Saturday, March 26, 2011

One Parent's Statement to the Board of Education

All of our children are important including the latch key kids and the neglected. None should be forgotten. The talented tenth setup in the Englewood School System is not conducive to the student body in the Englewood School District as a whole. The talented tenth will always be talented. It is the mainstream, the majority of the population that needs to be brought up to the talented tenth. We must all open our eyes and ears. Many of our children are behind. Some are drowning. No child should be left behind. Segregation in the Englewood Public School system has to end. The Board researched and chose our current superintendent, Dr. Carlisle. If he fails, we must look to the board members and should hold them responsible. We cannot not accept another upheaval for our children. This needs to be our last superintendent for a long while. Teachers must be expected to work with their superintendent, the parents and our children. The public should expect our ELECTED board to work with the superintendent they chose for us. His failure is their failure.
Speak up parents.
Make them all Academy Prep.
Make them all AVID.
There is free tutoring available every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at the Liberty School, 3rd Floor. The teachers there are excellent. Take advantage of it. Don't accept anything less than the best for EVERY child in Englewood, not just a select few.
Submitted by: Donna Sumler, concerned parent and taxpayer.

Meet the Candidates: Board of Education Candidates Forum

Events for 4/4/2011
Start Time 7:30 PM
End Time 10:00 PM
Candidates Forum for Englewood Board of Education
Municipal Courtroom
Extra Details
The public is invited to listen and ask questions of the five candidates who are running for election to the Board of Education. The candidates are incumbents George Garrison III and Jerry Lamb as well as Ronda Drakeford, Harley Ungar, and Mark deMontagnac. A Candidates Forum will be held on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 7:30 PM in the Public Safety Complex, 73 S. Van Brunt Street, in Englewood. This event is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Northern Valley.

The Board of Education election will be held on April 27, 2011.

The League is a membership organization dedicated to the informed and active participation of citizens in government. It provides nonpartisan election information and candidates' forums, but does not support or oppose political parties or candidates. The Northern Valley chapter represents 27 towns in northern Bergen County.

For further information, contact Betty Frank at (201) 567-3018.

Highlights: Englewood Board of Education Meeting March 24, 2011

NOTE: Today’s meeting time dedicated to giving Community Members time to speak was increased to 30 minutes and a timer was on the screen behind the board. Even though this was a positive addition to the meeting, there was a tendency from board president George Garrison III, to still try to cut Community input short. Community members did not allow this to happen.

NOTE: This meeting was attended by many more Englewood faculty members. Some faculty even stayed until the very end of the meeting. I later learned that they had received a personal invitation from the Superintendent to attend the meeting in order to learn of another middle school initiative. Based on the applause, they seemed to approve of the reorganization ideas.

NOTE: Before his speech the Superintendent pointed out that he had located the lectern between the Board of Education and the Community, because that is indeed where he stands. I was impressed when he stated later after the middle school proposal was discussed, “I began this meeting thinking this was about me, now I realize that it is about you.” He pointed to the Community and the Board of Education.

Superintendent’s Report – He recognized 2 teachers who have volunteered time beyond the contract hours. He has established the Patron Influencing Education (PIE) Award, which was presented to Triwa Lee-Chin. The Second Mile Award was presented to Lisa Finn-Bruce and Mercedes Gil.
He presented Initiative #1 – The True Middle School Concept –This concept was presented by Mr. Carmen Macchia with the support of Dr. Carlisle.
The Superintendent listed 3 goals:
          1. To improve student performance on the NJAsk.
          2. To improve student behavior and to create a positive school climate
          3. To have Englewood students who are enrolled in private schools return to JDMS.
It seems that nearly everyone agrees that the current organization at Jan Dismus Middle School is segregated. It is also quite obvious that some in attendance like it that way. 2 parents expressed concerns that their children would be bored by Interdisciplinary changes. One parent noted that her child had just returned to the district from a private school.
           Current 7th Graders
        Academy Prep 24 students
        Honors Prep 59 students
        College Prep 119 Students
Mr. Macchia suggests Systemic change that is organizationally inclusive, not exclusive. The proposed concept embraces Interdisciplinary Teams. There would be an Avid trained person on each team. The objective would be to Avidize ALL of the students and increase the overall pride and school spirit among middle school students. The proposed example shows 2 identical teams, one red and one blue. The concept was not immediately embraced by everyone. One of the board members turned his back on the men as Mr. Macchia spoke on the present segregation in the Jan Dismus Middle School. Mr. H. Pruitt III’s body language demonstrated his apparent disdain of the proposal. He had the most questions for Mr. Macchia, all of which pointed to the fact that he wanted to keep the status quo. Stephen Brown was also not impressed with the proposal. Mr. Glenn Garrison elected to withhold his opinion pending more development and planning. Mr. Jerry Lamb seemed to be on board with the idea and expressed some of the same concerns as Mr. Macchia about the current organization. Miriam Lubar, the only female board member in attendance spoke in such a noncommittal way that it was difficult to determine what she thought. She seemed to defer to Mr. Pruitt III too often. Mr. Enrique Diaz never speaks so we don’t know what he thinks.The following is the proposed reorganization concept.
            LAL - 8, 8 honors
            Reading - 8, 8 honors
            Math - 8, 8 honors
            Science - 8, 8
            Social Studies – 8, 8
It is interesting that as the Board Members spoke on student accomplishment they lacked the knowledge of current achievement among middle school students in Math especially. Teachers seated in the audience protested that overall Math scores have increased. Math is my granddaughter’s best subject at this time so I am inclined to agree.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where Are The Regulars?

