Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Staff Development Days

Due to the construction that took place over the summer, we delayed the start of the school year a bit and then the first four days were for faculty and staff only. Interestingly, this feature to the school calendar -- concentrating staff development time at the beginning of the year -- allowed an opportunity to work together as a faculty and proved to be very beneficial. We felt that we had a chance to concentrate on specified themes and to start the year “on the same page.”

I know that next week’s schedule of days off can be difficult for our working parents. We chose to take Wednesday as a faculty staff development day because it fell on a day where there were a number of county-wide opportunities for our staff – schools across the county will be having in-service days on this same day. It will be the only time during the actual school year that we are off for a full day of faculty in-service. In years past, these days came around a bit more frequently.

So, other than next week with the in-service day and the Teachers’ Convention, we will only be off for scheduled holidays. The idea of clustering the full-day staff development days at the beginning of the school year went so well this past September that I am giving serious thought to proposing a calendar for next year that will be similar in that regard (but, without the extra delay due to construction!).

Just thought you might want to know . . .

Monday, October 30, 2006

Planning for Next Week

November can be a bit crazy with the various days off. Looking ahead to next week, we have only one regular school day – Monday, November 6.

Monday, November 6 -- Regular School Day
Tuesday, November 7 -- OFF (Election Day)
Wednesday, November 8 -- Faculty In-Service Day – no school for students
Thursday, November 9 -- OFF (New Jersey Teachers’ Convention)
Friday, November 10 -- OFF (New Jersey Teachers’ Convention)

Sometimes, when these events happen early in the month, they can sneak up on you because the calendar page has not been turned. I just thought another reminder wouldn’t hurt.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Spotlight on Mr. Morris

Mr. Morris

Sr. High Assistant Principal

Woodbury Jr.-Sr. High School

Steven R. Morris

• College(s) and degrees(s):
Delaware State University: BS Business Administration; Rowan University: Special Education Certification; Lincoln University: Masters in School Leadership

• Work experience:
Teacher of the Handicap in Camden NJ from 1994-2003; Middle School Assistant Principal in Pennsauken NJ from 2003-2006

• Favorite books
• fiction: Call of the Wild by Jack London
• nonfiction: The Negro Leagues by David Craft

• Favorite television show:
The Sopranos

• Last movie I loved:
Batman Beyond

•Person (living or not) that I’d like to have lunch with and why:
Shaquille O'Neal: He always appears to have fun, but I also feel that he has an astute business mind that I can learn from.

• Visiting this place makes me peaceful:
Fairmount Park in Philadelphia

• One item on my “to do” list that I can’t seem to get to:
I want to learn to speak Spanish

• Favorite animal (domestic or wild):

• Favorite sports team:

Philadelphia Eagles

• Destination of my fantasy vacation trip:
City of Pompeii

• Details about the teacher I will never forget who inspired me to enter the profession:
My fourth grade teacher Mr. Strobol had the biggest influence on my life. He made learning fun like no other teacher. I did get into a lot of trouble in his classroom. In looking back, I greatly appreciate the time I spent in his classroom.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Parent Organizations -- November Meetings

FYI. I plan to attend the November meetings of the Parent-Teacher organizations for our elementary schools. The Evergreen group meets next Wednesday, November 1, in the evening. Walnut's parent organization is scheduled for Thursday, November 2, in the afternoon, and the West End meeting is also November 2, in the evening.

I am looking forward to meeting with anyone who is able to make it out to these meetings.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Family Fun -- "Family Nights"

This seems like it is the “Week of the Family” in terms of my posts. As difficult as it is to find time to get everything done each day, let me again encourage you to get out to a “Family Night” activity this year. These special occasions will provide for wonderful learning opportunities and create fond memories.

Last night, we had our first of three kindergarten Family Nights. Congratulations to the kindergarten and speech teachers who helped our families through all the activities. There will be two additional kindergarten evenings this year.

