Superintendent's Monthly Newsletter

Parent & Community Edition 7 ~ February 2023

Superintendent's February Newsletter

Kindness in our Schools

Each month that goes by, there are always situations to celebrate and find ways to enjoy the blessings that are bestowed upon us. February in our schools focused on celebrating kindness, respect, and friendship. Schools dedicated time to highlight quality character traits such as being compassionate and caring. Guidance counselors worked hand-in-hand with building leadership to empower students to create a culture of kindness. Students heard from adults in their school that it doesn’t take much to lift someone up—a few words of inspiration, an encouraging compliment, or simply recognizing someone’s presence are ways to provide a bit of inspiration to others.

Pictured: Congratulations to Mikkela Miasco for receiving a J.P. Case Principal Paw Award for her hard work and kindness!

Governor Educators of the Year Recognition

The Board of Education uses the month of February to recognize our Educators of the Year. Our educators give so much to our students and our district. Their acts of kindness to our students, families, and each other demonstrate daily why Flemington-Raritan Regional School District is one of the best school districts for a child to learn and grow. The District Board of Education News & Notes details our wonderful educators and the support they provide to our students every day at every opportunity.

Pictured: Our Educators of the Year were honored at the February 27 Board of Education meeting.

School Calendar, 2023-2024

On February 27, the Board of Education approved the school calendar for the 2023-2024 school year. Click here to access the calendar.

Parents will see on the school calendar for the next school year that students begin on Thursday, September 7th. Our staff and faculty come back together on Tuesday, September 5th. Each year before publishing the calendar, I speak with multiple groups to gather their input on the calendar. Members of our PTO organization, Union leadership, and the Board of Education review multiple calendar versions before a final schedule is selected. I also meet with surrounding school district superintendents to align our calendar as best we can with other districts. Next year, on March 15th, our professional Development Day aligns with Hunterdon Central and other sending districts.

The 2023-2024 school calendar includes 180 student instructional days and 187 teacher days. Three (3) days have been allotted for emergency school closings as needed. If school is closed due to an emergency, days will be made up using the snow contingency days in the following order: May 24th, April 8th, and March 15th. If March 15th is used as a makeup day, it will be an early dismissal day for students and an extended professional development day for staff and faculty.

The district will observe multiple holidays throughout the 2023-2024 school year. We will observe Juneteenth on the third Friday in June, on June 21st. The day before winter break, December 22, 2023, will be an early dismissal day. February includes a long weekend for students over the President's Day holiday, with a professional development day on February 16th. Schools will be closed for students on Friday the 16th and Monday the 19th of February. Rosh Hashanah has no school holiday in September because the observance occurs on a weekend. Rosh Hashanah begins in the evening of Friday, September 15th, and ends in the evening of Sunday, September 17th. Parents will not see Rosh Hashanah listed on the school calendar but will see schools closed on September 25th in observance of Yom Kippur.

February is Black History Month

February marks Black History Month. At Francis A. Desmares School, local community members were invited to be special guest readers. Guests included Dr. John Dawson, former Marine and pilot; Dr. Junie Joseph, Family Practitioner from Hunterdon Medical Center; Lt. Nelson and Officer Mendez from the Flemington Raritan Police Department; and Mrs. Tangerla Thomas, an Assistant Prosecutor from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office. Our district's Diversity, Inclusion and Equity web page features a calendar of heritage, history and awareness months, linked here.

Pictured: Dr. Junie Joseph, Family Practitioner from Hunterdon Medical Center.

Recovering Student Learning Loss: An Action Plan

The district is working diligently to assist students in recovering student learning loss through a specific action plan titled “Project Accelerate.” Last month, in “A Minute with McGann,” I spoke about additional support for students that was happening after school for students facilitated by our teachers offering math tutorial help. I also spoke about Littera, a high-intensity language arts tutoring support system. The district continues to look to expand these programs offering high-intensity tutoring to other students. I was pleased to hear the Governor speak about high-intensity tutoring during the governor's address yesterday. The governor reported additional funding in place for the next school year to continue to support high-intensity tutoring.

The District has instituted MobyMax as a supplemental tool to personalize instruction and is another strategy to recover student learning loss. MobyMax is not replacing instruction but adding to it. Our classroom teachers, support teachers, stretch teachers, ESL teachers, reading recovery, and other intervention teachers are utilizing MobyMax in many different ways, including at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, during a support block, during Excel tutorial or DEAR times. MobyMax is also being assigned as homework to supplement nightly reading and evening math practice.

Pictured: Students in Mrs. Lisa Davis' Class using MobyMax at Barley Sheaf School.

Support for Social, Emotional and Mental Health for Students and Parents

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report reported that children and adolescents are battling a mental health crisis statewide and nationwide. According to the report, in 2021, almost 60% of female high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year, and nearly 25% made a suicide plan.

Education Week reports, “While a large majority of superintendents (81%) agree student behavioral concerns have deepened since the pandemic and an even greater portion (92%) indicate the student mental health crisis is worse than in 2019, most (79%) also say they don’t have the staff to focus on the problem, a survey of almost 200 superintendents in 37 states found.”

In Flemington-Raritan, our school counselors continue to be an important part of our strategy to assist families and positively impact mental health outcomes for the district. We also partner with a team of professionals from Effective School Solutions, bringing additional staff into the district through social workers, counselors, and therapists. Their program has provided 2,614 therapeutic interactions for families and students.

