“Into every life a little rain must fall…but we are glad it falls on us together.”
This wonderful quote was found on a card I recently received from a family in Lopatcong Township. It is a very unique quote upon which to reflect on all of my very special years in Lopatcong Township. The children, staff and community will always be very special to me and I thank all of you for the time I was permitted to be part of your school family. You are forever engrained in my heart.
As is often the case in any endeavor, there have been days filled with sunshine and those with some rain showers. However, through it all, the children have remained at the forefront of all decisions made. As you continue in the months of school ahead, I ask that you remain dedicated to our children and work to support them in all aspects of their ever-changing world! Many things are coming very quickly to all public schools from the New Jersey Department of Education, and I hope that together, the district will persevere. As stated in the newsletter of last March, the educational decisions that we make today will certainly have an impact on generations to come. The sun will shine and the rain will fall, but together we will continue to make the best decisions for our children. I am sure this will happen under future leadership, including the leadership of your interim superintendent, Dr. William Caldwell.
In closing, please remember that your opinion counts and we want to hear what you are thinking regarding the educational programming in our district. Your actions will certainly have an impact in shaping both today’s and future generations through both sunny and rainy weather! Please consider attending any and all of our upcoming Board of Education meetings. It is budget season and we have been working diligently to provide the best for your children as is possible. Best wishes for a healthy and happy future in Lopatcong.
Recently I finished the middle school novel entitled Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Wonder is the story of ten year old August “Auggie” Pullman who was born with extensive abnormalities of his face and has been home-schooled through his fourth grade year. In fifth grade he enters a school for the first time and in my opinion finds out just what true friendship is. As a school superintendent I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and totally identified with this young man trying to become a part of a school at such a challenging time in his young life. I could identify with his finding out just what friendship means while traversing through the demands of school on a daily basis. There is one point in the story where he and his sister, Olivia or just “Via” to some, are talking and he states that he just cannot go back to school again. I believe that many of us can relate to a time when things just seemed so difficult that we could not bear to face the same folks again for fear of continued rejection and ridicule. In this novel, the principal quotes passages about the life of a gentleman of the nineteenth century. He notes that this person talked about the “…nature of one’s kindness…power of one’s friendship…test of one’s character…strength of one’s courage.” Young Auggie certainly emanated these traits throughout the book and I am certainly sure that many middle school students will absolutely be enthralled by this piece of literature. I found myself crying at the end of this novel – tears flowing for the right reasons!
With 2013 already flying by, I hope that each of us reflects on our kindness, friendship, character, and courage. We can learn a significant amount of information from a beautiful middle school novel – I know I did! I also related the information gained to all of the new things that we are being mandated to do by the state. There are so many things happening at once, that we often find ourselves fearing things just like in the novel. With patience, guidance, tolerance, and understanding, we will get through it all…it just takes time! Together, just as the main character in the novel found, we can face our fears of rejection and ridicule if they are there. The power of working together and finding strength in each other is both powerful and positive. Let’s work together as a home and school so that we can continue to assist our children to be the best that they can be!
This novel certainly had quite an impact on me as I reflected and used my “Text to Self” and “Text to World” connections. Trust me when I say that many of our students know just what I am talking about when I mention connections. At the conclusion of the novel (without giving away the ending) let me say that a teacher is highlighted for the specific quotes he asks students to write about as part of their journal entries. Now I know that sounds familiar to many! August Pullman has his own quote at the conclusion of the novel that goes like this, “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.” Think about that one – if each of us takes the time to acknowledge something someone has done or takes part in, imagine the feeling that person would have…quite the standing ovation. As a matter of fact, that noticing is part of a domain in the new teacher evaluation system. I believe many of us already have that one solidly down!
As many of you know, I am a reading addict. There is so much to learn from literature and so much of it can apply with the connections we make – just as our teachers help our students acknowledge making connections on almost a daily basis! I hope this new year brings all of us a little bit of extra time to read and reflect. Have a wonderful new year with your families! Keep that home and school connection growing strong, and think about joining us at any of our upcoming school events!
