Superintendent Newsletter

Roxbury Public Schools

June 2022

Hello, Roxbury!


While we offer a plethora of information through our website, building level newsletters, virtual backpack, messaging system, social media sources and a variety of presentations, this correspondence will share some additional news and views with you in the final days of this school year.


Although it’s been a challenging year as we have navigated the aftermath of the pandemic, it has also been a year with many achievements as evidenced by our academic, athletic, and performing arts awards, our work with the Morris Habitat for Humanities and our many celebrations. This will be a year to remember for our resilience and tenacity as well as our compassion, respect, and integrity. I hope you will find time to read this newsletter in its entirety as there is a correspondence that we received from another district that I believe you will truly enjoy.


Educationally yours,


Loretta L. Radulic, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

Academics

We pride ourselves on being a comprehensive school district that strives to be as innovative in our instruction as in our programming. To that end, presentations at Board of Education meetings have included the more typical requirements of state reporting that includes Start Strong Data and HIB data, as well as informative presentations highlighting our Wellness Program and explaining the Selection of K-5 Math Supplement. We have many celebratory BOE presentations at the end of the school year that include recognizing our RHS Valedictorian and Salutatorian as well as our Educators of the Year and Retired Teachers/Staff.


Along with celebrations, at this evening’s Board of Education meeting, students will share their experiences with the Senior Option Process. With their mentor, students selected and designed learning aligned with their interests or a curiosity. Topics covered a broad range. I was fortunate to observe a couple of their final presentations. One student articulated her experiences after serving in a teaching role. We definitely have a highly effective teacher in the making! Another student explained how his work in our middle school STEAM class will aid in the redesign of our program. I couldn’t be more pleased knowing that student voice and his data will play a role in the redesign. The efforts, maturity, initiative, and responsibility of these students as they explored their interests and pursued their learning was obvious.


At the high school, students have three options if they are interested in pursuing coursework that is not offered at the high school:

  • Independent Study

  • Senior Option

  • College Option Program


Students who wish to pursue their interests, talents or curiosities can review requirements in our Program of Studies on page 13. It’s important for students to know their options as they plan for their futures. Through these opportunities and our Pathway design, students may discover their passion for future endeavors or they may learn more about themselves and uncover a new path to travel. Either way, it’s learning that will impact their lives in a positive and productive way.

Safety and Security

Along with academics, we are continually focused on safety and security. It’s our first priority. We have returned to a more typical school year and with that we need to return to more typical school planning. Hopefully, gone are the days of meetings focused on social distancing, covid protocols, and masking. With the recent event at a Texas elementary school, we were all reminded to return to the table to continue our focus on safety and security. On occasion, parents have asked me what I mean by “safety is paramount in education.” Families want to know what we have done, what we are planning, and, most importantly, how safe are our children. Children cannot learn if they do not feel like they are in a safe environment with adults who care about them and will care for them in all situations. A safe, warm, and inviting environment fosters academic success. Therefore, safety is intricately linked to learning, to the educational system itself.


In 2016, when I became the very proud Superintendent of the Roxbury School District, I also became the one responsible for ensuring that all of my children are safe. I don’t use the phrase “my children” lightly, and I know my administration would echo these sentiments. We sincerely, truly, and deeply care about our students - and our staff! But caring is not enough. We also believe in taking action. Over the years, we have taken many actions and made critical improvements that speak to our dedication, commitment, and forward thinking.


Although there are no guarantees in life, there is vigilance, awareness, planning and partnerships. We continue to reinforce the mantra “See something, Say Something.” Throughout the years, there are examples where we have been able to thwart mischief because we have been given a “heads up.” Along with the “see something, say something,” mantra, we have created an awareness with our “stop the prop” to avoid open doors in any other location.


From 2016 - 2018, we worked to construct secure vestibules at each of our schools to create a single point of entry for visitors. In addition, we also purchased a program that allows us to check licenses against databases of those entering our buildings.


