Thursday, August 27, 2015

MAPLEWOOD VILLAGE WANTS YOUR VOTE

From the Township:

Village

 

Vote Maplewood Village Best Downtown in NJ!


​Maplewood Village is competing for best downtown with 15 other towns in NJ Monthly's inaugural Downtown Showdown.  

On Tuesday, September 1st go to njmonthly.com and vote for Maplewood Village. The 16 towns will be cut down to the top 8 after the September 1st votes are counted. We need your vote! Vote on the train, while at work or when at home. 
Please vote for Maplewood Village on Tuesday, September 1st.

MORE MMS POLICE TRAINING TODAY

From Maplewood Police today:

The Maplewood Police Department will be conducting a training simulation exercise in and around Maplewood Middle School today. There will be emergency vehicles and emergency personnel operating in the area for training purposes on each of the dates. There may be brief traffic interruptions resulting from the training activity.

Please do not be alarmed when you see or hear Maplewood Police officers or other emergency personnel operating in, around the school building or in the immediate area of the school on those dates. The activity that will be conducted is only a training exercise.

No MMS students are to be involved in the planned exercise.

Thank You

THE SCHOOL BOARD'S JOHANNA WRIGHT SHOW

Johanna Wright
Two policy changes related to teacher evaluations and the school district's health care plan that were set for a routine vote became the subject of heated discussions at the school board this week, with Board Member Johanna Wright leading the opposition.

Wright, who has made something of a name for herself since joining the board two years ago for voting against most items, ended up voting against the entire "action item" list of dozens of routine measures after opposing the health care and evaluation policies.

"As usual," she said after the action item vote.

Since she was elected in 2013, Wright has received some praise for being a contrarian view on the board, in several cases raising valid objections to spending plans and other proposals. But it did not seem to sit well with many on the board this week.

The first item Wright opposed and asked to be severed from the "action item" list was a change in evaluation policy via a request to the state to be exempt from the new requirement that teachers be evaluated three times rather than two as previously stipulated.

Prior to the meeting, we reached out to the district to ask about this policy change. District spokesperson Suzanne Turner emailed this response:

Tenured teachers used to receive only 1 observation per year. Under the new
teacher evaluation requirements in AchieveNJ, the number of mandatory observations
for tenured teachers was increased to 3 per year. We are asking for a waiver to
conduct only 2 per year, as have other districts.We can always do additional
observations where needed and appropriate.

Reducing the number of mandatory observations provides administrators with more
flexibility in how they use their time to best support and improve instruction in
our schools. For example, principals will have more time to spend with new teachers
who need mentoring and guidance, will have more time for informal walk-throughs and
classroom visits, and more time to work with individual teachers on specific
instructional or classroom management issues.

When the item was severed, Wright, a former teacher, attacked the move claiming it was wrong and stated, "great teachers need to be evaluated, too. Even teachers such as myself."

Assistant Superintendent James Memoli explained the reasoning behind the change, similar to Turner's explanation: "We feel if you have a cadre of very, very strong teachers and you are able to evaluate them twice, the time you are saving you can use now to help those teachers who are more in need."

Memoli also stressed that non-tenured teachers would still be evaluated three times, or more if needed.

But Wright did not accept his answer, even hinting at some unclear ulterior motive: "There has to be some other reason you don't want these people to be evaluated."

Board President Wayne Eastman then weighed in, taking strong exception to Wright's claims, stating, "It is a waste of the teacher's time and the administration's time," to conduct unnecessary evaluations. "Time is expensive, everybody's time."

The board ended up voting, 6-1, in favor of the evaluation change request, with Wright the lone opposing vote and Board Members Jeffrey Bennett and Maureen Jones absent.

The next issue that Wright opposed and sought to sever from action items was a change in health care plans for the district, from the state health care system to a new agreement with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. District officials said it would save more than $600,000 and not affect coverage for any workers.

"This needs to be tabled until all of the information is presented instead of just slipping it in this way," Wright complained, accusing the district of not providing the plan change information to the board's Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee, upon which Wright serves and under whose responsibility the health care plan falls. 

But Board Member Beth Daugherty, who also serves on that committee, reminded Wright that the information was reviewed at the committee's April 6 meeting. "We are following the recommendations of the task force back in April," Daugherty said.

A review of the agenda for the April committee meeting indicates that the board's Health Care Task Force, which was tasked with reviewing other health care options, had made a presentation that day. But Wright claimed she had not received any such information until last week's committee meeting.

"This memo is incomplete," Wright said. "It does not include all of the (health care) models we requested."