Welcome January 2013! Although I am sure you enjoyed your children at home during the winter break, we are anxiously awaiting their return to school on January 2nd. There is a quote on my Susan Winget perpetual calendar that states the following: “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” With the unpredictable weather that winter brings our way each year, this is certainly an appropriate quote. We can’t control the weather or the conditions it brings along with it; however, we can control our attitudes towards things on a daily basis. Hence, if we all try to bring our own sunshine along, what a positive presence that will have on all life’s outlooks!
One of the many things that we have been working on in our district is the required teacher evaluation system that the state is implementing. In the fall, we had a committee that met diligently to go over the approved models. Representatives from the teaching staff, parents, board, and administration gave of their time to be part of this important committee. As an outcome of these meetings, the committee chose the Charlotte Danielson Teacher Evaluation Model. Additional information about this model can be found on the following website:
http://www.teachscape.com/. You can also find information on the New Jersey Department of Education website (http://www.state.nj.us/education/EE4NJ/) that specifically addresses how the system will benefit students and parents. To paraphrase the information found on this site, evaluations systems that are meaningful are critical components of improving the academic achievement of our students. With this in mind, it is important to note that our students deserve the best teachers and according to the site, “meaningful evaluations will help teachers improve practice.” In Lopatcong, we are blessed to have many outstanding teachers who welcome a system to help all of us improve. We welcome your input into the process as well, and also continue to welcome your participation in all aspects of our school.
As we move ahead to a brand new calendar year, I encourage you to continue to be a part of our school district and your child’s education in any way that you can. Please adhere to the events on the revised calendar and those that may be scheduled for involvement at either school.
Tuesday, January 3, 2013 (7:00 meeting start) – Lopatcong Township Board of Education reorganization meeting in the Middle School Instrumental Music Room
Friday, January 11, 2013 (7:00 start) - Lopatcong PTA Movie Night for district students
January 24th through January 26th – Drama Club Presentation: Weekday evenings begin at 7:00 and the Saturday performance begins at 3:00.
There is much to be a part of in our district and we hope that you will be able to be involved in some way. I look forward to seeing you at many of our future events. Best wishes again for a wonderful 2013!
With the 2012 school elections behind us our school district should now continue its looking forward to the goals and objectives that the Board has put in place. The new Board members will be sworn in at an early January reorganization meeting; these members include Mr. David Corrado, Mr. Bruce Hall and Mr. William Taggart for three year terms and Mr. Terry Glennon for a one year term. Your support would certainly be appreciated as these gentlemen join or continue on the Board with a strong focus on the mission statement of the district: “…to provide our students with the educational foundation and environment to realize their full potential, to be contributing members of a global society, and to become lifelong learners.” We welcome you at any of our Board meetings and encourage you to participate and stay informed.
Further, the unexpected consequences of Superstorm Sandy should be a reminder to all of us just how fortunate we are, especially at this time of year. An announcement on our website offers a number to call in the event that someone you may know has been displaced from his/her home due to the hurricane and is residing temporarily in Lopatcong. In addition, it should remind us to make sure that each of us is registered for our School Messenger system so that notifications can be sent to all who are registered. I would also like to remind you to please continue to check our website (www.lopatcongschool.org) regularly for updates. We work diligently to provide information in a timely fashion and encourage you to review the information provided for you. Should you have comments or concerns regarding information provided or happenings at the school, please feel free to reach out to us.
As the second marking period begins, I believe that you have had the opportunity to meet with your child’s classroom teacher to receive updates on his/her academic achievement. Should you still have questions or concerns, I would encourage you to contact your child’s teacher and ultimately the building principal if needed. In December, there should be information regarding the Lopatcong Township School District’s before and after school programs. I would again encourage you review the information and contact your child’s teacher first regarding any program offerings that may be occurring.
Our Special Education Parent Advisory Committee met on October 17th and suggested that an assistive technology program be arranged as well as a survey mailed home to parents of children with special needs regarding program options and dates/times. At this time, we have very few surveys returned and very few folks registered for the assistive technology program. This program is being held twice in an effort to accommodate schedules – Wednesday, November 28th at both 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at the middle school. Please join us so that we may share some of the information that we have acquired to assist in the learning process. I also welcome you to the next Parent Advisory Committee Meeting to be held in February. Reminder notices will be mailed to your homes as a courtesy with additional information available on our website. Again, should you have any questions, please contact the child study team office at extension 2800.