The last of the third grade Family Nights is TONIGHT. If you have missed the other two evenings, see if you can make it out for some fun with mathematics this evening. This program will start at 6:30 p.m. and is held at West End Memorial School.

The link for all the Family Night Programs is below; dates are provided. These are district-wide activities – open to all students and families in the district. More information will come out by flyer as each program date gets closer. Circle the date for your child's Family Night on the calendar!

Contact your child’s teacher or the building principal for more information.

  • Woodbury Family Nights
  • Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Marriage, Parenting, and Schools -- Continued

    And . . . a taste of reality. I did not plan it this way when I wrote what I did the other day, but on the heels of yesterday’s post, I find myself a “single” parent for the day. My wife is with one of my son’s overnight attending to his recovery from minor (is there such a thing?) surgery.

    I realize that my taste of being a single parent is really not the same as those who do this every day. I have been provided a bit of a script and the medicines that are required the three remaining sons that are my charge happen to all be left out together on the counter. Little things like that make this only a taste of what it is like to be really on your own.

    Well. First of all, and most importantly, let me say that I am glad that only the first grader had homework. The fifth grade student did want to review his classwork – at 9:30 p.m. -- and that turned into some homework. We set out clothes for the next day (because that’s part of a routine, thanks to my wife – routines are good). Bed by 10:00 p.m. right!?! Oh my.

    Alarm clock. Now, I just need to feed myself breakfast, prepare three other breakfasts (or maybe two if the high school student is still sick!). Get one guy to before-school intramurals and the other to a sitter to await the school bus. Oh, yes, and pack lunches. I can’t forget that one – that wouldn’t be good.

    One small victory --- the two younger ones and I did read a book before that late bedtime. I am thankful for small victories. This is hard work. Special thanks to all the moms and dads who are doing this parenting business on their own.

    I always have said that I became a better educator once I had my own children. I need to revise that statement – I believe that I would become and even better educator if I had to parent my children on my own for any length of time. Right now, I am just glad that length of time is twenty-four hours!

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Marriage as a Social Contract

    In Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, there was a commentary entitled “Marriage as a Social Contract.” The author, Stephanie Coontz stated that “for the first time in 150 years, households headed by single adults and unmarried couples now outnumber married-couple families.”

    Though we have been sensitive to this issue in schools for some time (one example would be sending home letters with the salutation “Dear Parent/Guardian”), I could not help wonder if there is more that we need to do as a school given some of the issues the Ms. Coontz raises – families that are started much later in life which result in “older” parents who are more likely to both work outside the home and the high percentage of individuals living together but not married who have children in the home.

    Ms. Coontz writes that “many of our assumptions and expectations are based on the world of the 1950s – a world that no longer exists.” Does our school organization, in general and/or at Woodbury, need to change in any way to better account for the issues raised by this commentary?

  • Philadelphia Inquirer Commentary
  • Friday, October 20, 2006

    Friday Spotlight on Ms. Rosario

    Ms. Rosario

    Jr. High Special Education Teacher

    Woodbury Jr.-Sr. High School

    Jackie Rosario

    • College(s) and degrees(s):
    Temple University -- B.S. in Elementary/Early Childhood/Special Education and a second major in Spanish for Education

    • Work experience:
    Special Education Teacher: Resource Room Math in Pennsauken NJ during the 2005-2006 school year

    • Favorite books
    The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

    • Favorite television show:
    Grey's Anatomy (although there are many)

    • Last movie I loved:
    Inside Man

    •Person (living or not) that I’d like to have lunch with and why:
    Martin Luther King Jr. He had the courage to stand up for what he believed in and advocated expressing one's thoughts in a peaceful manner.

