Thursday, December 29, 2011

Race To The Top: NJ Awarded $38 Million dollars in Federal Funds

Governor's Education News Service...
The U.S. Department of Education today announced that New Jersey has
been selected as a winner of its Race to the Top 3 grant competition.
New Jersey will receive $38 million in federal funds, half of which will
go to participating districts, and half of which will be used to support
the state's bold education reform agenda

The US Department of Education today announced that New Jersey has been
selected as a winner of its Race to the Top 3 grant competition. New
Jersey will receive $38 million in federal funds, half of which will go
to participating districts, and half of which will be used to support
the state's bold education reform agenda.

Governor Christie said, "New Jersey is on a path of bold education
reform, and over the past two years we have taken significant steps to
ensure that every child in New Jersey, regardless of zip code, will
graduate from high school ready for college and career. This award
today will help give educators in New Jersey the tools they need to be
successful and the support to meet our reform agenda goals."

As part of its Race to the Top 3 application, New Jersey selected four
objectives in line with the administration's education reform agenda:

Development of model curriculum and assessments for all core content
subject areas

Development and rollout of an online Instructional Improvement System
(IIS) that will serve as a platform for teachers to access the model
curriculum and other supports like formative assessments and
instructional tools

Implementation of the current teacher evaluation pilot program and the
creation of a principal evaluation pilot program

Expansion of high-quality school options by strengthening the
Department's charter authorizing practices Of these funds, roughly
two-thirds of the state's allocation will be spent on the development of
model curriculum and IIS. Last month, the New Jersey Department of
Education (NJDOE) outlined a plan to develop model curriculum for math
and English language arts in K-12 by September 2012, and all subjects
aligned with New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards by September
2013. This curriculum would consist of six week units of student
learning objectives tied to the Common Core State Standards, with a bank
of aligned formative assessments and instructional resources. These
resources would be optional for all teachers to use as a resource, but
may be required for the state's persistently failing schools if they do
not otherwise have high-quality curriculum. Focusing such a large
portion of RTT3 funds on these areas is another indication of the
NJDOE's investment in providing high-quality tools to educators to
implement high standards for all students.

"This injection of funding will have a transformative impact on teachers
and students across the state and allow us to aggressively pursue
important pieces of our reform agenda, such as implementing the Common
Core State Standards. These revolutionary new standards are aligned
with college- and career-readiness and will change the way we prepare
students for the 21st century. Over the past month, we have heard a
groundswell of support from districts across the state for this type of
model curriculum to ensure that the Common Core State Standards move
from a concept in Trenton to a tool for every classroom in the state,"
said Acting Commissioner Cerf.

Any district in the state will have the ability to sign up to
participate in the Race to the Top 3 award, and 50 percent of the award,
or $19 million, will be split between those districts that choose to
participate. In January, the NJDOE will provide details on the process
for districts to participate.

"From day one of the Christie administration, New Jersey has embarked on
a bold education reform agenda and has already begun to execute on a
number of the projects included in our Race to the Top applications.
This includes the development of a new teacher evaluation framework; the
development of a new school accountability system and the development of
seven Regional Achievement Centers that will provide targeted assistance
to help turn around the state's persistently lowest-performing schools,"
said Acting Commissioner Cerf. "On top of this, we have restructured
the entire state Department of Education around the four building blocks
of success that will have the biggest impact on student achievement:
academics, performance and accountability, talent, and innovation. This
award today will help us to accelerate the tide of reform across New

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taxpayers Beware: Our Schools are In Crisis and the Spending Continues!

Recommendations given to the Englewood Board of Education Based on Synopsis of Audit for the year ended June 30, 2011. The taxpayers of Englewood paid for this Audit.

I. Administrative Practices and Procedures
It is recommended that the issue regarding the Superintendent's employment contract be
resolved with the State Department of Education.

II. Financial Planning, Accounting and Reporting
It is recommended that:
  1. The payment of compensated absences (ie. unused sick and vacation leave benefits) be made in accordance with State regulations and approved employment contracts. 
  2.  Internal control procedures be reviewed and revised to ensure funds are available prior to contract awards. Furthermore, contracts be encumbered when awarded. 
  3. Expenditures be classified and charged to the appropriate budget line accounts in accordance with the Uniform Minimum Chart of Accounts for New Jersey Public Schools
III. School Purchasing Program
*It is recommended that continued efforts be made to ensure purchases and contract awards in excess of the bid or quote threshold are made in accordance with the Local Public School Contracts Law. 

IV. School Food Service
It is recommended that the District review the prior year accounts receivable balance outstanding at years end and appropriate action be taken to clear it of record.

V. After School Day Care and Summer Programs
*It is recommended that revenue collection and reporting procedures in the After School and Summer Child Care Programs be reviewed and revised to provide greater internal controls over amounts collected.

VI. Student Body Activities
*The District develop and implement financial reporting and internal control procedures related to the financial transactions of the high School, Middle School and Athletic Accounts.
VIII. Facilities and Capital Assets      There are none
IX. Miscellaneous      There are none

X.  Status of Prior Year's Audit Findings/Recommendatins
A review was performed on all prior years' recommendations and corrective action was taken on all prior year findings, however, further action is required for the recommendations denoted with an asterisk (*).
The above was copied word for word from the Auditor's Report for Englewood Board of Education. The Auditor projected that 2 years down the road EPSD would suffer financial hardship. This means that the taxpayer will suffer down the line. The budget is in shortfall/danger and under attorney review. It is clear from the above assessment that fiscal responsibility is sorely lacking. The items in red with the asterisk are recommendations from previous years that have been ignored. Why was it reported that EPSD was signing a lease agreement with the City for Liberty School and for Saint Cecilia? And by the way, whatever happened to the 5.8 million dollars collected for the selling of Liberty School? Isn't that enough money to employ all of the new teachers that Dr. Carlisle dragged into the fray?