As the spirit of the holiday season is upon us, please take the time to be involved in your child’s education. Cherish the special family times you have together and may 2013 bring you all the best that is possible!
Living and Learning in Lopatcong,
Mrs. Vicki Pede
dreams into space
like a kite,
and you do not
know what it
will bring back,
a new life,
a new friend,
a new love,
a new country.”
by Anais Nin
So much newness is upon us at every turn and we need to welcome this newness as best we can. One season turns into another just as one school year evolves into another. New classes, new teachers, new learnings, and new opportunities seem to be present at every twist. The poem I chose above is from a magazine that I read over the summer. The upcoming week’s forecast certainly seems to have ample wind as part of the weather. Along with that, it appears that many of us may be in our homes for safety and security. Take that opportunity to “dream” of new things that we wish for each other for the upcoming school year. November promises to include lots of opportunities for new beginnings and the time that children spend “dreaming” may prove to help them set goals for the rest of the year – new goals to help them achieve even greater!
At this past month’s PTA meeting we had the opportunity to hear from two of our Board of Education candidates: Mr. David Corrado and Mr. Bruce Hall. Both gentlemen spoke of working to help our children succeed while working with all of the challenges that our district is facing. These gentlemen are running unopposed, and it is my hope that you will come to our Board of Education meetings to voice your opinions. If you have questions, please reach out to the schools for assistance that is able to be given. Often, we may not know of a problem unless told, so please follow the chain of command and assist us in helping you. The gentlemen running for Board seats will certainly be giving valuable time to our district’s efforts and I ask that you come out to assist us…we all should “dream” as big as we are able!
During this month, there are ample opportunities to share your “dreams” and take part in our school activities. We welcome you as part of American Education Week and parent-teacher conferences. I encourage you to work with your building administrators as they reach out to you for your involvement in these and other school activities. It was wonderful to see some parents take part in the middle school liaison committee this past week. This is a unique opportunity to work directly with the building principal so that your voice is heard. Another opportunity will occur on November 28th when Mr. Matt Shea, our technology director, will host two identical programs on assistive technology for parents of children with special needs. Letters will be mailed out the first part of November. I hope that we can count on you to attend. Circling back to the opening poem, the programs listed in this paragraph can only help us to “dream” even bigger. We need you to be a part of the “dream” in order to make things happen. Change can happen through our “dreams”, and together, we can assure that all of our children continue to move forward in their learning and growing. As the poem states… “Throw your dreams into space…and you do not know what it will bring back… Only together can we make a positive difference.
Recently, under the direction of our middle school counselor, Mrs. Conner, the middle school organized a display outside of our school in recognition of International Peace Day. The display, completed by our students, con-sisted of hundreds of pinwheels on our school lawn and is entitled “Pinwheels for Peace.” The beautiful display continues our efforts toward making a difference in not only our world, but also making a difference as individuals. Fur-ther, it also keeps the message inherent in Rachel’s Challenge moving forward. Hopefully, you were able to view this wonderful display, and I can tell you that being a part of the student’s efforts and program put together by our staff is such a humbling experience. It truly does make a difference in so many ways!
As October begins, please note that this display is such a perfect precursor into the theme that is emphasized by the state department of education during this month – that of Violence Aware-ness. During a specific week, schools throughout the state need to emphasize their efforts toward assisting our students in the need to be aware of such violence. As part of this recognition, the reports of violence and vandal-ism must be shared with the Board at a public meeting, and this must include all reported incidences of harass-ment, intimidation, and bullying throughout our district. It is with great pleasure and pride that I can say that the continued efforts of all staff members have certainly minimized any HIB violations in Lopatcong. In fact, at a re-cent School Safety Team meeting, Mr. Bonney shared how minimal our incidences actually are. As a home-school partnership, it is clear that our efforts are certainly paying off! To further solidify this partnership, I am pleased to share that our district is the recipient of the Child Assault Prevention (CAP) grant this school year. Some of you may remember, that we also received this two years ago and will again be able to repeat the pro-gram especially for those who have not yet experienced it. The Board supports the additional funding required for the program’s institution so that we can all keep our children safe!