The quality of the partnership between the Effective School Solutions team and school staff continues to be healthy and strong. Parents were invited to attend a parent event on February 28th on the topics of anxiety, ADHD, and social skills deficits. Another support opportunity for parents, in partnership with the Superintendent at the “Talk-a-Latte” event for parents, is provided by Effective Schools Solutions personnel, scheduled on May 11th.

The US Surgeon general, Vivek Murthy was recently quoted as saying, “Imagine a high school with 1,000 students. Now imagine about 450 of them saying they are persistently sad or hopeless, 200 saying they've seriously considered suicide, and nearly 100 saying they've tried to end their own life over the past year. That is the state of youth mental health in America.” In Flemington-Raritan, we provide intensive in-school clinical support, mental health awareness and prevention, care and crisis response, and mental health vision and planning through our multi-tiered systems of support for our students.

NPR--10 things to know about how social media affects teens' brains

Cory Turner| February 16, 202312:01 PM ET

Meet Jon & John, the voices behind our weather calls!

This year, our District asked two students to help us record weather-related messages. I spent the afternoon with two students at Barley Sheaf School, Jon Budd and John Ruiz Martinez. They were up for the challenge!

Messages were prepared and recorded for school closings, delayed openings and early dismissals. Jon, a 1st-grader, recorded messages in English. John, a 4th-grader, recorded messages in Spanish that our Spanish-speaking families receive. Both students were eager and excited to review their scripts, make suggestions, edit messages, rehearse with me, and use the phone and automated system to record the messages. They did a remarkable job and I'm very proud of both of them. They were diligent and patient as we recorded messages several times until they were just right.

I share a special thank you with Barley Sheaf ESL Teacher Ivette Shoemaker who assisted with the Spanish messages and Mrs. Karen Gabruk, Principal of Barley Sheaf School, for sharing her office with us. I must admit, I am hoping for a little more wintry weather so that we can hear these special calls again! Thank you, Jon and John!

Why Jon and John you might wonder? I met these students during my monthly walk-through with the Principal at Barley Sheaf School. Jon was drawing and writing about snow days and while talking with him about weather I found Jon to be articulate, engaging and well spoken. I offered him the opportunity to make the snow recording. Likewise, Mrs. Shoemaker recommended John as a dual-language speaker who was able to communicate effectively in both English and Spanish.

Pictured: Jon Budd and I recording weather messages at Barley Sheaf School; John Ruiz Martinez, Mrs. Ivette Shoemaker and I recording weather messages in Spanish.

John, Mrs. Shoemaker and I recording a snow call

Transportation on School Buses

February is the month when bus drivers are recognized and appreciated. February 22nd is School Bus Driver Appreciation Day. Every day, either as children or parents or teachers, we appreciate our school bus drivers. Our school bus drivers are an important part of our team, ensuring that our students arrive to and from school safely and on time.

Each month, I have the opportunity to ride one of our school buses with students. I take this time to let our bus drivers know how much we appreciate them and visit with students. During the “Superintendent Rides the Bus Day,” I asked students to share things that are going well for them at school or what could be better. This month, I rode a J.P. Case Middle School bus in the afternoon and talked with eighth graders. Multiple students shared with me how much they appreciate their teachers. I spoke with an 8th grader who shared he's made many friends and science is his favorite subject. I spoke with another 8th grader who shared with me that he likes that students have enough freedom to move around the hallways between classes, and he gave a shout-out to his math teacher and language arts teacher. Another 8th grader told me that he believes our schools have done a great job preparing him for high school.

Our bus drivers are important members of the Flemington-Raritan team. Their role as bus drivers is bigger than just transporting students to and from school. They have an opportunity each day to have a positive impact on students. Sometimes it’s easy for people to forget how much a bus driver contributes to the lives of students, parents, teachers, and community members. They are tasked with the critical responsibility of protecting our students each and every day. I am grateful for all our bus drivers’ hard work, dedication, and commitment to students and their safety.

Pictured: One of our bus drivers with her recognition from Barley Sheaf School.

Lunch with the Superintendent Day

Each month I enjoy lunchtime with students. On February 10, it was “Lunch with the Superintendent Day!” at Francis A. Desmares School. Grade 2 students shared with me how much they love school. Two students taught our lunch bunch how to say hello in Urdu. We had a fabulous dessert provided by Maschio's, our cafeteria food service provider. I enjoyed Maschio's menu items; lunch was delicious! My next lunch bunch will be with Reading-Fleming Intermediate School students on March 7.

Pictured: My lunch bunch group at Francis A. Desmares School.

J.P. Case Basketball Champs!

Both the boys' and girls' varsity basketball teams at J.P. Case Middle School competed in championship games. While the girls' team was defeated and the boys' team was victorious, we are so proud of their hard work and efforts this season. Way to go, Tigers!

Pictured: The girls' and boys' varsity basketball teams.

J.P. Case Boys Basketball Team
Upcoming Events:

Congratulations to the cast and crew of J.P. Case Middle School's musical The Addams Family.
Shows are March 3, 7 p.m. and March 4, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Dr. Kari McGann

Superintendent of Schools

Flemington-Raritan Regional School District