for teachers to edit pieces of Congressional debates or hearings and save the clips in ways that can be shared easily with students through Google Classroom.
Eighth-grade social students have learned about checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution, for example, using C-SPAN’s clips of legal arguments in the 9th Circuit Court against the Trump Administration’s travel ban. The same lesson also included clips of an effort in Congress to override President Obama’s 2016 veto of legislation to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
C-SPAN expects that attendees in the all-expense-paid conference will share what they learn with colleagues back home. Traficante says Eisenhower’s Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) ensure that resources she discovers during the conference will be shared with her colleagues Bill Holzapfel and Jamie Getradjman in eighth grade social studies.
An Annual Party for Visitors to WyckoffPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 9/4/2018 6:00:00 AM
An Annual Party for Visitors to Wyckoff
Eisenhower students turned a Thursday afternoon in May into a day at a carnival for 85 young students from the Oasis after-care program in Paterson.
The middle school’s React Club and Student Council were responsible for transforming the gym, cafeteria, and a computer lab into a carnival atmosphere, which featured an array of games and activities. Face-painting, tightrope walking, card tricks, bean-bag toss, cupcake decorating, and sand art competed for attention with scooter races, basketball, a prize wheel, and an online Kahoot quiz game.
The theme varies from year to year, but the party has become an annual tradition for a decade or more and is very popular with the students of Oasis. Attendance in the after-care program varies daily, according to Oasis staff members, but jumps up substantially each year on the day of the trip to Wyckoff.
Eisenhower students wore cardboard carnival hats and Student Council advisors Nicole Moschella and Aldo Cascio rented a hot dog cart and popcorn machine to add to the carnival atmosphere. React students baked dozens of cupcakes for the Oasis students to decorate.
“This is a fun event that our students look forward to each year,” says Tom DeLoughry, who is an advisor to the React Club along with Sue Dobson. “They deserve credit for choosing the theme each year and developing the activities for their Oasis guests.”
“It’s great to see our kids hustling back and forth to the kitchen with big trays of hot dogs and pizza slices for their guests,” DeLoughry adds. “This is what community service and giving back is all about.”
Success for Wyckoff Summer AcademiesPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 9/4/2018 6:00:00 AM
Success for Wyckoff Summer Academies
The Wyckoff Summer Academies made the move to Eisenhower Middle School this year with more than 220 students registered, which was more than twice last year’s head count.
Students from a robotics class show off their robotic arm designs.
Course offerings were varied, but the common theme was fun activities that extended students’ learning in a relaxed atmosphere. Forensic science, baking, cooking, rocketry, robotics, percussion, and friendship bracelets were just a few of the offerings that educators from Wyckoff’s schools developed for the summer.
Dr. Kuder the Superintendent of Schools said, "I'd like to thank Dr. Pepe and all of the teachers and student volunteers for an incredible summer program." "The program that Dr. Pepe has developed with her staff is impressive and I look forward to hearing about more exciting offerings next year."
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