In light of the activities noted above, namely International Peace Day and Violence Awareness Week, the picture book We Can Get Along: A Child’s Book of Choices by Lauren Murphy Payne, comes to mind. I keep this book in my office to share with folks, and as an everyday reminder of just how this connects with all of the messages we learn in school and at home. In her book, Ms. Payne shares messages with all of us on the power we each have to make good choices. The book concludes with quite meaningful words: “…Even though we are different, we can talk together. We can laugh, work, and play together. Or we can just be quiet together…We can get along.” The opportunities for social discussions with the listener of this simplistic story can be truly meaningful opportunities to open lines of communication in so many aspects of life. Consider taking a look at this simple text; I believe that you will be glad you did!
In conclusion, please consider attending our October 9th Board of Education meeting at the middle school. I will be sharing some of our efforts in violence awareness as well as our efforts in the implementation of the Harass-ment, Intimidation, and Bullying Law that went into effect last school year. Again this year, we offered ample training sessions in order to accommodate all of the folks who choose to volunteer in our schools. We appreciate your attendance at these sessions and are glad that you understand the importance of this mandated training. In addition, this is the Board meeting where the District’s state testing information is shared in a public format. The state has gone away from AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and implemented more of an individual monitoring of student growth. Please join us for this informational session. As always, I continue to ask you to be involved in your child’s education, no matter his or her age. Reach out to us if you have questions or comments as we con-tinue our efforts to become even better.
Living and Learning in Lopatcong,
Vicki Pede, Superintendent
Yes, it may be hard to believe, but it seems that summer has come to an end and school is just around the corner! It will be great to hear the sound of children throughout our hallways once again! Through the tremendous efforts of our summer custodial/maintenance staff led by Mr. Fleming, our schools are ready for students on Thursday, September 6, 2012! Our staff will be in school even before the students for mandatory trainings, program and grade level meetings, and training for the new language arts (writing) series on Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Again, it has been a very busy, but rewarding summer for all of us. The following new staff member will be there to greet you on your first day:
· Mrs. Gabriele Hingelberg – Middle School Vocal Music
There have been a number of changes at both of our district’s schools including the organization of Panther Period at the Middle School and the new Paws Period at the Elementary School. The principals will be sure to make you aware of the specifics of building changes as they did at the spring PTA meeting. In keeping with our Board approved goals, we are working on the analysis of individual student growth and even more closely examining individual student progress in meeting the content standards. Please note that all of this is directly in line with the New Jersey Department of Education’s reform initiatives. Further, please be aware that the District is beginning the After-Care Program to be held for students in kindergarten (P.M. only) through grade 4. Should you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Mrs. Theresa Nicinski, program coordinator/director. In addition, again through the cooperative efforts of the PTA, an extension of Rachel’s Challenge will be an integral part of our character education programming. We plan on also bringing appropriate developmental components of the program to the elementary school. The Board of Education and the Superintendent have adopted the following district goals for this school year. The goals are all intended to focus on improved education for our children and were approved at the August Board meeting as follows:
1. Continue to improve individual student progress in the areas of literacy, writing and math.
2. To develop a plan for the successful implementation of the new teacher evaluation model.
3. To measure the impact of the targeted instruction programs in the district including basic skills, gifted and talented and RTI.
Further, the Board has adopted the following Board of Education goals for the district:
1. Develop an action plan for renovation or liquidation of the Delaware Park School
2. To continue to improve community relations with all stakeholders
Recently, I was reintroduced to the story of Stone Soup, a 1947 picture book by Marcia Brown. In that book, soldiers need ingredients for the “stone soup” they are brewing in their large pot. The short of it is that townspeople who once would not give items for the pot, eventually decide to do so. My point is that if we all can bring something meaningful to our District pot of soup, think how much our treasures (students) will grow! I look forward to a year of successful giving so that this growth can be achieved on all ends. Some simple ways to add to the District pot may be to read or model reading with your family, register for volunteer training that will be forthcoming, sign up to be HIB trained if you haven’t received the two hour mandated training, or read up on the standards and reform initiatives of the NJDOE. We are all focused on the goals of educating our treasures! Welcome back to our schools this year as we all positively add what we can to our District pot of soup! We are anxious to get the year started on September 6th!