    • Visiting this place makes me peaceful:
    Visiting my grandmother

    • One item on my “to do” list that I can’t seem to get to:
    Learning a third language and joining an immersion program in a country that speaks that language

    • Favorite animal (domestic or wild):

    • Favorite sports team:

    Philadelphia Eagles

    • Destination of my fantasy vacation trip:

    • Details about the teacher I will never forget who inspired me to enter the profession:
    My fifth grade teacher, Ms. Sullivan. She made learning fun and interactive. Ms. Sullivan would go beyond using worksheets and textbooks and engage us in most of our lessons whether they were individual work or group projects.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    NASA Explorer School Teachers Ready to Fly

    (This post is compliments of a news release written by Alysa Cummings, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction)

    Students at Woodbury High School are going to circle February 9, 2007 on their calendars.

    That’s the day that a team of four of their teachers are going to participate in a NASA experiment – with two of them floating weightlessly in space, conducting an experiment that they are responsible for monitoring and graphing.

    Woodbury High School teachers Ari Ford, Dan Jones, Colleen Fitzgerald and Antoinette Allen do more than teach science and math during the school day. They are also team teachers for the NASA Explorer School grant, now in its third and final year. As the sole NASA Explorer School in New Jersey, these teachers regularly tap into exciting resources provided by NASA, but taking a flight on the so-called “Vomit Comet” in Houston, Texas falls into another category entirely.

    According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, “Vomit Comet is a nickname for any NASA airplane that briefly provides a nearly weightless environment in which to train astronauts, conduct research, and film motion pictures. Versions of this airplane have been operated by NASA's Reduced Gravity Research Program since 1973. (Interestingly enough, NASA prefers the nickname “Weightless Wonder” for public relations reasons).”

    While the Woodbury teachers are aboard the plane, they will conduct a robotics experiment that Mr. Ford recently designed and submitted to NASA. The experiment involves three different robot simple machines – a crane, a drill and a bulldozer. The goal is to compare the concept of work under Earth's gravity to work carried out under weightless conditions. Mr. Ford’s 9th graders in Woodbury will be challenged to retrieve data produced by the experiment, graph it and draw appropriate conclusions.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    0123 -- It's That Easy

    The district's telephone system was upgraded as one of the various referendum related projects. Just this past weekend, a final aspect of that upgrade was completed. In the process, we have experienced some difficulty associated with the "old" elementary school telephone numbers.

    As part of the new system, the school district has united all the schools. This has allowed for easy communication within the district -- from within any of the buildings, individuals can now be reached by dialing a simple three digit extension. This has also resulted in joining all schools under one telephone number. Each school should now be reached by dialing 853-0123.

    By dialing this central number, 853-0123, you reach the Woodbury Public Schools. Then, you can use the following options to connect to your desired school:

    Option --

    1: Jr-Sr High School
    2: Evergreen Avenue School
    3: Walnut Street School
    4: West End Memorial School
    5: Office of Special Services
    6: Central Offices

    Also, you can press the extension of any individual in the district as soon as you are connected when dialing 853-0123.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Board of Education Meeting -- Tonight

    The regular, monthly meeting of the Woodbury Board of Education is scheduled for this evening at 7:00 p.m. The meeting is held in the Board Conference Room on the first floor of the high school building.

    A variety of reports will presented this evening to the board members and public -- Quality Annual Assurance Report, Violence and Vandalism Report for 2005-06, and a districting testing synopsis. The full agenda for the meeting can be found on the district website.

    English as a Second Language (ESL) for Adults

    The Woodbury School District, in conjunction with Gloucester County College and the Woodbury Neighborhood Preservation Program, began offering ESL classes for adults (ages eighteen and older) during last school year. This is an evening program. The first round of classes were very successful -- attracting up to fifty adults.

    This evening, a new cycle of the ESL course begins. If you know anyone who would be interested, please direct him/her to the school. The course is held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and will run for ten weeks. You can contact my secretary, Mrs. Carr, at 853-0123 (ext. 214) for more details.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Violence Awareness Week

    This week, all New Jersey public schools will organize events around the theme of “Violence Awareness Week.” The Woodbury Public Schools will dedicate extra energy to provide our students more information about issues of safety appropriate to their grade level. Additionally, some individual classroom activities will focus on this theme.