Is anyone surprised that EPSD does not listen to Auditors that taxpayer money funds to help clear up the mess made by persons who do not adhere to the rules? Is anyone surprised that the Board Meeting of December 19, 2011 ended with 12 A 63 Request Proposal for the hiring of an expert consultant to assist the Superintendent and the Board in the fiscal Operations of the District?  Taxpayers, now we must pay the bill created by the person who will fix their fiscal mess.

Three Letters From the Executive Superintendent
Three letters documenting the communication between the state and EPSD were distributed to the public. It is very clear that the board is not in compliance. Hypothetical situation...What if student A was given a chance to redo an assignment for a better grade? If he/she hands in the exact same paper each time it is submitted, will the grade go up? No way! It might even go down, because the student is demonstrating that he/she has learned nothing. Why were no communications from George Garrison III/Board of Education to Mr. Gilmartin included? It seems we only have access to part of the puzzle.

                                           How are the children?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Are Our Schools In Crisis? Is State Aid For Englewood City In Jeopardy?

Special Meeting of the Englewood Board of Education...December 19, 2011
The hour is late. Getting straight to the point. The Englewood Board of Education is still NOT in compliance with the State Board of Education's mandate. They are instead gearing up to fight the state. They are listening to that discordant drummer again.

Teachers and parents attended again to support teachers who have gotten pink slips telling them that they are going to be laid off. Those of us who watched the parade of new hires are not surprised. We watched as the Candidate for Superintendent and the Board of education hired one after another until they were seriously overstaffed. This board and Dr. Carlisle are still hiring when faced with some serious fiscal issues. We were there when these new teachers were promised a full year of work. They deserve the full year of work.

For almost a year now, the energy of the board has been focused on Dr. Carlisle and his lack of a contract.  We have listened to the excuses given by the board. Now the State Department of Education has given an order to a group of people that generally do not follow orders or the law...

The following is the last paragraph of a letter to the Englewood Board of Education detailing the actions that the state is prepared to take if the board does not comply.

Excerpt of letter from Robert Gilmartin
Executive County Superintendent of Schools

December 12,2011

"....Therefore and in accord with the caution given to the Board regarding non-compliance in my correspondence of November 18, 2011 be advised that, due to the Board's failure to comply with my directive, the commissioner shall direct that the state aid payment to the district scheduled for December 22, 2011, in the amount of $439,846.00, will henceforth be withheld until the Board complies with the directive in my correspondence of November 18, 2011, which, as noted above, required "a proposed superintendent contract containing an amount for total annual base salary not higher than $167,500". Finally and in closing, be advised that, so long as the Board continues to be non-compliant, future state aid payments may also be withheld at the discretion of the commissioner."

                                    How are the Children?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Governor's News Service: "Season of Service"

Governor's Education News Service
Department of Education and Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
collect more than 125,000 holiday cards from students for US military
service men and women as part of Governor Christie's "Season of Service"

For Immediate Release:
Justin Barra
Allison Kobus
Dec. 16, 2011

Trenton, NJ -As part of Governor Christie's "Season of Service," the
Department of Education and Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
announced today that they have collected more than 125,000 holiday cards
from across the state for U.S. military service members. Acting
Education Commissioner Chris Cerf and Col. Mark Preston from the
Department of Military and Veterans Affairs collected letters and
participated in a "Holiday Greetings to the U.S. Military" school
assembly today at Greenwood Elementary School in Hamilton Township.

"These cards and letters are incredibly meaningful to our service
members stationed overseas and they provide an opportunity for us to
show our appreciation for their service to our country," Acting
Commissioner Cerf said. "Just a couple of weeks ago, we asked schools
across the state to consider participating in the holiday cards and
letters project. The overwhelming response we received from our school
children is a heart-warming demonstration of patriotism and
volunteerism, showing that New Jerseyans truly care and support our
friends and neighbors in the U.S. Military."

"The holiday season is especially difficult for those service members
who are unable to spend it with their loved ones," said Brig. Gen. James
J. Grant, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. "Although nothing
can extinguish the pain of being away from family during this time, our
troops will find comfort in the children's holiday cards and know that
Americans recognize their selflessness and commitment to our nation's

The Season of Service was inspired by 8-year-old Aiden McManus, a New
Jersey Hero who has been devoting his time and hard-earned money to feed
the homeless and those in need in Burlington County. Nearly 1.5 million
New Jerseyans are already positively influencing communities across the
state by volunteering their services through local groups, houses of
worship and civic organizations.

In addition to the event today, Acting Commissioner Cerf has
participated in several public service events in the month of December.
On December 15, Acting Commissioner Cerf tutored high school students in
Irvington as an example of ways that community members across the state
can give back to their public schools. On December 2, Acting
Commissioner Cerf participated in a holiday coat drive in Trenton.

In addition to the Mercer County assembly, Holiday Greetings to the U.S.
Military events are taking place in six schools around the state with
members of the State Board of Education.

Concurrent Event - Bergen County

Municipality, County - Woodcliff Lake, Bergen County
School - Woodcliff Middle School
School - Dorchester Elementary School
Events -assembly
NJDOE Representative - NJ State School Board Vice Chair Ilan Plawker

Concurrent Event - Essex County

Municipality, County - West Orange, Essex County
School - Gregory School
Event -assembly
NJDOE Representative - NJ State Board of Education Member Dorothy
NJDMAVA Representative - LTC. John Langston

Concurrent Event - Warren County

Municipality, County - Oxford Township, Warren County
School - Oxford Central School
Event -assembly
NJDOE Representative - NJ State Board of Education Member Jack Fornaro

Associated Event - Hunterdon County

Date and Time - Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, 2:30 to 3 p.m.
Municipality, County - Annandale, Hunterdon County
School - North Hunterdon Regional High School
Address - 1445 State Route 31, Annandale, NJ 08801
Event - Military personnel will attend Interact Club meeting, members
consist of over 400 students

Associated Event - Union County

Date and Time - Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, 10 a.m.
Municipality, County - Kenilworth, Union County
School - Warren G. Harding Elementary School
Address -426 BOULEVARD, KENILWORTH, NJ 07033-1529
Event -assembly
NJDOE Representative - NJ State School Board Member Jack Fornaro

NJ Department of Education Violence and Vandalism Report for 2009 - 2011

Trenton, NJ - The Department of Education today released the Violence
and Vandalism Report for the 2009-2011 school years. The report is
produced each year to transparently share self-reported incidents of
violence, vandalism, weapons, and substance use and possession from
districts. To support districts as they work to reduce incidents of
Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying, the department also provided
additional guidance to aid districts in implementing the new law,
P.L.2010, Chapter 122, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.