Living and Learning in Lopatcong,
It is hard to believe that another school year is quickly coming to a conclusion, but learning goes on every day of our lives – even in the summer! Surely, this has been a memorable school year in some way(s) for everyone; I know it has been a memorable one for me! As I am sure most of your schedules are truly hectic, please know that there is constantly an array of activity in our schools as well. Continue to check the calendar of events and notices that are sent home to advertise these school activities; we certainly look forward to your partnership. At this time of the year, many of us are getting ready to say brief goodbyes to friends and colleagues that have been a part of this year as we embark on yet another leg of life’s journeys! Some of the goodbyes we need to say this particular year are to two long standing teachers in our school district. These teachers, Mrs. Becky McDermott at the Elementary School and Mrs. Linda Kohl at the Middle School have dedicated their lives to the instruction of children. Words cannot express the gratitude for all of the positive impact they have had on our Lopatcong students and the programs here. A simple thank you is certainly not enough! To find replacements, the school district is committed to working diligently to assure that the children are taken care of to the best of our ability in the wake of all of the things bombarding public education. The district’s mission statement is at the forefront of our decision making!
As the end of the year has quickly come upon us, it would be advantageous for all to be able to include our last week’s schedule as part of our plans. With that in mind, note that our students will enjoy their last full day of school on Friday, June 8, 2012. Monday, June 11th through Friday, June 15th will be early dismissal days for all students. Lunch will be served on all days, except for the last day of school (June 15th). In addition, preschool and kindergarten children will also have a special schedule. A note to parents has been sent home with all of our children; the last week’s schedule is also posted on our website. Please note that except for the last day of school, our staff will participate in school-related activities during the afternoon times. For students and staff, our next school year begins after Labor Day! That calendar is also on our school website ( www.lopatcongschool.org ).
As those wonderful summer days come upon us, please remember that learning simply doesn’t end with the close of our calendar year. There are many of us who do work year round to assure a successful school year for our children and our staff. Keeping abreast of the educational trends, including the best way to connect teaching and learning remains around us at all times. We are proud of our Lopatcong students and want them to continue to be the best that the can be in all areas. We all continue learning each and every day…whether in school or enjoying the summer months!
As Phillip Done (winner of the Schwab Foundation Distinguished Teacher Award) states in his final chapter in 32Third Graders and One Class Bunny, “It’s never easy for me to let my little birds go…I erased the ‘1 Day Left’ on the corner of the whiteboard, closed the piano lid, took one last look around the room, turned off the lights, and locked the door.” It is difficult for so many of us to end a school year. Please enjoy your children no matter their age; we will miss seeing them each day as school lets out in just a blink of the eye! Have a great summer…and be ready to continue to learn and grow even more when September rolls around!
It is that time of year when we celebrate our Teachers of the Year. This year the two teachers who will be honored from our school district are Ms. Ruth Byrne from the elementary school and Mrs. Anne Bercaw from the middle school. At this time, we recognize all of the accomplishments of not only our honorees, but also all of the dedication our teachers have toward our students. When I presented their recognition awards to them this year in front of the students they teach, I was especially gratified and humbled. Ms. Byrne was the first teacher I hired upon my arrival to the Lopatcong School District and Mrs. Bercaw and I graduated from Phillipsburg High School the same year. How wonderful that they were both recognized! It is certainly true that both educators exemplify the true meaning of teacher and accept the honor on behalf of all of those educators who work toward helping our children to strive to be the best that they can be! These teachers will be honored this year at the County Teacher of the Year Ceremony on May 4th along with the other district teachers from our county who have been selected. Please take a moment to read their articles in this newsletter so that you can see the information to be included in the booklet distributed at this year’s recognition event. Congratulations go out to both of these fine educators! Lopatcong is proud to have both of them representing
On another note, I would like to remind you that our district calendar has been revised to reflect a reduction of the emergency days that had originally been included. Although the revised calendar has been sent home, we have also included it on our website so that you may access it at any time. As a result, our students and teaching staff will be enjoying an extended break in May as Friday, May 25th is now a non-school day. This is in line with the Phillipsburg School District and should help all of our families out. The other three school days were taken from the end of the year, and as such, school now ends on Friday, June 15th for students and teaching staff. The last full week of school (June 11-15) will be early dismissal days; a letter will go home in the next few weeks with exact times of dismissals. Graduation for eighth grade students will occur on Thursday, June 14th. It is also important to remember that the School Board elected to move our school elections to November 2012. At that time, the public will be able to vote for Board member seats that are open; these are also noted in the slide presentation. There have been several budget presentations to explain the necessary cuts to the public; the user-friendly budget and the budget presentation power point are both on our website for your convenience. Upon review, feel free to reach out to the business office or me if you have any questions or comments.
