Wyckoff Schools Today
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Parents, Students Connect at Makerspace NightPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 3/4/2019 10:15:00 AM
The night was dark and cold, but Washington School’s cafeteria was crowded with hundreds of people - students, parents, and grandparents - taking advantage of the chance to explore makerspace activities normally enjoyed during daylight hours.
Principal Scott Blake and about a dozen of Washington’s teachers were on hand to greet visitors who set their own course through an array of stations that included everything from making light-up Valentine’s Day cards to constructing towers of paper cups to assembling duct tape “flowers.”
One corner had a steady stream of visitors all night who were eager to watch Sphero, a small spherical robot, roll through puddles of blue, yellow, and white paint that art teacher Amanda Reid periodically poured onto brown paper on the floor. “More yellow paint, more yellow paint,” shouted one boy, cheering on Reid’s expanding puddle as he waited his turn to use the iPad that controlled Sphero. The artwork created by the young Sphero drivers was destined to live on in some way at Washington, Reid said.
Nearby, teams of students worked together on the floor using dozens of paper cups to build a variety of structures that included walls, towers, and even a pyramid. At one cafeteria table, old-fashioned Legos competed for attention with IO Blocks, a newer version of snap-together plastic pieces.
Another popular feature was Ozobots, which are robots about an inch in diameter that are capable of following patterns that students created with colored markers on white paper. One color might cause the Ozobot to speed up, while another might cause it to reverse direction. While some students quickly scribbled patterns, others planned each line and color choice carefully as a programmer might plan lines of code.
The makerspace initiative throughout Wyckoff’s schools is intended to get students to learn by doing. They come up with their own ideas, test them out, and then modify what they are doing based on what they’ve observed.
The February 7th night at Washington followed similar events a week earlier at Coolidge and Lincoln and preceded one at Sicomac a few days later. All of them are part of the three-year-old Connected Parents Series, which will feature Math Night, Art Night, and Family Block Play in the weeks ahead at the various schools.
Stacey Linzenbold, the District’s supervisor of special projects, coordinates the Makerspace Nights and was not surprised by the large turnout as she surveyed the scene at Washington. The first year the Makerspace Nights were in April where they had to compete with baseball, soccer, and other springtime, after-school option, she said. “We get a lot more attendance in January and February,” she noted. “It gets the students out of the house and parents love to see what the students are doing.”
As the event drew to a close, the most active corner was still full of students who were combining tape and cardboard to build imaginative structures that some proudly carried out the door to take home. “It’s heartwarming because kids still love that stuff,” said Linzenbold.
Interim Superintendent Is Retained Through 2019-20 School YearPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 3/4/2019 10:10:00 AM
Board of Education President Rob Francin has announced that Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Feifer has agreed to continue serving in his post through the 2019-20 school year.
Francin’s announcement came in a February 14th letter to the Wyckoff community, which also revealed that job interviews in the search for a full-time Superintendent had not yet produced any viable candidates for the position. “We have very high expectations for our next superintendent, and while we were impressed with the quality of candidates, we do not believe that any of them would be the right choice to lead our district at this time,” Francin wrote.
Former Superintendent Rich Kuder, who had served since 2010, announced his retirement last summer and left the post at the end of December. The Board hired Dr. Feifer, (at right in photograph above with Dr. Kuder) a 46-year veteran administrator, to guide the District during a search and transition process that was expected to extend into this summer. Dr. Feifer’s contract now has been extended through the next school year to give the Board more time to attract and evaluate additional candidates.
“While this is not the outcome that we were all expecting,” Francin wrote in his letter, “we firmly believe that it is essential to find the right candidate for our schools who can provide long term visionary leadership for this critical position.”
One key to attracting more applicants could be an increase in the annual salary for the position, which New Jersey law caps at $169,689 for a district of Wyckoff’s size. Wyckoff’s Board has joined a number of other New Jersey districts in asking Gov. Phil Murphy to relax the state limits so they can try to attract candidates who might otherwise make more money as principals or as superintendents in New York State.