We also reviewed the high school's grading system. She had some real questions about grading and classes in the high school. She talked in detail about her Reading and Writing classes and what they do in each. She showed me a powerpoint presentation from Technology class. It was rather a good assignment sample from the teacher. I felt more at ease about her writing ability under pressure. We reviewed the grading chart below and she had a question that I could not answer.

"Where's the column for the regulars?" Regulars?

Grading System Dwight Morrow High School
College Prep
Numerical Grade
95 - 100
90 - 94
87 - 89
83 - 86
80 - 82
77 - 79
73 - 76
70 - 72
65 - 69
< - 65
She thinks that there is a whole segment of students not even considered. Notice that there is a column for AP, honors and college prep. She said, "I'm college prep, but it looks like everybody else is college prep anyway. What if you are regular? We know we're regular. Where are we on the chart? I mean, what if we can't go to college? What if we don't want to go to college? Everybody can't go. So where is the space for the regulars?
I think that is a very good question. So powers at be, where do the regulars fit in on the chart above?

The Code of Conduct

"The Englewood Public School District has established a Student Code of Conduct which is designed to define unacceptable conduct and consequences therein.  It is the EPSD’S expectation that all students conduct themselves in a manner that is respectful of themselves and others with whom they interact with in the educational system. We are committed to the rights and welfare of everybody."

My 8th grade granddaughter and I just sat down and bonded over a review of the code of conduct for Englewood Students. We skimmed through the PURPOSE and spent most of our time on the levels of prohibited conduct and the punishment for infractions.

There are four levels of prohibited conduct:
Level I (Minor Infraction)
Level II (Moderate Infraction)
Level III (Major Infraction)
Level IV (Judicial Infraction)

We laughed together as we discussed the different behaviors that are prohibited in school. The conversation started with her sitting across the room responding to my questions as she followed the television program. I wanted to test a student use of the Englewoood School District's School websites. I was also curious as to whether students understand what is expected of them. We pulled up the site for her school and looked for the Code of Conduct. We did not find it. She was certain that they were not given one at the start of school. I'd already read the one for Dwight Morrow High School. She was directed to that site demonstrated unexpected excitement. We talked about the GEPA, technology, health, the grading system, the long and short line at the Cafeteria and why the Boy's locker room is larger. She was beside me on the sofa talking her head off as we reviewed the code of conduct on the High School site. It was great. It was also the longest uninterrupted conversation that I have had with my granddaughter since she became a teenager.  We studied the Code of Conduct and learned a lot together.

"Where's the Dress Code?" she wanted to know. If people can be sent home for having their pants hang below their boxers, it should be part of the dress code. How can you argue with that? 

What is your favorite subject? Which of your teachers keep your attention? Why do you have a C in Science? When I asked her what her grades were, she said A's and B's, but after our discussion I learned that her grades are really B's and C's. By the time we were both yarning, she finally admitted that she talks too much in Science. "Okay, I do, I talk too much. My friend had to be moved away from me." I watched her take ownership of unacceptable and prohibited behavior in that moment. She promised to change that particular behavior. It was good to see that she was embarassed. The concept that her talking may have affected her grade negatively dawned on her. This may never have happened if we had not reviewed the Code of Conduct.