You may access it here:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Will the Confucius Classroom make Englewood Students College and Career Ready?

On December 1, 2011, a special meeting of the board of education was called. While the community at large waited impatiently for our board of education to comply with orders from the State Department of Education, EPSD was  preparing to embark on yet another experiment in which our children will be the guinea pigs.

Glenn Garrison, the board member in charge of the facilities committee gave a presentation summarizing his trip to China. The presentation seemed out of place in a board meeting. It was more like something to be presented to the Department of Commerce. He was very impressed with himself though. After the meeting, I questioned him about the feasibility of burdening the little ones in pre k and kindergarten with 3 languages. Once again, I strongly suggested that children should learn to read and write in English. Mandarin has been in the curriculum for over 2 years and the literacy scores have fallen tremendously. Mr. Garrison was clearly NOT concerned with this. He suggested that children should be able to read and write before attending school. He suggested that their parents should teach them. He also made it quite clear that he was not concerned with those that did not learn to read before first grade. This blogger is quite disgusted with Mr. Garrison's lack of interest in closing the achievement GAP that the Governor's Task Force has been set to investigate ways to close.

What will the Confucius Classroom do to help close the Achievement Gap? Will students read and write more efficiently? Will Math scores go up? Will students learn to be deep, critical thinkers? Will more students be college and career ready?

Will the program pay for itself? Will the Confucius Classroom mirror the national ones or will Englewood work the magic that it does so well and Englewoodize it? This process generally renders a program ineffective. We have examples of that here waiting to be evaluated.

How many programs do we currently have? How many of them have been assessed for effectiveness?

If you feel that your head has been involuntarily thrust into sand, rest assured, it is not your imagination. The sands of deceit have risen above our heads. Our district does not have a leader and the folks at the helm are desperately chasing flying dollars. Few are focused on the bottom line. What are the children learning?Children must learn to read and write in English. The tests are given in English. These test results chart the very lives of our children.

Which programs are working? Which ones are not working? Why do we insist on piling on more new programs that require new high priced teachers when we do not know how well the ones that we have already bought into are working? Perhaps we should invest in more calculators and make sure each board member has one and knows how to use it.

It is becoming more and more difficult to listen to board members lie outright about taxpayer money. People, we pay the salaries of the Mandarin teachers. The money from the Chinese government does not cover all costs. As you can see from the agreement they do send in materials such as books, software and other supplies, but the salaries are left to us. Why is there no freeze on hiring?

RESOLVED, the Board of Education approves the acceptance of funds from the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning to be used for the Confucius Classroom.  Program Description Amount               
Project IMAGE– Mandarin Language Immersion Program  (Confucius Classroom) $10,000.00
Page 5 of 16 October, 11, 2011 agenda. (Ten thousand dollars would not pay half of 1 teacher's salary.)

Asia Society: Partnership for Global Learning (Website)
The Model Agreement (standard form)

                                   How are the children?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2 Public Hearings of the Achievement Gap Task Force:

The Department of Education announces 2 December public hearings of the
College and Career Readiness Task Force - one in the north and one in the south

Trenton, NJ -The Department of Education today announced that the
College and Career Readiness Task Force will hold two public hearings in

  • One will be conducted on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. in the Student  Community Center-Davidson Room at the County College of Morris. 
  • The second will be held Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. in the New Campus Center at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

The purpose of the hearings is to gather input from the public on
educating students to the level of college and career readiness. The
public input will inform the recommendations in the task force's final
report which is due to the NJ Department of Education by December 31,

The College and Career Readiness Task Force is a group of K-12 and
higher education practitioners and business community representatives
that have two main responsibilities: clearly articulating the knowledge
and skills that students should master to be "college- and career-ready,"
and ensuring that New Jersey has the appropriategraduation requirements
and high school assessments in place to evaluate the mastery of these readiness standards.

Input from the public should address these critical questions that the
task force is charged with answering for the NJDOE in its final report:

1. What does college and career readiness mean?
2. What is the appropriate way to assess this level of student
3. What graduation requirements should be required, including
    comprehensive examinations and end-of-course assessments?
4. What process, benchmarks and timelines should be established to
    guide transition from the current system to the new system?

The Career and College Readiness Task Force will accomplish this 
charge by doing the following:

* Evaluating the degree to which the New Jersey High School
   Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and Alternative High School
   Assessment (ASHA) are appropriately gauging college and career readiness;

* Reviewing how other states are defining and evaluating college
   and career readiness;

* Recommending specific educational standards, course offerings,
   learning outcomes, graduation requirements, college entrance and
   placement requirements, and workforce readiness requirements;

* Identifying the means of measuring success for schools and
  districts including assessment tools to measure school completion and
  college entrance readiness that can be relied on by P-12, higher
  education and employers as a valid indicator of student readiness. The
  review will include recommendations concerning a new comprehensive
  exam and end-of-course assessments;

* Identifying data needs related to NJ demographics, school
   learning outcomes, completion and assessment, college entrance,
   retention and graduation, and demonstrated national best practice
   aligning school and college completion; and

* Establishing a state-level transition plan and timelines for moving from the existing system to the new system  

  • establishing a structure and process to support implementation of the school/college completion agenda;
  • engagement of appropriate constituencies, including teachers,college faculty, business leaders and others;
  •  identifying the need for professional development; and field-testing the new assessments.

