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SPF Bd. of Ed. Considers Teaching World Languages
In Third Grade by 2000 By SUSAN M. DYCKMAN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
SCOTCH PLAINS — During the October 7 meeting of the Scotch PlainsFanwood Board of Education, World Languages Supervisor Helga Thomas unveiled an ambitious plan to introduce world languages at the elementary level in the district.
To properly prepare students for the state’s mandated foreign language testing of fourth graders in 20012002, local schools must begin teaching foreign language to third graders beginning September 2000. At the elementary level, only students’ spoken language proficiency will be tested.
If the board approves Ms. Thomas’ proposal, it would mean offering a different language at each of the district’s five elementary schools. These would include French, German, Italian, Spanish, and, possibly, Chinese.
“No one is doing this in other districts in New Jersey,” acknowledged Ms. Thomas. “We could be the model district. Variety in the elementary program gives students a balanced beginning, but still allows for a child to make the switch (to another language) in middle school.”
Today, students in Scotch PlainsFanwood schools explore a different language — French, German, Italian and Spanish — each marking period during sixth grade, then select one language to concentrate on in seventh grade.
In her presentation, Ms. Thomas called attention to the already high numbers of Spanishspeaking individuals in today’s job market, and said more companies are advertising for individuals fluent in French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic.
Furthermore, the world language proposal offers a way to preserve the highlyregarded, fourlanguage program at Scotch PlainsFanwood High School while affording the district some flexibility in hiring additional foreign language specialists who are in short supply across the state.
“We’re looking at finding five additional teachers for September,” said Ms. Thomas.
She explained how introduction of Chinese could pose problems as the language program evolves. The district might not be able to find enough teachers to teach Chinese in the middle and high schools because of the scarcity of teachers with that expertise.
“We would only offer Chinese if we can provide solid continuity,” said Ms. Thomas. The alternate recommendation is to introduce Span ish at two elementary schools.
Ms. Thomas tried to allay board concerns about children being locked into a specific language if just one language is offered per elementary school.
“If a student learns Language A, then wishes to switch to B in middle school, they will learn the second (language) more quickly because the channels were opened up,” she said.
The board will revisit the elementary world languages proposal during the Thursday, October 21 business meeting. In other business, the board agreed to reconsider the date on which it will hear from the Thomas Group of Princeton the results of the consultant’s feasibility study of district facilities.
Originally scheduled for Monday, October 18, the public presentation of the report was pushed back to the Tuesday, November 9, agenda meeting.
However, Board Vice President Dr. Donald E. Sheldon and board members August Ruggiero and Jean McAllister recommended a separate special meeting be scheduled for the report as originally planned.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol B. Choye announced enrollment in district schools reached 4,512 as of October 7, an increase of 160 students over the prior year. She noted the number of students in Scotch PlainsFanwood schools has risen by more than 700 over the past six years.
Among the board priority items for the evening was Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. John R. Crews’ introduction of a restructured curriculum for the fifth and sixth grade.
The Intermediate Program for Grades Five and Six that, he said, would “improve learning opportunities” for all students.
The proposal calls for the following: Increase in daily instructional time for mastery of core content areas (language arts, reading, social studies, world language, mathematics, science, fine arts and physical education) using block scheduling.
Implementation of an Enriched and Extended Curricular Experience for all Learners (EXCEL) which would offer students learning opportunities in multimedia communications, information literacy, technology education and fine/ performing arts.
Student training in the Autonomous Learner Model, which is designed to increase students’ opportunities to develop skills as lifelong learners and help them to build and refine their special gifts and talents.
Full inclusion of academically atrisk and special education students
in the instructional day (i. e. students would not be pulled out of class for resourceroom support services).
The proposal comes on the eve of major board decisions regarding facilities and student enrollment which could see significant reconfiguration of district schools.
While the assistant superintendent believes the proposed fifth and sixthgrade program could be enacted regardless of grade configuration, successful implementation “is contingent upon a technologyenriched environment at each and every school site.”
In August, Dr. Crews acknowledged the district is lagging behind in establishing a technological infrastructure for the schools.
Furthermore, conceded Dr. Crews, “There’s a lot of this we’ll have to negotiate,” referring to the proposal’s impact on the district’s contract with the teacher’s union, the Scotch PlainsFanwood Education Association.
Potential areas of concern include teacher preparation time and training and staff development.
In the interests of time, Board President Theresa Larkin asked her colleagues to submit their questions on the proposal to Dr. Crews in writing. Answers will be provided at the Thursday, October 21, meeting where discussion will continue.
“We need some sense of what it will cost,” said Mrs. Larkin, “even a ballpark figure. The professional development alone looks massive.”
In addition, Dr. Crews announced the administration will field questions about Scotch PlainsFanwood students’ scores on the fourthgrade Elementary School Proficiency Assessment (ESPA) and Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) at its October 21 meeting.