She gave me a good night kiss and thanked me before she went to bed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interesting Concept: Meet Rose Sanders

If no Tracking, then we must have the following according to Rose Sanders.
  • High Expectations
  • B. Heterogeneous and Skill-based Grouping
  • C. Providing Compensatory Education in Heterogeneous Classes
  • D. High-level (Unified Required Core ) Curriculum for All Children
  • E. Student Aspirations and Detracking
  • F. Steps to Detrack Schools
Rose Sanders, Selma Alabama
·         Rose Sanders is a civil rights attorney, education activist, songwriter, and playwright living in Selma, Alabama. She is the mother of three children.
·         She is president and co-founder of the 21st Century Leadership project for youth across the South. 21st Century uses the L.A.C.E. (Leadership - Academics - Culture - Economics) philosophy.
·         Rose Sanders was Alabama's first African American woman judge.
·         Rose Sanders has also co-founded CARE (Coalition of Alabamians Reforming Education). In response to CARE's recommendation, Rose Sanders was appointed by the Governor of Alabama to co-chair the state Commission of Standards, Performance and Accountability which is drawing up a blueprint for education reform in Alabama.
·         Rose Sanders co-founded McRae Learning Center where children learn to read at age 3 and 4.
·         Also, she has co-founded the National Summit Against Tracking and the Miseducation of Children which convened at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, in the fall of 1996.
 This was a very interesting article. Learn more about this fascinating woman and her innovative ideas on educating our youth.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tracking in The Public High Schools

Many educators believe that “tracking” harms students in the mid range who may have done poorly on the 8th grade placement test.
STANFORD - A new study on tracking in high schools shows the system placing some students in college preparatory courses and others in easier math and science courses is "harming millions of students in American society," says Sanford Dornbusch, the Reed-Hodgson Professor of Human Biology, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Sociology and the School of Education at Stanford University.
“In the new study, the factor that most determined a student's first high school tracking placement was his or her eighth grade test score. Other factors that were significantly related were elementary school grades, attendance and negative comments about a student's behavior in his or her files.”
“"This finding upsets me," Dornbusch said. "This set of data points to a systemic pattern of ignorance, and African Americans and Hispanics are even less aware of the extent to which the tracking system is short-changing them. These results help us to understand why so many talented and hard-working minority students are ineligible for four-year colleges and universities.”
Testing is here. Tracking is here. Help your children pass the test. Make sure they are preparing for it. For instance, it is very important if your child has a problem when required to sit quietly and work. The child will be more prepared if required to sit quietly and do homework or other activity on a regular basis. Homework times become practice time for the test.  Acquire a copy of practice test materials and help students prepare mentally and physically. It will help make a stressful time more bearable and lets your child know that you care about his/her academic achievement.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is Your 8th Grader Ready for the GEPA or the New Jersey Ask?

 The Eight Grade Proficiency Assessment - 8th graders in many NJ districts are preparing to take this test right now. It will be given this spring. Talk to your child. Contact the school. Find out the exact dates it will be given. It is a stressful time for the students. It evaluates whether your child has the necessary skills to enter high school. The resource below will help you and your child prepare for the GEPA. Find out what kind of preparations or practice activities are taking place at school. Check your child's school calendar, if it is not there, check with guidance.

Barron's New Jersey GEPA: Language Arts Literacy   It contains practice and review in:
  • Writing picture Essays
  • Writing Persuasive Essays
  • Writing Narrative Essays
  • Test Taking Advice - This practice booklet contains detailed explanations of the (official) test's format,
  • Advice on answering multiple choice and open ended questions.
  • It also contains 2 full length practice exams with answer keys provided.
This booklet provides you and your child with the tools needed to succeed on the GEPA this spring. Prepare together. Pretend you are giving the test and encourage your child to take the activity seriously.
  • Discourage lying about on the floor with a lackadaisical attitude.
  • Encourage sitting upright, breathing in and out to relax.
  • They should work quietly w/o electronic devices of any kind.
  • No music (Create the actual conditions of the test when practicing)
  • Encourage writing in cursive.
  • Participate in this process by timing student practice sessions. (loosely at first)
  • Keep sessions short enough so your child is not tired out. Pat attention. Talk.
  • Discuss the purposes of the test and reasons for practice.
  • Follow the directions and give the practice test yourself.
The exercises in this book offer students the opportunity to strengthen their literacy and writing skills.
It offers parents the opportunity to get involved in the process. It makes both parents and students aware of what is expected of them. The School District uses the results of this Test to understand the skill levels of the incoming freshman class. The GEPA evaluates 3 major skills:
  • critical reading skills
  • the ability to write clearly and maturely
  • the potential to be an independent thinker
These skills are essential in high school and in life. You can't beat the price. Gently used books begin at 1 cent + shipping and handling. If you don't have the shipping cost, write down the title, go to the school and request a practice copy to be used at home.