The New Jersey School Board's Closing the Achievement Gap Task Force

 Trenton, N.J. - New Jersey State Board of Education President Arcelio
Aponte today announced that the board's Closing the Achievement Gap Task
Force has held initial meetings and soon will hold regional public
hearings to gather input on how to best address the state's academic
achievement gap.

The 10-member task force, which stems from the State Board's annual
retreat in June, was created to examine why many poor and minority
students in New Jersey do not score as well on state standardized tests
as their more-affluent and white counterparts.

"It is the State Board of Education's mission to help provide every
child in New Jersey with an excellent education regardless of their
race, ethnicity, socioeconomic group or sex," President Aponte said. "I
am confident that the State Board's Closing the Achievement Gap Task
Force will produce proven and practical methods that school districts
across the state can use to help all students achieve at high levels."

In 2010, black students in the fourth grade statewide scored
approximately 30 percentage points lower on NJASK in language arts and
mathematics than white students. The gap was slightly larger between
economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged students
on the grade four language arts NJASK, while the gap in math was
approximately 25 percentage points.

The task force's charge is to provide the State Board and policymakers
with recommendations for a statewide strategy to close the academic
achievement gap by addressing proven correlatives of poor academic
achievement. It will examine the themes of access; culture/climate;
expectations; and strategies.

"Closing the achievement gap and ensuring that all students, regardless
of zip code, graduate from high school ready for college and career is a
top priority of the Department," said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.
"I commend the State Board for taking this challenge head on, and look
forward to the results of this work."

The task force members include:
* James Boatwright - Former Director of Academic Support, The
   College of New Jersey;
James Boatwright pictured center in the suit and tie.
* Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago - Rutgers Board of Governors
   Distinguished Service Professor; Director of the Center for Strategic
   Urban Community Leadership; and Board Chair of the LEAP Academy
   University Charter School;
Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago

For your information:,,  Outstanding Woman Magazine, LEAP Academy Ground Breaking
Richard E. Constable, III is Governor Christie's Nominee for Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs,  On the Job Training Initiative

* Robert L. Copeland - Superintendent, Piscataway School District;
Robert L. Copeland

* Silvia Correa-Abbato - Assistant Superintendent, Union City
   School District;
Silvia Correa-Abbato

* Dr. Stephen Jose Hanson - Professor, Psychology Department,
   Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey;
Dr. Stephen Jose Hanson
Dr. Hanson is also Director of Rutgers Brain Imaging Center

* Carlos R. Moreno - Director of School Reform & Innovation - New
   Jersey, Big Picture Learning;
Carlos R. Moreno

* Dr. Michael Nettles - Senior Vice President and Edmund W. Gordon
   Chair of Policy Evaluation and Research Center, Educational Testing
* Dr. Dorothy Strickland - Member, N.J. State Board of Education
   and Professor Emerita, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Dr. Dorothy Strickland

Support for the task force is being provided by ETS, the Department of
Education and the Office of the Acting Secretary of Higher
Education/Commission on Higher Education.

The task force expects to hold multiple public hearings around the state
in the near future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are Our Schools in Crisis?: A Dedicated Parent Speaks Up For The Children

Liliana Saumet (Mrs. Vasquez)

Liliana Saumet (Mrs. Vasquez) The definition of acting principal is serving as a temporary measure until something more complete and permanent can be established.  And that is not what we asked for.  Today, we have taken a 360 degree turn to take us back where we started without a permanent principal for the Middle school.  Therefore, if you thought that by giving this title to Mr. Thomas will shut us up, you are mistaken; instead you have added more fuel to the fire.  

With this action you have not only spit at his face or ours but you have spit the faces of our children.

Dr. Carlise, when you came to the district, I trusted you, I believed in you, but today I feel betrayed, because you have let my kids down.  With this nomination and the article in the Sunday Record newspaper, I have come to the following conclusions, first you are only looking out for yourself, your main concern seems keeping the board happy so you can get the $200,000.00 yearly salary that you were offered.  Secondly, this avoidance to give Mr. Lamarr Thomas the title of permanent principal for Janis Dismus school, is due to the fact that indeed some members of the board have major personal issues with Mr. Thomas.   Unfortunately, in this war of egos the only people affected are my kids. 

Mr. George Garrison, in the same article you stated that Dr. Carlise was brought in for being the best choice for a low ranking District.  I ask myself, was the best overlooking a person that has served the District for 16 years, have been a good teacher, and has proven what he can do during his tenure as a vice-principal for the high school, and instead brought someone first from the Hackensack district that ranks low like us and whom turned the position down, and then overlooked him again by bringing someone that came from a charter school with a student body of less than 100 children and she left too.  Tuesday night was the honor roll ceremony at the middle school, where the student body is approximately 430+ students, and that night 216 students received a honor roll certificate.  Some people will say, that it was due to the changes implemented this year by Dr. Carlise and Mr. Macchia, but a lot has to do with the job that Mr. Thomas is doing everyday motivating and guiding our children, since if we don’t have a strong leader to implement the changes nothing would change.  So I asked the panel today, if this is not the best, what is your definition of the best?

When I fell in love with those kids at McCloud last year I committed myself to them.  It would be very easy for me to just take my child and move to another school and avoid all this conflict.  But unfortunately, I cannot abandon my kids, if no one will fight for them, I will.  Therefore, since I do not believe in gray areas, I will tell you the following.  I will not give up my efforts until Mr. Lamarr Thomas is made principal of Janis Dismus Middle School, even if that means going to President Obama himself. 

