Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jr.-Sr. High School -- Update on a Concern

Last week, were were presented with a difficult matter in the form of a Philadelphia news station's choice to run a story on bulllying. The focus was the Woodbury Jr.-Sr. High School and the information seemingly came from a single source. It is very difficult for the school to comment on individual matters, but we want to assure our school community that we take these matters very seriously. Our faculty and administration work hard to establish strong relationships with students and to provide a safe, structured environment for all students. There are definite expectations for all students that are outlined in our student conduct code, and this code is upheld.

Below is a copy of a letter that Mrs. Dunham, the high school principal, sent by mail to each family in the Jr.-Sr. High School in an effort to provide some limited explanation from the school's perspective. This should be arriving in homes today or tomorrow; this electronic version is an advanced copy for blog readers. As she indicates, our doors are always open. If you would like a tour of our building during any school hour, simply stop by the main office and we will arrange it for you.

Letter from Mrs. Dunham, Jr.-Sr. High School Principal:

Dear Community Members,

On Thursday evening of last week -- just before midnight – WCAU-TV 10 News in Philadelphia ran a story about a student of Woodbury with claims that she was bullied and afraid to attend our school. It is unfortunate that this news agency chose to run a story received from a single source with apparently no fact checking on their part. There were a number of false statements included in the story leaving an overall impression that does not correspond with the true facts.

Though I cannot be more specific with respect to the details of this incident, let me assure you that we have a building that develops strong character in our students in a positive setting. The New Jersey Department of Education will visit our school to investigate the allegations. We do not expect the investigation to disrupt the academic routine; we do expect those investigating to find students who are content, focused, safe, and engaged in learning – learning that will ensure they will be prepared for college.

We welcome anyone into our building at any time during the school day and after school to witness our daily routine that ends, for many children, long after the last bell rings. Simply stop by the main office and ask for me; I will be glad to arrange for a tour.

• If you arrive as our Junior High School day begins (at 7:40 a.m. each morning) you will see 20+ classrooms serving nearly 300 adolescents from every corner of our town bond with morning greeting activities that have the purpose of setting a positive climate for learning each day. We call this Developmental Designs activity “Herd Huddles.”

• Town Hall meetings are held every Friday morning for Junior and Senior High School students where we take time to address students in specific grade levels with important news and celebrate academic and co-curricular achievements.

• Even though the school year has just begun, some students have already identified their own “special places” during the lunch period; they share lunch with teachers and students with whom they have already established positive and productive relationships in small groups in various classrooms around the building.

• Our after-school WORKPLACE program is staffed with four tutors and a Lead Teacher on Mondays through Thursdays. This is a place where students are encouraged to come to study, receive assistance in homework, or hone their testing skills for those high stakes assessments in the spring.

• Targeted professional development occurs annually so that our faculty members are prepared to appropriately address any concerns associated with harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

• Despite severe budget cuts, we offer nearly 20 sports and/or co-curricular activities for Junior High School students and over 40 sports and/or activities at the Senior High School level from which students can choose to contribute their talents and gifts to our school community.

Our faculty and staff are “second to none”; we value every parent; we honor every child who enters our doors each day.

We do investigate all incidents of bullying, intimidation, and/or harassment. We have a student conduct code that we work hard to uphold. Students are held accountable and discipline consequences are administered in accordance to that code. Additionally, we spend considerable time working with students who find themselves in trouble and with their families to help support a positive change so that everyone can find school to be a productive environment. Please do not hesitate to contact me or either of the assistant principals if you ever have a concern.

This school opening was one of the smoothest openings in many years. It was unfortunate that our first days of school were disrupted by an inaccurate and one-sided account of a situation -- tainting the good work that is going on in our school.

We will continue to do what is right by students – every student – and look forward to a very positive 2010-11 school year.


Denise Dunham,

Contact Information:
Denise Duham, Jr-Sr High School Principal, 853-0123, ext. 212
Jason Vivadelli, Sr High School Assistant Principal, 853-0123, ext. 209
Thomas Braddock, Jr High School Assistant Principal, 853-0123, ext. 200

For more information, you can view the board’s Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying policy (Policy Number 5512.01) on the district’s website: http://www.woodburysch.com/boed/policy/5000/Policy%205512.01.pdf.

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