Let'a Prepare for the NJ Math GEPA

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Jersey Elementary Students & Parents Need You

New Jersey After 3 and ists Statewide network of evidence-based afterschool programs need your support. The Governor's budget proposal eliminates all support of New Jersey After 3. Please sign this petition and encourage others to sign. NJ's working parents need New Jersey After 3. This program drastically reduces the number of latch key kids. Help keep our children safe.  You may sign the petition here:

Always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. All parents should train children for a time when they will arrive home from school to an empty house. Make sure your children know how to keep themselves and younger siblings safe until you or another adult arrives. Remind them that they should never reveal house  keys to ANYONE except maybe the Police.
Creative Resources for School-Age Programs

Disaster Blaster: A Kid's Guide to Being Home Alone
Creative Resources for School-Age Programs

                                                                               Disaster Blaster: A Kid's Guide to Being Home Alone

Home-Alone Kids: The Working Parent's Complete Guide to Providing the Best Care for Your Child
Millions of American children under age 16 routinely stay at
home for long periods without adult supervision. Sometimes
called ?latchkey kids,? they are usually without parental supervision
during non-school hours, such as before and after school, and when
school is not in session, such as holidays and summer vacations.
If you must leave your child or children at home alone, the following
information will help make your absence safer for them and less
stressful for you.
Latchkey Kids: Unlocking Doors for Children and Their Families

It takes a Village to protect all  of our children. Help keep our children safe.  You may sign a petition that will help save New Jersey's Afterschool Programs here:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Public Meeting of the Englewood Bd.of Education March 3, 2011

The meeting was called to order.
The President gave his opening statement.
They did roll call.
We all pledged allegiance to the flag.
Minutes were approved.
The Bd. Secretary gave his report.
The Superintendent gave his report which ended with a charming video of a "Responsive Classroom from his previous District.
After his report¸ a group of teachers presented an extremely superficial report on a committee designed to help change the climate of our schools. It was well intentioned, but felt contrived for show. The study was called PBSIS or Positive Behavior Support in Schools.
After this presentation, we the taxpaying audience was given “Privilege of the floor” which did not even last 15 minutes.
·         PR person promises to do well by the Englewood students and parents
·         A senior citizen complained that the bd. Is always announcing changes/mistakes in pages of the agenda packet, but they never point out what the modifications are. He did not seem well received by the board members.
·         A dapperly dressed African American man presented a white woman whom he praised for something. I didn’t quite understand what great thing she had done. It seemed rather staged.
·         Curtis Caviness presented several comments. He was concerned with the fact that morale in the system (sports events especially) seems low because we don’t know who we are. (Mr. Garrison had previously asked for a more positive show of support for our teams.)
·         Donna Sumler asked that the board might perhaps move “Privilege of the Floor” closer to the beginning of the program.
·         This blogger told the board of my visit to examine the physical school buildings in the District. I commented on how massive and impressive Dr. Leroy McCloud Elementary School is. I also asked about “Superintendents Day”. I wanted to know why school would be closed on such a nondescript day since we have had so many snow days this year. Needless to say, I was not satisfied with the answer that it was a “Professional Day” for teachers. They have added 2 days onto the calendar in June to make up for the snow days. Being a former teacher, I know what goes on during “Professional Days”. What educational jargon fad is popular this week? I would prefer my grandkids be in school.
·         Donna Sumler tried to speak again on why questions from the last Public Meeting were not addressed. She was told that the floor had been closed.
We were out of time. The Superintendent’s speech, video of “Responsive Classroom” etiquette, and Climate presentation had taken up all of the time. We were basically instructed to sit quietly after this and listen to board members conduct business.  Only one item held my interest after this.  Shirley Smith, one of the board members, noticed that two groups of students were going on the same trip on two different dates. This was interesting because one group of students is from the Academies @Englewood and the other is from our Traditional Dwight Morrow High School.  She wanted to know why the trips were not combined. The response from other Board members was very interesting, because everyone knows why the trips were not combined.
During the course of the evening the public was constantly referred to the district websites as a source.  This was an insult in  many ways. Some of us check the site on a weekly basis. We can read and the navigation problems that were blamed for lack of information were unfounded. The problem is that the information is just not there, because the websites are very seldom updated.
Some of the Board Members did hang around and talk to those of us who wished to discuss certain things later. Although this interchange was informative, public discussion is more satisfactory.

The very best source to answer questions about available resources, programs and materials is the NJ Dept. of Education. Don't be shy. Familiarize yourself with the site.  It may help taxpayers feel more comfortable when holding elected officials accountable.

NJ After School Program for Elementary Children In Danger

Please sign this petition and help save After School Programs for Children of working New Jersey Parents.