But other board members disagreed and, as the hour passed midnight, revealed their objections to Wright's position.

"We have before us the opportunity to save us more than $600,000," said Board Member Elizabeth Baker. "$600,000 that we can invest in our classrooms. There will not be a single reduction in health care, it has been transparent."

Board Member Madhu Pai agreed: "I don't understand why we would wait a minute to vote on something that will save us money."

Paula Bethea, president of the South Orange Maplewood Education Association, questioned the health care change during public comment, stating, "I had no idea we were going to move this fast or this is the model we were going to move to," she said, but noted she would not oppose it, adding only that, "employees get nervous when they hear the change."

Wright, who has publicly stated she wants the district to self-insure, responded, "what's the rush?" District officials and some board members have opposed self-insurance citing the liability it opens the district up to.

In the end, the board voted again, 6-1, with Wright opposing, to approve the change, which will result in a 14-month health care agreement with Horizon beginning in November.

The board later voted, 6-1, on the rest of the action items, which included such routine matters as leasing photocopying equipment and accepting state textbook funds. Wright voted against all of them.

LIBRARY SPACEMAKER TODAY


3d printer

Create Space Recurring Events

5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Hilton Branch – Every Tuesday  and Thursday 5:00-8:00 pm., and Saturdays 10-1 starting after Labor Day.   Patrons can use Rhino 3D software to build a model, print an object on our 3D printer or use our new color printer or laminator.  There are also Snap Circuits, Squishy Circuits, littleBits and SparkFun kits for the kids. Raspberry Pi single board computers are also available to learn more about computer science.  More information about the Create Space…

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

LOCAL BLOGGER'S DEPRESSION STORY WORTH A SECOND LOOK

One of our favorite local bloggers, and people, is Tammy Palazzo. Regular readers of her Life Stories blog know she can turn a phrase better than most.

We regularly link to her on our blog list at right. One of her best pieces was on the trials of depression and the need to seek help. It's worth a re-notice even today.

Tammy writes, in part:

 Recently, I went through an extremely dark period.  It felt like it came out of nowhere but, upon reflection and analysis, there were many triggers including work stress, holidays, and some challenging personal relationships.  I realized it was chasing me down and I was running from it like an animal being hunted as prey.  I just didn’t consciously realize I was scurrying from capture until it caught me and pummeled me.  

When I saw the face of my demon, I recognized instantly that it had been sneaking up on me for a while.  Unfortunately, once I thought I got rid of the beast, I relaxed a bit and was shocked when it quickly reappeared and lingered  like a stalled-out hurricane.  It blew in, did some destruction and then seemed like it was moving out to sea.  Much to my surprise and severe disappointment, it changed direction and ended up blowing back in, this time much stronger and hanging on for a much longer period of time.  I was absolutely certain I was having a nervous breakdown. 

The darkness was so severe and so intense that I could not see my way to clarity.  I did not think the clouds would ever pass, that the winds would ever let up or that the rain would stop pouring down.  But, as is always the case with storms, they do pass and the sun shines through the clouds offering the hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Read it all HERE. Thanks Tammy

SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES POLICY GIVING BUS DRIVERS STUDENT RECORD ACCESS

A new policy allowing school bus drivers access to student records was approved Monday night, 6-1, by the school board with little discussion.

The same policy, which can be found HERE, drew more scrutiny when it was introduced last month as board members questioned the need.

Board Attorney Phil Stern explained that the policy was aimed at giving drivers and their aides as much information on students so they can be given the best treatment. He also noted that under the new Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, such access is allowed.

Board Member Johanna Wright cast the lone opposing vote as she voted against everything in the board's action items that night, while Board Members Maureen Jones and Jeffrey Bennett were absent.

SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES LUNCH, BREAKFAST PRICE HIKE

We told you in June that plans were underway to raise school lunch and breakfast prices for the fall.

The school board approved the increase at Monday's board meeting, 6-1, with Johanna Wright casting the lone opposing vote and board members Maureen Jones and Jeffrey Bennett absent.

The price change is as follows:



Previous prices:

School                    Lunch              Breakfast

Elementary              $2.75              $1.50

Middle School         $3.00              $1.75

High School             $3.25             $2.00

The new rates:

School                    Lunch              Breakfast

Elementary              $3.00              $1.75

Middle School         $3.25              $2.00

High School             $3.50              $2.25


The new menu will also include what are described as "variable lunches" for middle school and high school students that can be purchased for 75 cents more. District officials describe these lunches as offering more variety and quantity.