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Mar 07, 2017

Colts Neck Board of Education Notes

By Nicholas Deckmejian

Elevate Education

At the February 1 Colts Neck Board of Education meeting, Dr. Raymond gave her board president’s report, which included a brief recap of a recent parent meeting involving Elevate Education, a company that was brought into the district to help students with executive functioning skills. The program helps give students the tools to be more efficient with studying, and methods to stay organized. Dr. Raymond explained that the meeting was “enlightening and very interesting,” citing some key points like how students can avoid studying for five hours straight and instead block off time to work, with other activities scheduled in between to give the brain a break.

Curriculum Meetings

At the February 1 board, Dr. Raymond recapped some of the key points from recent curriculum meetings. She discussed the PARCC Parent Night, where they explained new rules regarding Algebra I testing, and how it is now a requirement for high school graduation. Current students who have taken Algebra I in middle school and opted out of the exam will not have it held against them, but moving forward, middle school students taking the course will no longer be able to opt out of the PARCC exam. Dr. Raymond mentioned updates in the district’s foreign language program, focusing on Italian classes for fifth graders and the implementation of virtual classes. The president wanted to clarify the context of these virtual classes, saying they are more engaging than a program like Rosetta Stone, and that these classes will have instructors who can assist the students with their studies.

Going Green and Thinking Summer

Dr. Raymond also spoke about the Go Green Team and how they’re looking to submit grants for a couple of different projects, such as a possible alternative energy charging station at the middle school. The president’s final remarks involved plans for this year’s Summer Academy. She reflected on how last year’s concept of offering innovative classes during the summer wasn’t rolled out as excellently as they had hoped, but she is confident that the district is in a much better position heading into this year’s summer and alluded to various nonprofit programs that could help provide even more benefits to the participating students.

Health Initiatives

At the February 1 board, Superintendent Garibay discussed the exciting development of the Healthy Monmouth initiative. The program is meant to encourage healthy lifestyles for kids, and Colts Neck has been chosen to be a pilot district, along with Asbury Park. “[Healthy Monmouth] has a great vision and they want to put us in the same room with decision makers from Asbury to talk about how we can help create educational programs,” said the superintendent. “They have been hearing about the great things going on in our district and want to start a sister-school program.”

The superintendent also expanded on the updates for the Go Green Team. Reiterating the point that the district is applying for various grants, Mrs. Garibay cited examples of what kind of grants they’re looking into, such as providing canteens to students to help cut back on wasteful plastic bottle usage. Along with this topic, she also previewed some plans that are in the works for Earth Day in April, hinting at some potential district-wide activities.

The superintendent concluded her report with remarks regarding a recent lice problem. Families in the district had become worried about recent notifications of lice spreading through the schools, and Mrs. Garibay addressed those concerns head-on, saying, “As a mother of two who has dealt with head lice in her own house twice, I am completely empathetic to everyone’s anxiety and fear of bringing it home, and I say that with my deepest heart.”

She explained how the district was conducting their screenings, but emphasized the importance that a screening on one day won’t prevent contracting lice the next. Mrs. Garibay acknowledged the response from the community, which has been mainly triggered by the notifications that were sent out by the district. “We have changed the protocols for communication,” she said, stating that the old policy had no notifications in place regarding lice, partly for the sake of the affected student’s privacy. Considering lice as a public health issue, the district has changed their policy and now makes the effort to notify parents and have open communication on the matter. Mrs. Garibay said that even though schools aren’t themselves a magnet for lice, it’s still a common problem because of student interactions, like sharing hats or jackets, and general contact with heads and hair.  Communication between the district and the families is done with the intention to promote mindfulness when approaching lice, so parents are made more aware about the issue, how serious it can be, and hopefully be better suited to falter its dispersion.

“I am always welcomed to feedback, suggestions, and ideas,” said the superintendent. “I understand the stress that this causes and I want to thank the community for partnering with us.”

Farewell to Joseph Leanza

At the February 1 board, Superintendent Garibay announced, with great regret, the resignation of Joseph Leanza. “He is our network engineer,” said Mrs. Garibay, “literally our technology backend, who helps the phones keep running, helps the copiers keep going, helps the internet keep going, and he will be sorely missed.” The board expressed its appreciation and gratitude to Joseph Leanza for his 12 years of faithful service to the children and the district, and further wished him good health and much happiness during his retirement.

Safety Update

At the February 15 board of education meeting, Mrs. Garibay gave a brief update on what has been happening in the district.  One of the things she mentioned was that the district met with the Monmouth County’s Prosecutor’s Office and discussed gang awareness. Acknowledging that this might not be the most pressing issue for Colts Neck, the superintendent emphasized the importance of knowing what’s going on in surrounding areas and understanding those details and impacts.

She also mentioned a recent Bomb Threat Assessment Awareness training in which the district participated. They listened to the opinions of explosive experts, who had esoteric yet valuable information to share. While the district hopes to never need to use this knowledge, the training better equips them to be prepared if the situation ever struck.