    I wrote a letter to parents and guardians informing them of the Violence Awareness Week and letting them know that we entered the 2006-07 school year with a plan to be more proactive with the practice of our various emergency response procedures associated with the district Emergency Operations Plan. Our plan has been assembled utilizing the support of various professional resources and covers a wide variety of potential crisis situations. This letter was sent home with students in grades K-6 and posted on our district website's front page.

    Please see the full text of the letter for more detail. You can feel free to contact the building principals or me with any questions that you may have.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Friday Spotlight on Ms. McArthur

    Ms. McArthur

    1st Grade Teacher

    Evergreen Avenue Elementary School

    Bobbi Sue McArthur

    • College(s) and degrees(s):
    Towson University; Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

    • Work experience:
    This is my first teaching position out of college.

    • Favorite books
    My favorite fiction author is Jodi Picoult. I love all her books!

    • Favorite television show:

    • Last movie I loved:
    How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

    • Music CD that I have almost worn out from repeated playing:
    Bob Seger

    • Visiting this place makes me peaceful:
    My workout area in the basement

    • One item on my “to do” list that I can’t seem to get to:
    I have to cross out everything on my "to do" list! So, I do not put the things I will never get to.

    • Favorite animal (domestic or wild):

    • Favorite sports team:


    • Destination of my fantasy vacation trip:
    St. Lucia

    • Details about the teacher I will never forget who inspired me to enter the profession:
    My first grade teacher inspired me to become a teacher. She was kind and caring. She wanted to know about my life outside of school and know me as a real person. She taught me how fun learning can be and that it never ends. She has been a continual support in my life; I still keep in touch with her. She has shaped my life in ways that I will never be able to repay her for.

    4th Grade Teacher Carla Bittner National Award Winner

    (Carla Bittner w. Superintendent Jones, Dr. Foley, Acting Commissioner Davy, and Principal Carey)

    Yesterday, Evergreen Avenue School fourth grade teacher Carla Bittner was surprised at a school assembly to find that the reason everyone gathered at the event was to celebrate the fact that she was one of two New Jersey educators to win the Milken Family foundation National Educator Award for 2006. Actually, everyone was surprised since the purpose of the program was kept as a secret.

    Acting Commissioner of Education for New Jersey, Lucille Davy, and the Senior Vice President for the Milken Family National Educator Awards Program, Dr. Jane Foley, were on hand to make the surprise announcement.

    An overview of the Milken program is provided below. The award, as gradually revealed to all the children and adults gathered at the assembly yesterday, includes a $25,000 cash prize. Congratulations, Mrs. Bittner!

    (Carla Bittner w. Acting Commissioner Davy)

    Program Overview:

    The Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards program provides public recognition and financial rewards to elementary and secondary schoolteachers, principals and other education professionals who are furthering excellence in education. By honoring outstanding educators, the program strives to attract, develop, motivate and retain talented people to the challenge and adventure of teaching.

    In the early 1980s, education reform pioneer Lowell Milken conceived and created an awards program to acknowledge educators' crucial contributions to our national well-being. His main belief was–and is–that an effective way to advance the teaching profession is to reward educators' achievements, enhance their resources, and expand their professional interests.
    From its original presentation of awards to a dozen California educators, the program has grown to national stature with participating partners in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Including the recipients announced during the 2005–2006 school year, over 2,200 outstanding kindergarten-through-12th-grade educators have been recognized and celebrated with unrestricted, individual Milken Educator Awards of $25,000.

    The Milken Educator Awards are announced each year at exciting surprise notifications held in all-school assemblies, attended by thousands of students all across the country. Foundation representatives and the chief state school officer make the Award announcements in the company of federal, state and local dignitaries, often including the governor or first lady.
    The electronic and print media presence at the notifications is essential in publicizing excellence in education. Policymakers and their constituencies, the private sector, and social agencies working to better their communities are reminded of the critical, positive impact of educators. Furthermore, spreading the news of the Awards seeks to attract talented people, young and older alike, to the American teaching profession.