In 2016, we created the Director of Security position and hired the former Roxbury Police Chief. In that same year, we began training and the implementation of A.L.I.C.E. protocols. Administration and staff trained with police to respond to an intruder. Using the A.L.I.C.E. protocols, we empowered staff and students to take action in our lock-downs whether that means barricading a door or evacuating the premises. We are planning on hosting additional training in the upcoming school year.


By the end of 2016, every school had trauma kits, and we transitioned to our Informacast Emergency Notification System. This system allows us to send immediate notification to all classrooms, both verbally and visually.


Since 2016, we have a 25% increase in emergency communication protables and a

50% increase in camera coverage. We have also increased the retention rate of video footage. In addition, we have a one-touch emergency notification phone system that was installed in 2020 in all of our buildings. Tourniquets are also available in every classroom and our physical education teachers have provided the training to their colleagues on proper use should a need arise.


You may have attended our Security presentation in 2017. In a rare community event, the School District Administration partnered with the Town Council to discuss community safety. Our Police Chief and Director of Security provided a presentation that addressed school safety, lockdowns, A.L.I.C.E., and police response time. It's not unusual for police officers to conduct walk-throughs of our buildings. We have a very strong relationship with our town’s Police Department, and it’s clear that they care about ALL of the children in our buildings and the safety of our community. They have children in our schools, too! This summer our police force will be utilizing one of our school buildings to train. Our administration and safety teams will be on-site to observe in order to create a deeper understanding of the roles that individuals would play should a crisis arise.


We currently have eight security officers and a few years back, the Board of Education approved my recommendation to allow retired police officer security guards to conceal carry. We are reviewing security officer hours and schedules to provide better coverage for all district schools.


Every month the building community practices two drills: fire and emergency. These drills allow us to practice safe evacuations and protocols. Oftentimes, we invite our Director of Security or police to observe and evaluate the drills. Feedback and a second set of eyes are essential to making improvements. Another drill we practiced in 2019 was the offsite Reunification Drill. We were one of less that a half dozen districts to practice this drill. It involved 75 high school students and their families. The drill allowed us to examine how quickly we could evacuate a building, coordinate transportation, set up systems, and reunite our families with their children. In the upcoming year, we will be discussing reunification practices at building levels.


An essential piece of security is helping those who are troubled or struggling emotionally. Therefore, in 2017, I hired two additional guidance counselors to ensure that every elementary school had their own counselor to provide lessons on emotional regulation, conflict resolution, socialization, etc. In addition, after two years of navigating the uncharted waters of the pandemic, we decided to use a portion of the federal funding to add a second guidance counselor in the Lincoln Roosevelt schools. These guidance counselors, along with our teacher and administration, offer social emotional learning. This along with our SEL surveys help us to identify students who may need additional support. Working with our families, we strive to be proactive.


All of our schools have a safety team composed of the principal, nurse, guidance counselor, other administrators, teachers, and parents. Our Security Director oversees these teams and works as a liaison to our local police so that they are aware of our protocols. We are continually training. Police Chief Adone and I happen to attend a Communication in Crisis training. So, you may wonder why I don’t speak out about national events. Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. I usually discuss those decisions with police, superintendent colleagues, administrators, and Board of Education members. Sometimes, the message has been sent out by someone else in authority, such as the Attorney General or Gov. Murphy. In those situations, I decide the purpose of my message, and its possible impact. I try to avoid initiating panic, fear or sensationalism. When I decide not to address a situation directly, I may ask that messages be delivered through principal communications.


One of our goals for the 2022-2023 school year is to finalize a School Threat Assessment Program by creating a team with expertise in administration, counseling/mental health, behavior management, security and law enforcement. Our Director of Security will be introducing the expectations of this team to the administration at our August Administrative Summit. Look for more information on this during the upcoming year.


It is important to note that while we have a variety of protocols in place, not everything can be shared with the community. The last thing we want to do is to create vulnerability through too much transparency. Suffice to say that safety is of paramount concern, and we remain vigilant.