I will make it my personal crusade to make this submissive community wake up and smell the coffee and make them aware that yes their vote or lack of vote does not affect them directly, but it does affect their children.  I know that you are the giant now, but remember in the bible David defeated the giant.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are our Schools In Crisis?: Even the Children Know the Answer

My name is Jonathan Vasquez, I live at --- Engle Street, and I am a student at JDMS.  Two weeks ago I heard my mom ranting to my father about injustices, broken promises, submissive community and so on.  What really caught my attention though was when my mom said that if no one was going to watch out for the kids in the school, then who will?  I thought, and I believe I am talking for the entire school population, that Mr. Thomas was our actual principal.  My reasons are that in structure, schools are run as the country, and when the president, in this case the principal who happened to be Ms. Ortiz, steps down from authority the “vice-president”, in this case Mr. Thomas, would take over.  This did not happen though, and now we are stuck without a leader for the school, and as far as I know, Mr. Thomas has the qualifications to become a principal and he is well liked and known in the community, so really the only reasons that certain board members will not vote for him is because of personal reasons, and that is not right.

As adults, people are always asking us to do this or to do that, telling us how we should act and what their expectations of us are and so on.  But the problem is that, most adults hear us but do not listen to us, they look at us but do not see us.  That is what makes Mr. Thomas different, he not only listens and see us, but he motivates us every day to excel with his positive attitude and messages.  Mr. Thomas treats everyone the same with kindness and respect.  He shows us with actions and not words that he really cares about us and wants the best for us, he shows us how to be better students and better people. 

Therefore, I am respectfully asking you the board members, for Mr. Thomas to have the title of principal for JDMS.  I know that everyone in the district main wish is for the Englewood Schools to become one of the bests in the state, but for that strong leaders are needed to lead us there.  Archimedes once said “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”.  To me and I truly feel is the same thought of most of JMDS student body, Mr. Thomas is our lever.  Thank you.

                   Jonathan's actual speech to the Board of Education

                               *               *                *                 *
The statement above was read by the author, a 7th  grade honor student, at the November 17, 2011 school board meeting. Before listening to this young man and a group of Janis Dismus children speak, I did not think one way or the other about Mr. Thomas. I did not have any first hand information about his leadership qualities or abilities. I did know that  he did not enjoy the confidence of the Board President, because of remarks made by Mr. Garrison outside of the Municipal building after one of the "Meet the Candidates" sessions. A group of students from Jan Dismus Middle School attended the meeting and spoke up for the man that they thought was already their principal. These young people demonstrated great pride in their school and in their principal. It was obvious that Mr. Thomas was doing a job that was satisfactory to them and their parents. I was impressed with the children. We encourage and support education, not indoctrination.

Mr. Thomas has been running the middle school since September. The candidate suggested and appointed by the Board of Education and Dr. Carlise turned down the job after attending a meeting in the middle school during the summer. At this meeting, concerned parents were very vocal about what they thought was a poor plan for their school. Mr. Thomas was forced to step in and explain the plan and strategy utilized in reorganizing the failing school. Mrs. Ortiz (the appointed principal) does not hold a standard New Jersey Certification and works in a school with less than 100 students. Perhaps the challenge presented by Janis Dismus was slightly over her head and beyond her skill set.

   How are the children? If this young man is any indication, they are well.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are Our Schools In Crisis? Are We Prepared to Lose State Aid?

Englewood schools face state sanctions over superintendent salary.

How many of you were expecting this headline? Better yet, how many of you are prepared to stand up and scream to the heavens? "I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore!" 

When I first started questioning people about the CAP imposed on Superintendent salaries in New Jersey, I had no knowledge of this investigation conducted by the NJ State Department.  Tax Payers Beware: What you Don't Know Can Cost You!   Without being told one is able to connect the dots and see that the CAP on salaries was NOT an arbitrary decision. This investigation was conducted when a Democrat was in power in Trenton. The gross mismanagement of taxpayer's hard earned money knows no party line. The giant wormhole that grabs our cash continues to take money regardless of the  party affiliation of the Governor. I applaud Governor Christie for taking a stand. Yes, I applaud him. I said that. Read the document and you will understand why. Oh, and please take note that our "Poster Boy" was a major topic in this investigation.

Even if Englewood agrees to pay Dr. Carlisle the $167, 500.00 allowed under CAP, we all know that he will get much more under the table. So lets just be real here. He has already collected $10,000 that he did not EARN. This (bonus) was given to him for raising the scores of Dwight Morrow High School students on the HSPA. We all know that he was still in Port Chester when the HSPA was given.

If teachers, principals and other employees have to prove themselves, so should Superintendents. Our board President speaks of Dr. Carlisle turning districts around. HOW? I do not see the DATA DRIVEN EVIDENCE that this has happened anywhere that the man has worked as Superintendent. It does seem that he was a good Principal twenty years ago. I see no evidence that he was a great Superintendent. I did not see Port Chester trying to hold onto him. I did not see evidence that any of the districts in which he worked as Chief School Administrator tried to hang onto him. So Mr. Garrison III, stop insulting the intelligence of people who are avid readers and researchers. You simply diminish the small amount of trust "we the public" still have for you and this board.

It is my guess that the sanctions on our Board of Education do not rest solely on Dr. Carlisle's salary. Our Board threw away a man that served Englewood for over 25 years. Did anyone ever wonder why? Dr. Segal's contract was never properly completed either. When comparing the history of this situation, the two contracts blur together in a rather suspicious way. What is going on here? Oh, and Aaron Graham retired in October of 2010. Why did our Board send him a copy of Carlisle's supposed contract on November 3 or 4th? The date changes depending on which suburbanite reporter is writing the story.

In Parsippany, the Superintendent had a proven record. He was not entering into a contract for the first time. Our board attorney, Mark Tabakin represented the Parsippany Board of Education. (Me Thinks it is about time to assess our attorney) The Parsippany mayor spoke out against the board's actions. He took a stand for the people in the community. Where is our Mayor? Is he willing to climb down from the fence and take a stand for the children of this community and their taxpaying parents and guardians?

There is also documented evidence that the county Superintendent, Robert Gilmartin was in communication with the board. At a school board meeting on Thursday, March 31, 2011, we were given a copy of a letter from Gilmartin that had been shrunk down so small that it required a magnifying glass to read it. Read the letter. It is obvious to me that Mr. Gilmartin is doing his job. Is our Board of Education? Oh, and please stop reminding us that you all work for free. That is also insulting. We totally see what you gain.