    The Foundation presents the financial awards to new honorees during a gala celebration held at the annual Milken Family Foundation National Education Conference. This inspirational gathering, whose guests include state and federal government officials as well as influential community, business and education leaders, generates widespread recognition for America's finest educators.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Interactive -- Any Comments?

    Okay. It’s been five weeks of me posting Woodbury Public School items of interest – at least I believe that they are items that have some interest! What about you? The idea of the blog, as I understand it, is that it can generate opportunity for comment.

    There have been a few comments along the way, but this has not been an overly active aspect of this blog, to date. We have a decent number of regular readers at this point. So, how about a comment?

    I’ll give you a question to help prod a comment out of you. Is there something that you would like to see as a posting – something about the Woodbury Public Schools or education in general? Maybe, if we get comments here today, the ideas can be used for future posts.

    So, I thought today would be a chance for you to take a moment and post a comment. We might be able to get the ball rolling on a more interactive blog. Give it a try!

    Basic Skills Teachers

    I extend thanks to the team of basic skills and reading recovery teachers in our elementary schools who organized our parent meeting last night. Also, thanks to the many parents who took time to come out and learn more about this program.

    This group of basic skills instructors has been diligently working in a cooperative manner to build on new initiatives in our program. I believe that the night proved to be informative. We are proud of the work that we do, and I was especially proud of the energy and dedication of these teachers.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Evening Activities This Week -- Reminders

    Tonight, there is a meeting for parents interesting in understanding more about the district’s K-5 basic skills program. Our basic skills teachers for grades K-5 and our first grade Reading Recovery teachers will present this program to parents.

    The meeting will be held at the Evergreen Avenue School, but it is a district-wide meeting. If your child is participating in an aspect of our basic skills program, you have already received an invitation to attend. The program starts at 6:30 p.m.

    Tomorrow, our first Family Night event for the 2005-06 school year will take place. Family Math Night for students in grade 3 will be held at the West End Memorial School. This is a district-wide activity – open to all third grade students in the district and their families; the program starts at 6:30 p.m. Invitations have been sent home with all third grade students.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Friday Spotlight on Ms. Frazer

    Ms. Frazer

    2nd Grade Teacher

    Evergreen Avenue Elementary School

    Dana Frazer

    • College(s) and degrees(s):
    Temple University; Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, minor in Spanish

    • Work experience:
    Student teaching experience in Philadelphia Public Schools; taught Spanish in grades 1-6 in Wenonah Elementary School

    • Favorite books
    o fiction: Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
    o nonfiction: Freedom Writers (a very inspiring must read for all educators and anyone involved in the profession!)

    • Favorite television show:
    Desperate Housewives and Jeopardy (an interesting mix!)

    • Last movie I loved:
    Cars. Yes, the cartoon movie! Very cute and funny.

    • Music CD that I have almost worn out from repeated playing:
    Nelly Furtado, Loose

    • Person (living or not) that I’d like to have lunch with and why:
    I would love to have lunch with Oprah. I know it sounds cliché, but I admire the things that she has accomplished -- not only for herself but for the world.

    • Visiting this place makes me peaceful:

    • One item on my “to do” list that I can’t seem to get to:
    Deleting unwanted files on my computer

    • Favorite animal (domestic or wild):
    Sea otters -- catch them at the Philadelphia zoo. They're so playful!

    • Favorite sports team:


    • Destination of my fantasy vacation trip:
    Sao Paolo, Brazil

    • Details about the teacher I will never forget who inspired me to enter the profession:
    My 7th grade Social Studies teacher Mr. Krantweiss inspired me to become a teacher with his very quirky teaching style that showed that he truly cared about us and really enjoyed what he did. He told us that he loved going to work everyday, and it showed. My goal is for all of my students to be able to tell, without me saying a word, that I truly love to be with them, doing what I do.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Commissioner Davy to Visit Evergreen Avenue School

    The Acting Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Education, Lucille Davy, will be visiting the Evergreen Avenue Elementary School next Wednesday, October 11. She will address the students during a brief assembly and then tour the building.