Character

All of our security planning is in line with our efforts to teach our students the values of our Portrait of a Graduate, to ensure that our students feel welcome and connected to our school community. In partnership with our families, we are doing well in developing character and integrity. As a point of reference, I share the following correspondence with you to illustrate that class, character, and integrity are highly valued and practiced here in Roxbury:

To All,


I am writing this email on behalf of myself, the Nutley Athletic Department, our Head Coach Luann Zullo, and our entire softball program.


Nutley played Roxbury in the NJSIAA Group 3 Semi Finals. Due to the threat of lightning the game was suspended on Wednesday and picked up in the top of the 7th on Thursday.


The game went to the 13th inning and Roxbury won the game on a walk off single. In 17 years as an athletic administrator, and almost 25 in high school athletics, it was the single greatest game I have ever had the pleasure of watching. It was inspiring to watch two teams compete so fiercely, in a clean game, with no issues and an undeniable spirit. I want to commend the efforts of both teams. It is unfortunate that someone had to lose however, they are all lucky to have been a part of what will go down as one of New Jersey’s greatest softball games.


I also want to commend Stu Mason and the Roxbury Nation. I am amazed that his grounds crew was able to get the field ready in such a short amount of time, so ready that field conditions did not play a factor in the game. Clearly the buildings and grounds department takes great pride in their work.


More importantly, from 2 pm on Wednesday when we arrived, to 2 pm yesterday when we left, we were treated professionally, courteously, and as if we were extended family. It was the single best display of sportsmanship I have seen in my 17 years.

Furthermore, Roxbury’s players and students conducted themselves with class and a competitive spirit that should be a model for the entire state. It added to the excitement of the game.


The welcome mat will always be out for Roxbury when they come to Nutley and we will do our very best to provide the A-1 treatment that was offered to us. I’m confident this is the beginning of a long, competitive and collegial relationship.


Thank you Roxbury. You have reminded all of us why we are in the student business.

Please share this email with your coaches and staff as well as your community.


JP

Joe Piro, CMAA

Director of Athletics

Throughout the year, I can honestly say that I receive almost as many positive emails from parents as I do concerns. Almost. It’s still easier for people to write when they have concerns because issues may require immediate attention or action. They may be critical. In contrast, accolades and appreciation are food for the soul. They enrich us, but they are not often viewed as urgent. Nonetheless, for those positive emails, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to bestow accolades or offer recognition. It is wonderful to receive a letter noting the efforts of a teacher, the kindness and support of a colleague, or the generosity that has been witnessed through a club or activity. Roxbury is a special place filled with people who care and strive to make a positive difference.

We have made a difference this year as evidenced by our Habitat House that now resides on Edith Road, the fact that our students were in school full time when others were still virtual or hybrid, the many celebrations we’ve had to recognize student achievement, talent, and innovation, and the achievement of Eisenhower Middle School who was awarded “New Jersey Schools to Watch,” one of only fourteen schools in New Jersey.

Nonetheless, we don’t rest on our achievements in this district, but rather we continually seek the next step. As such, we will be applying for the National School of Character award next year. Towards that step, we received acknowledgement for what we already do in our schools. EVERY school and the district as a whole was awarded the National School of Character Promising Practices. They are as follows:


  • District: Portrait of a Graduate
  • Roxbury High School: Student School Climate Committee
  • Eisenhower Middle School: Advisory
  • Lincoln Roosevelt School: IPASS Day
  • Franklin Elementary School: Supporting the Community through Early Act
  • Jefferson Elementary School: SEL Book of the Month
  • Kennedy Elementary School: Peer Leaders
  • Nixon Elementary School: RoxBuddies


Our plan is to have a presentation for the community in September. This award speaks to the continual progress of the district.

In conclusion...

Having served as your superintendent for six and half years, I’ve been proud to lead this progressive district. Whether planning for academic programming, designing innovative practices, offering more choice to our students, remaining on the cutting edge of safety protocols, or partnering in shared service opportunities, we have continued to look forward and to “prepare our students of today for tomorrow.”


“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” - Hal Borland