There are some real issues here. If the state withholds 8 - 10 million dollars in state aid, the district will literally shut down. The favored Academy will not get funds from school choice. Out of town students will not be able to attend school here? Do you want to pay for these students to attend school here? Free and reduced lunch will disappear. Needy kids will not be able to eat lunch. Transportation, salaries, programs that help children achieve will suffer more than they already have. Property taxes will go through the roof. Schools must remain open. Reassess priorities. You have already demonstrated that your priorities are at odds with those of the Community as a whole. Start thinking about the children. Your children will and are also suffering. You must be able to see this.

We do NOT have:

  • No Chief School Administrator
  • No Assistant to Chief School Administer 
  • High Academic Expectations for ALL students (This does not seem to be a priority)
  • No Business Administrator 
  • No Board Secretary 
  • No properly qualified/certificated Director of Curriculum and Instruction
  • No Vertical and Linear Curriculum in all subject areas
  • No Middle School Principal
  • No Assistant Principal in McCloud School
  • No Attendance Officer for the district (especially for DMHS)
  • No bells on the High School Campus (The state already told BOE to fix this)
  • No Parent Conferences in the high school (What is up with this? Hiding from Parents?)
  • An integrated High School Population (2 children. I guess one is a stepchild. Cinderella under wraps)
  • A Properly certificated Athletic Director
  • A successful sports program for the first time in 80 years
What we do have is: 
  • A candidate for Superintendent who does not know New Jersey Law. 
  • Who does not show evidence that he is even interested in learning it. 
  • Who has held up the district for a year by focusing the attention on his contract, his needs. 
  • Who does not seem to be at all fiscally aware.
  • Who knows next to nothing about budgets. (Do you even use a calculator?)
  • Who hires too many teachers (WTF?)
  • Who suggests and approves numerous salary hikes that make no sense (whatever happened to raises based on exemplary service and experience?)
  • Who threatens parents with unwarranted law suits in writing
  • Who threatens to outsource any staff members who do not march to his discordant tune
  • Who accepts bonuses that he did not earn
  • Two schools that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress. (Literacy is a problem here. Children are not learning to read and write at an early age)
  • A board of education that has not complied with mandates to register for fingerprinting for criminal background checks. 
  • Board members who are in desperate need of training by the NJ School Board Association
  • A Board member whose allegiance seems to be to private education. So why is he even on our board?
  • A board of Education that persistently flouts mandates handed down by the State Department of Ed.
  • That clearly separates and favors segments of the town's population 
  • An elaborate tracking system that feeds into a segregated high school population
  • Board members who did very little if anything to protect children during a very tragic time between the years of 2000 - 2004.
  • A Board that is currently using proceeds from facilities rental to pay salaries. I was told that this money could not be used to help fund the After school Program. Interesting.
  • A Board that is involved in an ongoing lawsuit that is costing us money everyday. (We have been paying a mediator for months now) Does anyone know the specifics of this lawsuit that is connected to facilities?
  • A Board that definitely does not think a viable sports program has any value
  • A Board that does not know the difference between co-curricula and extra curricular activities. Clubs are not mandatory. They are extra-curricular. Outside of curriculum. They are not classes where attendance is taken and grades are given. Children are involved in clubs because they enjoy the activities. If a college happens to like the idea, that is a plus.
  • A Board that thinks it is above the law.

                                           How are the children?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

They have the Power to Change the Lives of Your Children Forever!

Put faces on the people who make up the New Jersey State Board of Education. It is important that you visualize the faces of the people making vital decisions about the future of your children.

Get to know them. You should also get to know everything you can about your local Board of Education.

                       How are the children? Are they well?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Closing Statement of New Bill Regarding Teacher/Principal/Assistant Principal Tenure

SENATE, No. 2925

Under current law, teachers, principals, and other teaching staff members whose positions require that they hold a certificate issued by the State Board of Examiners receive tenure after completing three years of employment in a school district. This bill provides that a person who is employed in the position of teacher, principal, assistant principal, or vice-principal on or after the bill’s effective date will receive tenure after the employee receives a rating of effective in each of three consecutive annual evaluations, with the first effective rating being received on or after the completion of the second year of employment. This means that,under the bill, a newly hired teacher, principal, assistant principal, or vice-principal could qualify for tenure after 4 or more years of employment in the district, depending on his evaluations. Also, in the case of a teacher, he must complete a mentorship program in the first year of employment. All other school district employees currently eligible for tenure will be able to obtain tenure after a three-year period of employment, as established by existing law.

  • The bill provides that a teacher, principal, assistant principal, or vice-principal who is transferred or promoted must be evaluated as effective in three consecutive annual evaluations in order to qualify for tenure in the new position. 
  • The bill provides that any teaching staff member under tenure who accepts employment in the same position in another school district will be eligible for tenure after two years of employment in the new district and, in the case of a person employed in the position of teacher, principal, assistant principal, or vice-principal, after being evaluated as effective in two consecutive annual evaluations.
The bill empowers a school principal to make certain personnel decisions relating to instructional staff employed at his school, although the bill preserves the seniority rights of teachers, principals, assistant principals, and vice-principals who have acquired tenure prior to the bill’s effective date. Under current law, the board of education has the authority to appoint, transfer or remove employees upon the recommendation of the superintendent.