    Davy was first appointed Acting Education Commissioner in 2005; previously she served as Special Counsel to the Governor on Education. She earned a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School and a B.S. in mathematics from Seton Hall University. She lives in Pennington with her husband and two sons.

    The Department of Education administers state and federal aid programs for public and non-public elementary and secondary school children and ensures that schools comply with all state and federal laws and regulations. The department also oversees student transportation and education programs for adults and persons who are disadvantaged, disabled or foreign-born.

    We are excited to have the Commissioner join us. The students have been making various preparations, and there will be student performances to welcome Ms. Davy. We are sure that she will be impressed!

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    College Courses for our High School Students

    This year, Woodbury High School juniors and seniors have been provided the opportunity to take college courses at the high school. The course marks a new journey for Woodbury High School in our quest to provide excellence and innovation in all that we do for our students.

    The cost of these college level psychology courses (Psychology 101- Semester 1 and Abnormal Psychology- Semester 2) has been underwritten by the Tech Prep Grant for Applied Sciences. Woodbury Public Schools was awarded this grant as a result of a partnership between Woodbury High School and the Gloucester County Institute of Technology.

    A letter was mailed to students taking honors and advanced placement classes to solicit an interest for the proposed course during the summer. More than twenty students responded positively; approximately fifteen (15) students ultimately registered to take the courses.

    Dr. DeeAnn Wilcox, Dean of Liberal Arts at Gloucester Community College, played a major role in coordinating the program. This included the hiring of an adjunct professor to teach the course. Dr. Maddison, Woodbury’s music teacher, was one of the candidates; he was ultimately selected to provide the instruction for our students. Dr. Maddison has years of experience teaching psychology courses at the community college level.

    This new course offering is first and foremost a college level course for which successful participating students will receive three (3) college credits per course. Through the innovation of what the New Jersey Department of Education references as the “Option II” approach to high school graduation, our students will also be able to receive high school credit upon successful completion of each course.

    The students are taking their first course during a “Zero Period” – first thing in the morning – at 7 a.m. The course runs four days a week and will follow the traditional college semester pacing. The second course will start some time in the winter.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Back-to-School for Elementary Parents -- Thursday, October 5

    Reminder -- This Thursday, October 5th, is Back-to-School night for our three elementary schools. The start time is 7:00 p.m.

    Look how much fun these kindergarten students are having in Mrs. Gorham's class at West End!

    Learning is fun! We learn best when we enjoy the activities.

    Come see what has everyone smiling. We hope all our parents will be able to join us at the elementary school programs this Thursday.

    [The work of the kindergarten teachers is very taxing, but the rewards are great!]

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    Blogging Recap

    Well, it has been a month of regular blogging. The White & Gold (blog edition) has been visited approximately 700 times during its inaugural month. In addition, the total number of “hits” to the site (counting when the same IP address returns during the same 24-hour period) is approximately 1200 for the month.

    Currently, the site is now averaging approximately 30 “visitors” a day. Additionally, there are a number of school employees who regularly check the site and, since the school’s IP is only counted once in a 24-hour period, I suspect that the true number of different visitors is even higher.

    So, what does that all mean? I feel that this first month has been a success. The blog site has not been extensively advertised, but it seems as if there is growing interest.

    This first month has allowed for a good bit of our new programming to be explained in some detail. Some of that will continue. I also intend to use the forum to bring other state and national issues to the attention of the users of this blog. Also, you can see that the Friday Spotlight is up and running; this feature will be a regular Friday post throughout the school year.

    Finally, the blog does allow for interactive use. If you have a question or comment, feel free to add it to the “comment” section of a daily post. You may even have a suggestion for something that you would like to see as a focus for an upcoming posting; add your thoughts.

    On to our second month of blogging!