Register Now for Wyckoff Summer AcademiesPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 3/4/2019 10:06:00 AM
March winds have not yet brought April showers, but many of Wyckoff’s teachers and parents are already thinking about summer. And the Wyckoff Summer Academies are now accepting registrations for a large variety of classes ranging from pre-K to 8th grade.
Last summer was the largest yet for the summer program as registrations more than doubled from previous years. Students had a great time and many parents praised the experience for their children and for themselves. “Thank you for giving my daughter great instruction and loving care. I know that her transition to kindergarten will be seamless,” said one parent. “The teachers seemed very engaged and I liked seeing the pictures posted of what they were doing,” said another parent.
Dr. Barbara Pepe, director of the summer academies, says class offerings are even more diverse this year. "It's the whole gamut from arts and crafts all the way to mathematics," she says. Popular offerings like “Safety Town” for pre-K students will be back, but new classes related to painting, ceramics, mosaics, filmmaking, and Photoshop are being added. All are taught by teachers licensed and certified in New Jersey, nearly all of whom work in Wyckoff’s public schools during the regular school year.
But students in the Summer Academies do not have to live in Wyckoff, Dr. Pepe points out. The program accepts registrations from residents of other towns as well, which means Wyckoff parents might want to give their children a chance to experience a class alongside cousins or friends who live in another town.
The Summer Academies operate two two-weeks sessions. One session begins on July 8 and the other begins on July 22. A school day can include up to four 45-minute classes. Each class costs $100 for the two-week session. Additional information and directions for registering can be found on the Summer Academies' webpage.
“Don't wait,” says Dr. Pepe. “Classes are limited in size. Enroll early before popular classes close out."
Eisenhower's TV Studio Gets MakeoverPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 3/4/2019 10:05:00 AM
The ETV morning television show at Eisenhower has been an innovator among middle schools throughout its 17-year history. But the show has taken on a modern look and feel this school year following the redesign and construction of a state-of-the-art studio this past summer.
The school flipped the blueprint on the first-floor space that ETV has long occupied. The old classroom area with rows of desktop computers is now a spacious, modern studio. And the old cramped studio space is now repurposed as a control room full of technology and off-camera students who get the eight-minute program on the air every day during homeroom.
Angelo Bonavitacola, an Eisenhower technology teacher who runs ETV with colleague Marc DeBlock, says the upgrade actually began last school year when the program started broadcasting in high definition. Four new HD cameras, a video switcher, and new software made it possible to deliver a sharper image and to stream the program live on YouTube.
But the change in the studio happened this summer after Bonavitacola had traveled to Manhattan with now-retired technology teacher Harold Olejarz, Eisenhower Principal Chris Iasiello, and Assistant Principal Chris Giordano to visit NBC’s studios. Wyckoff parent Mike Chico got the group access to several different studios at NBC and what they saw helped them develop a plan for the ETV studio in collaboration with Blairsets LLC, a set-design company.
The new set incorporates Eisenhower’s blue school color with a desk and tall chairs in front of a background that features photos of the school and of high-tech components. Bonavitacola points out a new green wall that has enabled ETV to add a daily weather segment featuring a student standing in front of a projected map. “We’ve put them in a real-world environment,” he says.
Iasiello credits Eisenhower’s PTO will providing the vast majority of the $35,000 spent on upgrading the technology and the studio. He also lauds Bonavitacola for leading the redesign. “We're lucky to have Mr. Bonavitacola, who has a background in the television industry. Having him as a guide to put this into place has been a luxury.”
“The show has drastically improved,” Iasiello adds. “It looks great, It sounds great. They’re using cutting-edge technology. The best part is kids are excited to enter this amazing new space.”
In addition to streaming on YouTube, ETV can be seen live every morning at 8 on Optimum Channel 77 and Fios Channel 42.
Renee Kaspar Joins the Board of EducationPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 3/4/2019 10:01:00 AM
The start of 2019 has brought a new member to Wyckoff’s Board of Education following the November election of Renee M. Kaspar, a human resources executive who has lived in Wyckoff for four years.
Kaspar says she has specialized in hiring technologists and thinking about future workforce needs, so she is especially interested in how Wyckoff’s schools are preparing students in STEM and other areas. “I feel we do it well in Wyckoff, but the world is changing fast and we need to be able to pivot really quickly,” she says.
Kaspar’s daughter, Sophie, is a fifth grader at Lincoln School where Renee has been a member of the science fair committee for the last three years. Mother and daughter also enjoy going together to hackathons and other STEM-related programs. “To see the kids light up, that’s my motivation,” she says.
Diversity is another key issue for Kaspar, who compliments former Superintendent Rich Kuder for the cultural competency initiative he began in the District. Her experience in human resources, she says, has confirmed for her the importance of preparing young people to work with people of all different backgrounds. “I feel like we’re kind of insulated in our town and it creates great risk because, for our kids, 60 percent of the population in the future is non-white,” she says. “Performing at a high level means collaborating with groups and teams and allowing that diversity to flow in various approaches.”
Kaspar’s current post is chief people officer at Octane Lending, which makes loans to buyers of recreational vehicles. Her résumé includes human-resources positions with Thomson Reuters, eBay, Amazon.com, Merck-Millipore EMD, Fidelity Investments, and General Electric Healthcare. Raised in Cresskill, Kaspar has a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a law degree from Whittier Law School.
Her victory on Election Day in November gave Kaspar the Board seat formerly held by Frederic Farcy. The election also brought a win for incumbent Board member Georgina Nico who earned her second term.
2 Sports Teams at Eisenhower Are ChampsPosted by Thomas DeLoughry on 3/4/2019 10:00:00 AM
The trophy case at Eisenhower Middle School has become more crowded this school year after championship victories by the boys’ soccer team in the fall and the boys’ basketball team this winter.
The basketball team earned its hardware with a hard-fought 70-60 win on February 13th over rival Franklin Avenue Middle School of Franklin Lakes. The Eisenhower gymnasium, which was packed with loud Wyckoff and Franklin Lakes fans, gave the game a championship feel from the opening tip-off.
Mr. Finale, Brady L., Phil V., A.J. M., Michael S., Max W., Alex J. (with trophy), James M., Cole D., Peyton S., Jack D., Zach S.
The championship capped a 12-1 season for the team, which was led by Coach Doug Finale, an Eisenhower science teacher. He says the team had success because seventh- and eighth-graders played well together despite the fact they had not been on the court together very much in the past.
“Kids had different roles than they’ve had on other teams, but they took those roles and did them well,” Finale says. “We had a very good shooting team this year,” he add. “Kids could shoot the 3-pointer and, defensively, they were a hard-nosed team that played with a lot of effort.”
The soccer team, meanwhile, earned its trophy in November in a championship match that was also against Franklin Avenue Middle School. The victory capped an undefeated 10-0 season for the Generals.
Antonio S., Andrew F., Evan R., Emilio S., Jayden O., Sean M., Nick M., Tommy S., Gabe T., Cole D., Anthony G., Jacob K., Robbie A., Jake R., Antonio D.,Kevin M., Travis H. Not pictured: Patrick M.
Coach Aldo Cascio, a Spanish teacher at Eisenhower, says the team played well because most had experience together on the Torpedoes soccer team. “They had a lot of familiarity with each other and were very friendly with each other,” Cascio said. “The boys anticipated each other’s actions and movements and, also, a lot of the kids were willing to play out of position to give everybody equal playing time.”
Eisenhower’s girls’ teams also excelled this school year. The soccer team made it all the way to the championship game, which was lost in a penalty-kick shootout after two overtimes failed to decide the match. The girls’ basketball team advanced into the playoffs and posted a winning record for its season.
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.”
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