  • This bill provides that, except as otherwise constrained by seniority rights that have accrued to employees who acquired tenure prior to the bill’s effective date, the principal, in consultation with school improvement panels established under the bill, will have sole authority to appoint or remove an employee in the position of teacher, assistant principal, or vice-principal. 
  •  Any action taken by a principal to appoint or remove an employee will not be subject to approval by either the superintendent of schools or the board of education.
In order to ensure the effectiveness of its teachers, 

  • the bill directs each school to convene a school improvement panel. The panel will include the principal, an assistant or vice-principal, and a teacher or other member of the instructional staff nominated by the principal and approved by the instructional staff.  
  • The bill provides that the panel will be directly involved in the hiring of new teachers, oversee the mentoring of teachers, and conduct annual evaluations of teachers. 
  •  Under the bill, the panel is also charged with identifying professional development opportunities for all instructional staff members. 
  •  The panel must conduct a mid-year evaluation of any tenured teacher who is evaluated as ineffective in his most recent annual evaluation. 
  •  Panel members are prohibited from participating in their own evaluations.
  • The bill further provides that the principal, in consultation with the panel, must revoke the tenure granted to an employee in the position of teacher, assistant principal, or vice-principal if the employee is evaluated as ineffective in two consecutive annual evaluations. 
  • Similarly, the bill provides that the superintendent, or his designee, must revoke a principal’s tenure if the principal is evaluated as ineffective in two consecutive annual evaluations. 
  • Under the bill, the revocation of the tenure status of a teacher, principal, assistant principal, or vice-principal will not be subject to grievance or appeal unless the grievance or appeal relates to a charge that the principal, superintendent, or designee of the superintendent failed to adhere substantially to the approved evaluation system.
The bill provides that, in the event of a school closure, a teacher who acquires tenure on or after the effective date of the bill and whose position was eliminated due to the closure must be designated by the school district as a member of a priority hiring pool. A member of a priority hiring pool must be provided an opportunity to interview for vacant in-district teaching positions for which he is qualified before a school improvement panel may consider outside applicants. A member will continue to receive his salary and benefits in the 12 months following the school closure, or until such time as he secures another position within the district or submits his resignation. In the event that the teacher has not secured an in-district teaching position within 12 months of the school closure, the district will place the teacher on an unpaid leave of absence but will keep him in the priority hiring pool until such time as he secures employment in the district. A teacher who acquired tenure prior to the bill’s effective date and whose position was eliminated due to a school closure, or any other type of reduction in force, will retain his seniority rights pursuant to N.J.S.18A:28-10 and N.J.S.18:28-12 and will be placed on a preferred eligible list in the order of seniority for reemployment and, whenever a vacancy occurs in a position for which he is qualified, he will be reemployed.
Under the bill, each board of education must:
· adopt a policy to establish a mentoring program in which experienced teachers are paired with first-year teachers to provide confidential support and guidance in accordance with the Professional Standards for Teachers;
· adopt a policy to provide its teaching staff members with ongoing professional development and provide additional professional development for any teaching staff member who fails or is struggling to meet the performance standards established by the board for his job; and
· annually submit to the Commissioner of Education, for review and approval, the evaluation rubrics that will be used by the district to assess the effectiveness of its principals, assistant principals, vice-principals, and teachers.
This bill streamlines the process under the current tenure hearing laws by establishing timelines designed to expedite the process. The bill shortens the timeframe under which the Commissioner of Education must render a determination on the sufficiency of a tenure charge and refer the case to the Office of Administrative Law from a 25-day period to a 10-day period. The bill provides that the hearing on a tenure charge before an administrative law judge will be held within 30 days of the transmittal of the charge to the Office of Administrative Law. The bill further provides that the final determination on the charge will be made by an administrative law judge rather than the Commissioner of Education and such determination must be made within 30 days of the start of the hearing. Under current law, a determination of any controversy or dispute must be made within 60 days after the close of the hearing. The bill also provides that the State Board of Examiners may only review those tenure cases in which the administrative law judge’s findings were in support of the charges.
The bill repeals section 1 of P.L.1998, c.42 (C.52:14B-10.1), which outlines the procedure tenure cases currently follow when referred to the Office of Administrative Law

For Complete Information on new Bill:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The New Jersey State Department of Education is Reaching Out to You

Trenton, NJ - The Department of Education today released a draft outline
of its waiver application to the US Department of Education for relief
from certain provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The Department
is soliciting comment from educators and the general public on the
outline through its website through Wednesday, November 9. This
comprehensive waiver would allow the Department to develop a new
accountability system to replace the provisions of NCLB, centered on
providing support and intervention to the State's lowest-performing
schools and those with the largest in-school gaps between subgroups of

As part of the waiver application, the Department of Education will
present a plan to act on four principles, as required in the US
Department's application. Those principles include 1) College and career
ready expectations for all students; 2) State-developed differentiated
recognition, accountability, and support; 3) Supporting effective
instruction and leadership; and 4) Reducing regulatory and data
collection burden on districts.

"NCLB remains an important piece of legislation because it put a renewed
focus on student achievement and accountability in K-12 education and
highlighted the needs of typically underperforming student populations.
However, the law suffers from some significant flaws, including its
failure to give credit for progress and its one-size-fits-all approach
to labeling schools as failing," said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.
"Through our waiver application, we are developing a new accountability
system that allows for differentiated supports and interventions of the
schools with the most pervasive and persistent achievement problems.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to school improvement which is
why we must focus our resources and most significant interventions on
those schools with long standing history of low performance."

Under NCLB, a school is listed as "failing" if it does not make
Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) for two years in a row. To make AYP a
school must meet state benchmarks in language arts and math for the
total population and all subgroups. Missing the benchmark for any
subgroup in any grade span causes a school to fail to make AYP. This
year, 1,231 schools, or 55.5% of schools did not make AYP for one or
more years. That number is an increase over the previous year, where
1,136 schools, or 51% of schools, did not make AYP. This jump is, in
part, a result of an increase in the percentage of students that must be
proficient in the 2010-11 school year, with a requirement under the law
for 100% of students to be proficient by 2014.

Those schools failing to make AYP for two years in a row are identified
under NCLB as a School in Need of Improvement (SINI). Title I SINI
schools are subject to a tiered set of sanctions, including setting
aside 20% of their Title I funds for Supplemental Educational Services
(SES). For the 2010-11 school year, the number of schools designated as
SINI increased to 862, or 38.8% of schools. This number is an increase
over the previous year, where 656 schools, or 29.4% of schools, were
designated as SINI.