While New Jersey students in general performed fairly well on the GEPA, scores on the ESPA raised some eyebrows, with only 41 percent of all students demonstrating proficiency in Language Arts, and 60 percent of students demonstrating proficiency in Math. Fiftytwo percent tested proficient on the Science portion of the test.
Individual scores will be mailed home to students by the state on Friday, October 15. At the Tuesday, November 9, board meeting, Don Williams, the district’s Director of Information Services, will present an analysis of Scotch PlainsFanwood scores to the public.
By KIMBERLY A. BROADWELL
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
An ordinance appropriating $133,000 from the Capital Improvement Fund to improve portions of Mill Lane and Lawrence Avenue was passed on second reading at Tuesday’s Mountainside Borough Council meeting. The ordinance was introduced in September.
Officials noted that this money will be returned to the borough once a State Department of Transportation grant that was awarded to Mountainside for repair work becomes available.
Also approved on second reading was an ordinance dealing with purchase of new 2000 compatible computer equipment for the Mountainside Police Department.
According to Acting Borough Administrator and Police Chief James Debbie, the $60,000 cost of these
systems will be taken out of the Capital Improvement Fund, but will be replaced once the borough receives its $169,000 from the department’s Confiscation Fund.
This money awarded to the borough comes from a drug arrest three years ago conducted in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Chief Debbie stated that because the case was recently heard, moneys would be awarded and would then go back into the Capital Improvement Fund, calling the appropriation a Bond Anticipation Note.
In other business, the council unanimously decided that it would like to put together an ordinance regarding a proposal to merge the borough’s Planning Board and Board of Adjustment.
Councilman Paul Mirabelli, who serves as governing body Liaison to
the Planning Board, announced that he, along with Mayor Robert F. Viglianti and Borough Attorney John Post, recently met with Planning Board President John Tomain, and Board of Adjustment President Fred Picut, to discuss the proposed merger.
During the council meeting, Mr. Post noted that in order for the boards to merge, each representative from the two boards must resign their positions, thus giving the Mayor the job of reappointing board members.
During past council meetings, the Mayor and council representatives noted that because Mountainside was a smaller municipality with a majority of their land fully developed, it did not need two separate boards.
Mayor Viglianti has also observed that the Borough of Kenilworth, which is similar in size to Mountainside, had merged its two boards.
Mountainside BOE Examines Budget Issues and Enrollment By SONIA V. OWCHARIW
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
Members of the Mountainside Board of Education addressed a varied agenda Tuesday night as they discussed what’s important to their district and their children’s future.
Dr. Gerard A. Schaller, Chief School Administrator, commented on a report which outlined a couple of budget guidelines for 20002001.
These guidelines included producing a fiscally sound budget; supporting increased enrollment based on a demographic study currently being researched by Whitehall Associates Inc. of Kinnelon; continuing funding for books and inservice workshops; investigation of food services if necessary and revamping teachers’ forms to facilitate gathering information on students.
Whitehall is helping the district to better utilize its classroom space and facilities based on research of where enrollment has increased at Deerfield School. The firm is looking at available space at Deerfield as well as at the former Beechwood School, which is currently being leased to the MorrisUnion Jointure Commission and the Union County Education Services
Commission, according to Dr. Schaller.
Information from as far back as the 1930s can help to determine how the Mountainside school’s pattern of enrollment for each school year has increased or decreased.
Ending last June, enrollment for Deerfield School was 574. Beginning in September, there were 615 students, with approximately 21 to 23 students in each classroom.
The results of the demographic study will be used to improve space utilization for teachers in their classrooms, according to Dr. Schaller.
In other business, on Tuesday, November 9, there will be further discussion regarding IOWA, Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment and Elementary School Proficiency Assessment tests. The discussion will be presented by Barbara Komoroski and the Guidance Department.
Concerns regarding state standardized testing remain under discussion by board members, who continue to feel that turn around for test scores is too slow and that test contents don’t give a clear enough picture of the individual student’s strength’s and weaknesses.
“Too much instructional time is taken away from the school in order to prepare students for IOWA testing. It’s so distressing when we put so much time into our curriculum,” Board President, Patricia Taeschler said.
The board will hold its next meeting on Monday, October 25, rather than Tuesday because Open House Night is scheduled for October 26 at Deerfield School. The Board of Education meets at 7: 30 p. m. in the Deerfield Media Center.
Freeholders Unveil New County Signs
ELIZABETH — Union County Freeholder Vice Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan and Freeholder Linda d. Stender have unveiled the county’s comprehensive signage program which will place 50 to 60 colorful signs welcoming people to Union County along major roadways in the County and 80 to 90 park entrance signs throughout the county’s park system.
The signs are being produced and erected by the county’s Division of Public Works to minimize costs. It is anticipated that the program will cost under $100,000.
www. goleader. com
Mountainside Council Approves Work on Lawrence Ave., Mill Lane
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)