I must say that I serve this district with pleasure and always appreciate your partnership with our school district to support in any way that you are able. Please reach out to us so that we know what you are thinking in terms of education. With NJASK testing time upon us, we all are certainly feeling the pressure. Please assist us with sharing the importance of these state assessments with your children. Educating the whole child is important to all of us. I look forward to your continued support in the endeavors we are working on in our district.
Recently, my son and I visited a local bookstore during his Spring break and time at home. For some reason, he particularly enjoys this time with me as we usually spend an inordinate amount of time there and he absolutely knows my position on reading and how it opens even more doors for all of us. He left me for the Physics Section and I spent my time in the Educational and Children’s Sections. Needless to say, we both left with a number of quality purchases from a few different sections. One of my purchases was the 2nd edition of Classroom Instruction that Works, a professional book that our classroom walk-throughs are based on. Although I do have this purchase on my Kindle (and own the 1st edition), I knew I needed another copy for my use at school. Of course, we also have several copies at each of our buildings for professional use by our teachers. The information contained within its pages is even more important as budgetary and educational decisions are made that impact the quality of instruction our children desire and deserve. We all know that we have quality teachers; however, it is our job as administrators to work hard to improve the learning opportunities for our children.
The introductory chapter begins with a powerful quote by Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed from the book How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. The quote, “The only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction” is at the heart of the walk-throughs and the upcoming state teacher evaluation system. There is considerable research behind the strategies that have been identified and placed into categories that directly impact classroom instruction. As administrators, we have had additional training (beyond the college classwork) in addressing these strategies and working with teachers; teachers have also been exposed to the process through information shared at the building levels and a presentation from the company who produces the walk-throughs we currently ues. I would encourage you to view the administrative podcast on our website that discusses the classroom walk-throughs and was presented at one of our Board of Education meetings in the fall. The nine strategies are outlined as follows: (1) Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback; (2) Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition; (3) Cooperative Learning; (4) Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers; (5) Nonlinguistic Representations; (6) Summarizing and Taking Notes; (7) Assigning Homework and Providing Practice; (8) Identifying Similarities and Differences; (9) Generating and Testing Hypotheses. According to the authors and much of the New Jersey Department of Education’s messages, 21st century learners must be college and career ready, and as such, these strategies help to assist our students in this process.
With all of the new information being put upon us by the state along with the emphasis on improved student achievement, the direction of our funds to student learning and achievement is even more important. As you are aware, it’s that time of year when our Board of Education and the district administration have been working diligently together to create the 2012-2013 school budget. With the very steep increase in the high school tuition, a result of the loss of Abbott status, this has been an exceptionally arduous task in working to maintain our elementary and middle school programs at the level to which the public has become accustomed. The preliminary budget has been approved, and the budget presentation will be at the Tuesday, March 27th Board meeting to be held at the Middle School at 7:00 pm. I would strongly encourage the public to attend and offer comments and have your voice heard. The budget includes a cut in some positions, as well as some cuts in supplies and materials for our district. Please note that there are no new programs that can be offered, and although we are participating in the Race to the Top grant funding opportunity, we are only receiving a little over $3,000 to help in the area of professional development, an area that is necessary to support, especially in light of all being required by the DOE along with the implementation of the common core standards. In times such as these, a strong home-school connection is especially important as we continue to provide positive experiences for your child(ren) in our school system.