In developing a new accountability system, the Department will create
three tiers of schools, which will be identified using both growth and
absolute proficiency:

*Priority Schools: The Department will identify the lowest-performing
five percent of Title I schools across the state using proficiency,
growth, and graduation rates. Any non-Title I school that would
otherwise meet the same criteria will also be designated as a Priority

*Focus Schools: The Department will identify at least 10 percent of
Title I schools as Focus Schools. These schools will be selected from
Title I schools that are not categorized as Priority Schools and will be
identified based upon achievement gaps between subgroups and low
performance or graduation rates among particular subgroups. Any
non-Title I school that would otherwise meet the same criteria will also
be designated as a Focus School.

*Reward Schools: The Department will identify Reward Schools based on
high proficiency levels or high levels of growth, including progress
toward closing achievement gaps. This will allow for a range of schools
from across the state to attain Reward status, regardless of their
absolute starting point.
The Department will create customized interventions to turnaround
Priority and Focus Schools, based on their individual needs. Among
others, these interventions include a focus on improving instruction,
using data to drive decision making, and expanding learning time. The
Department will also develop financial bonuses for Reward Schools as
well as opportunities to share best practices across the state.

In addition, the application also includes support for several pending
bills centered on Governor Christie's previously announced reforms that,
if passed, would expand the reach and efficacy of the Department's
proposed interventions.

*Two pending proposals would modify the State's tenure law, allow for
differentiated pay, prohibit the practice of firing the newest - and
often best - teachers first during a layoff, and require that a teacher
could not be placed in a school without his consent and that of the
principal. These reforms are not only consistent with the federal
turnaround principles endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education in
the ESEA waiver application, but also necessary to strengthen the
Department's proposed interventions.
*Proposed legislation around the current charter school law, Urban Hope
Act, and Opportunity Scholarship Act will increase the number of
high-quality options for students in Priority and Focus Schools.
For schools that do not fall into one of these three categories, the
Department will create performance targets and publicly release new and
detailed performance reports, but will provide districts flexibility on
the supports and interventions to improve student performance.

"Accountability systems do not exist for their own sake, but as part of
an overall strategy to advance student learning and ensure that children
graduate from high school ready for college and career," said Acting
Commissioner Cerf. "The plan we are developing in our waiver
application will not only increase accountability for school
performance, but also serve as a mechanism to improve student
performance. It will do that by more accurately measuring school
performance by including growth in addition to absolute performance, and
by providing flexibility from overly bureaucratic regulations on how to
support school improvement."

To develop this outline, the Department solicited feedback on its
website from educators and community members for two weeks in October.
The Department also held a series of meetings with educators and the
leadership of teachers unions and associations and will hold additional
meetings in the coming week to finalize its application.

A copy of the NCLB waiver outline can be found at the link below, along
with a form to submit public comment. Comments will be accepted through
that website through Wednesday, November 9. The first opportunity to
submit an application to the US Department of Education is November 14.

A list of schools that did not make AYP can be found below.

An overview of the required interventions for SINI schools can be found
at the link below.

To see release on Web site:

An Additional $8.2 million in Federal Funds for New Jersey School Districts

Trenton, NJ - The Christie Administration announced today an additional
$8.2 million in federal funds for school districts across the state to
support children's education. This additional funding comes from a new
federal allocation as well as state-level efficiencies in administering
the Ed Jobs funding announced in September 2010.

"In these economic times, we are doing everything we can to make sure
schools have the resources they need to be successful," said Acting
Commissioner Chris Cerf. "Through smart planning and efficient
administration, we are excited to be able to free up additional funds to
send directly to districts to pay for human capital costs."

In September 2010, the federal government made $262 million available to
New Jersey in Ed Jobs funding. Districts have until September 2012 to
use these funds only for compensation and benefits and other expenses,
such as support services, necessary to retain existing employees, to
recall or rehire former employees, and to hire new employees, in order
to provide early childhood, elementary, or secondary educational and
related services.

The Department of Education held back 2%, or roughly $5.2 million, to
administer the program, which included staff resources and the
development of a software system to track the data. Last month, the
federal government made nearly $4 million in additional funds to New
Jersey. In addition, through efficient planning and prudent management,
the Department was able to make nearly $4.3 million in additional funds
available directly to school districts for education out of the $5.2
million in federal funds that had been provided for administrative

A district breakdown of this additional funding is available at the link

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Jersey's Ranking in Grade 8 Reading

Trenton, NJ - Under the Christie Administration,
New Jersey continued to improve its overall national ranking on the 2011 National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Between 2009 and 2011, New Jersey maintained its ranking as the 2nd highest performing state in the country in grade 4 and 8 reading,and improved from 5th to 4th in grade 4 math, and from 5th to 3rd in grade 8 math.
Though nearly all subgroups have improved since 2003, the gap between low- and high-income students remains one of the largest in the country. In grade 8 reading, New Jersey ranks 50 out of 51 states plus DC in the size of its achievement gap.
For additional information:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Will Your High School Senior Be College and Career Ready?

Trenton, NJ -The Department of Education today announced the formation
of the College and Career Readiness Task Force, a group of K-12 and
higher education practitioners and business community representatives
that will have two main responsibilities: clearly articulating the
knowledge and skills that students should master to be "college and
career ready," and ensuring that New Jersey has the appropriate
graduation requirements and high school assessments in place to evaluate
the mastery of these readiness standards. The task force will submit its
recommendations to the Department of Education by December 31, 2011. 

"Our number one priority is to ensure that students across the state of
New Jersey are not only graduating from high school, but that when they
do, they are truly ready for college and a career. When you have over 90
percent of students who matriculate to Bergen and Essex County Community
Colleges requiring remediation before they can begin college-level work,
we clearly are not hitting that mark," said Acting Commissioner
Christopher D. Cerf. "In order to ensure that we are aligned with our
colleagues in higher education, we are bringing together practitioners
from both fields to clearly define the knowledge and skills that
students need to be ready for college and a career."
For more information about the task force: