Superintendent's Monthly Newsletter
WELCOME TO THE 2023-2024 SCHOOL YEAR
The District has been preparing for the 2023-2024 school year taking care of all the necessary steps that are required for a smooth opening of our schools. From infrastructure to interviews, school district planning has competing priorities. Flemington-Raritan hired many new faculty and staff members. We ordered materials for 3,162 students in preschool through grade eight, and designed schedules to provide students with access to the best curriculum. What’s new and exciting for the 2023-2024 School Year:
Redistricting Phase 2
K-3 Bridges in Mathematics adoption
K-2 Reading Fluency/Dyslexia Screener
K-2 Robotics and Coding Course, Year 2
Grades 1-4 STEM modules, Year 2
Universal Design for Learning- a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn
Link it! Data Warehouse- an assessment management, data analytics, and intervention support system
Monday, September 4th, schools are closed for Labor Day. We look forward to seeing all students returning for a full day of school on Thursday, September 7th. Students’ second full day of school is on Friday, September 8th. Schools are closed on Monday, September 25th, for Yom Kippur. I have included a 2023-2023 school calendar link here.
TALK-A-LATTE EVENTS: Save the Date!
I am so proud to serve as your Superintendent of Schools. I am humbled by my opportunity to work with the Flemington-Raritan community to help every student, every day, at every opportunity. As a leader that values building partnerships for the success of students, I welcome family/school partnerships. To assist in building partnerships together, I have set up a schedule of Superintendent Talk-a-Latte chats. These sessions are designed to have an open dialogue with parents, staff, students, and community members about issues that are important and on-the-mind for Flemington-Raritan residents.
All Talk-a-Latte events are held from 6-7:30 p.m. This year's schedule is below:
- September 27 - Safety & Security - Barley Sheaf Library
- November 29 - Teaching & Learning: A Close Look at Our Curriculum - J.P. Case Library
- January 31 - STEM Symposium - Francis A. Desmares STEM Lab
- February 28 - Mental Health Support for Students - Reading-Fleming Cafeteria
- April 10 - Topic to be announced - Robert Hunter Cafeteria
- May 15 - Topic to be announced - Copper Hill Library
Please mark your calendar; the first session will be held on Wednesday, September 27, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the library at Barley Sheaf Elementary School. Parents will receive an electronic invitation to register for each session through Eventbrite. We will send out reminders and registrations for each event three weeks prior to the event.
During the 2022-2023 school year, bi-monthly “Talk-a-Latte” chats invited parents for conversations which were held at different schools around the district. Topics ranged from strategic planning to school security. In 2022, the October event featured a town hall on civic and health curriculum. Parents were provided the opportunity to ask questions and receive a response from the Superintendent on curriculum revisions, and state guidance on health and curriculum requirements. In January 2023, the chat focused on inclusivity for multilingual learners. February brought a STEM symposium that featured scientists, tech innovators, engineers, and mathematicians. April's session focused on school climate and culture. A final event last year brought a guest speaker on the topic of mental health and eliminating stigma. These events are well-attended by community members, parents, students, Board of Education members, and administrators with every event ranging between 25 to 70 participants. If you haven’t attended in the past, consider joining us this year!
SECURITY UPDATE: Class III Officers & Raptor Information
Our district remains committed to the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and schools, and this school year, we will add another safety feature to the Flemington-Raritan School District. Class III Officers will return to our school district for the 2023-2024 school year.
Flemington-Raritan Regional School District Class III Officers:
Officer Mike Fitzpatrick at J. P. Case Middle School
Officer Craig Santoro at Reading Fleming Intermediate School
Officer Craig Monda at Copper Hill Elementary School
Officer Darren Powell at Francis A. Desmares Elementary School
Officer John Carney at Barley Sheaf Elementary School
Officer Edward Purcell at Robert Hunter Elementary School
Our officers are all retired law enforcement officers who have served as fully-trained, full-time police officers in New Jersey.
An additional safety feature has begun in the Flemington-Raritan School District. We are pleased to announce that we will begin using the Raptor Visitor Management System in all our schools to strengthen our campus safety program for students and faculty. The District is working diligently to have each school’s Raptor Visitor Management System ready for the start of the school year. We are planning for each school to be fully equipped with the Raptor Visitor Information System by the end of October.
Upon entering a district building, visitors will be asked to present an ID, such as a driver’s license, which can either be scanned or manually entered into the system. If a parent or guardian for any reason does not have a U.S. government-issued ID, the school staff member can use any form of identification and manually enter the person’s name into the Raptor system.
The Raptor system will check to ensure that registered sexual offenders are not entering our school campuses without our knowledge. The Raptor system checks the visitor's name and date of birth for comparison with a national database of registered sex offenders. The registered sex offender database is the only official database checked by the Raptor system. No other data from the ID is gathered or recorded, and the information is not shared with any outside agency.
Once entry is approved, Raptor will issue a badge that identifies the visitor, the date, and the purpose of his/her visit. All visitors will still be required to wear a red visitor lanyard while visiting our schools, along with the badge issued by the Raptor Visitor Information System. A visitor’s badge will not be necessary for those who visit our schools simply to drop off an item in the office or pick up paperwork.
The safety of our students is our highest priority, and the Raptor visitor management system allows us to quickly identify those who may present a danger to our students. Thank you in advance for your understanding and support in enhancing our district's school safety protocols.
Part of our District's summertime priorities are a result of the 2019 referendum passing. The district is grateful to the taxpayers for their support of the 2019 referendum which allowed the district to install heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) in all elementary schools and in our intermediate school to provide better air quality. We know research shows that indoor environmental quality directly impacts student performance. Air quality, temperature, lighting, and design all play a role in how well students’ perform.
Our facilities and maintenance team has been working with contractors to check-off punch list items from the list of items that are still being completed; items like fine tuning heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning unit ventilators. Our systems use sensors to gather circulation and airflow data, regulate thermostats, and reduce the noise level of unit ventilators. We still have a few systems that are not quite fine-tuned, so please send your children to school with a sweater or sweatshirt, just in case some rooms are chillier than others. Some unit ventilators are noisier than they should be. In these instances, we are working with contractors to have the units replaced. We expect more information about next steps in the upcoming months.
Thermostats are regulated for efficiency and comfort in all areas of buildings. Settings are designed for when rooms are unoccupied to be cost-effective, yet still keep humidity controlled. The passing of the 2019 referendum afforded the district not only to install HVAC in buildings that did not formerly have air-conditioning, but install new windows at RFIS and other external design improvements.
The District continues to plan for other district improvements on all our school sites including improving security systems and updating our learning environments for teaching and learning-- all as a result of the referendum funding that community members passed in 2019. Thank you, community members!
Transportation services are provided to students through a partnership between Hunterdon Central Regional High School and the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District. Transportation Committee members are made up of Hunterdon Central’s Board of Education members and Flemington-Raritan Board of Education members.
In Flemington-Raritan, the Board provides transportation to and from school for public school pupils less than remote from their school in grades K-8 who live more than 1.5 miles from the school they attend and those who must walk along a state highway, and identified roads in the community.
Just like with our regular education students, transportation is provided to our students with special needs also who attend school in an out-of-district placement approved by the Board of Education. The transportation of students with special needs to special education programs approved by the Board and located outside the State meet guidelines established by the New Jersey State Department of Education pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:27-2.2(c)1.
The District also provides transportation to our youngest learners, our preschool students who have special needs who are below the age of five. Just like our older students, these young students are transported in vehicles equipped with safety belts. Some vehicles are especially designed with other child restraint systems, in accordance with applicable Federal and State regulations.
A FOCUS ON STEM: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS
The Flemington-Raritan Regional School District serves as a nucleus of STEM innovation leading one of New Jersey’s STEM ecosystems; the Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer County STEM Consortium (HSMC STEM). The district focuses on the foundational principle that communities must come together for the benefit of providing equitable opportunities for all in STEM. Schools from throughout Hunterdon, Somerset, and Mercer Counties, business industries, higher education institutions, private and public preschools, local arts organizations, environmental education centers, after-school and before-school providers, and municipal leaders all serve as partners in our STEM initiatives.
The innovation of a local STEM ecosystem for our school district with the HSMC STEM Ecosystem brought in over $120,000 in STEM grants this year alone by partnering with corporations and foundations, such as the Overdeck Foundation, the CIA, and Siemens. Our corporate partnership with Siemens afforded our middle school students the funding to purchase and build the first Siemens green car in NJ, a drivable car built entirely by students built to race and compete against other student-built green cars. We were able to gift an additional Siemens Green Car to students in the East Amwell School District to use in the 2023-2024 school year. Due to funding grants, we have two more Siemens Green Cars to give away to other school districts, yet to be determined.
We put partnerships in place with LEGO to provide opportunities for our pre-K students to build their creativity and coding skills using coding materials, some at no cost to the District. Our partners at LEGO provided coding materials for our preschool students and fully funded additional coding materials for a private preschool affiliated with our community hospital. The District’s STEM leadership provided our students in kindergarten with the ability to use mTiny robots during their coding learning extension period.
During COVID, we partnered with Pitsco to send home to students STEM take-home learning and used American Recovery funding to purchase STEM take-home learning kits. The event was so successful Pitsco featured our school district in a cover story in a company publication. The article is linked here.
Our work continues to provide opportunities for students in STEM to build on college and career pathways in STEM.
ADMINISTRATIVE ANNOUNCEMENTS & INTRODUCTIONS
Mrs. Amy Switkes named Principal of Barley Sheaf School
Mrs. Switkes previously served as Barley Sheaf's Vice Principal from 2017-2020, then proudly served the Copper Hill community. She eagerly returned to Barley Sheaf to lead as building principal.
When asked about the Barley Sheaf community, Mrs. Switkes shared, “It is my mission to ensure that Barley Sheaf is a joyful place where students, staff, and families feel a strong sense of belonging, connection, and engagement. As the Principal at Barley Sheaf, I will continue to model and foster this joy and be a champion for our school- Every Student, Every Day, Every Opportunity."
Mrs. Switkes earned a master's degree from Rutgers University in Elementary and Special Education. She also holds an English as a Second Language teaching certification and completed the Principal and Supervisor Certification program through NJ-EXCEL in 2014. Prior to joining our school district, Mrs. Switkes was named the Teacher of the Year in 2015-2016 while serving as a classroom teacher at the Eisenhower Elementary School in Piscataway, New Jersey. Mrs. Switkes has educational expertise in special education with a specialty in Autism. As an educator, she has demonstrated her expertise in producing positive changes in student behavior by applying proven principles and practices that support students with Autism. Mrs. Switkes has also assisted in coordinating curriculum and professional development opportunities for the music and arts programs district-wide.
Ms. Kimberly Bostory is Barley Sheaf's new Vice Principal
Barley Sheaf School welcomes new Vice Principal, Ms. Kimberly Bostory. Barley Sheaf Principal Amy Switkes shared, "Ms. Bostory's warm and nurturing demeanor, strong leadership skills, and passion for educating children will make her a wonderful addition to our school team."
With over 10 years of experience in education, Ms. Bostory was named Teacher of the Year as a Grade 5 Teacher in South Brunswick, NJ, where she taught for seven years. Most recently, she has served as a Technology Coach in Warren Township, NJ. Ms. Bostory earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in special education, both from Rutgers University. She also completed the New Jersey Expedited Certification for Educational Leadership program in 2021. She is dedicated to fostering positive relationships, coaching and driving professional growth while promoting student-centered learning. She is committed to supporting culturally responsive teaching and maximizing student achievement.
Mrs. Mary Jane Custy joins Francis A. Desmares School as Vice Principal
Mrs. Mary Jane Custy, the former Vice Principal of Barley Sheaf School, transitioned to Francis A Desmares School. She now serves as Desmares School's Vice Principal, replacing Mrs. Nydia Peake. We wish Mrs. Peake well in her new role as a principal in another school district.
When asked about joining the Desmares Dolphins, Mrs. Custy shared, “I am eager to join the Desmares School community and work alongside each of you to support the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. I believe in fostering a safe, inclusive, and nurturing environment where students feel valued, supported, and inspired to reach their full potential.”
Mrs. Custy earned a master's degree from Rider University in Educational Leadership with Principal and Supervisor Certification. Mrs. Custy brings more than 20 years of experience in education. Since joining our District in 2009, Mrs. Custy has taught in all four elementary schools and served as a literacy coach for the District’s core literacy program. She also served as a G&T Stretch teacher for over 10 years prior to becoming a vice principal. She coordinated summer programs for students and led professional development for faculty to enhance instruction. Mrs. Custy also knows the Desmares community well; she is a parent of three young adults who are all former Desmares School students -- Dolphins for Life!
Mrs. Tania Kelly is Copper Hill School's new Vice Principal
Copper Hill School welcomes new Vice Principal, Mrs. Tania Kelly. Principal Jesse Lockett shared, “Mrs. Kelly's vast elementary teaching experience, administrative experience, professionalism, and positive demeanor make her a great fit to support our students, parents, and staff.”
With 23 years of experience in education, Mrs. Kelly boasts a strong background in administrative leadership. Since 2018, she has served as Vice Principal of Franklin Middle School in Somerset, NJ. Previously, she was Dean of Students for two years at Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School, also in Somerset, NJ. Before serving in administrative roles, she was an elementary school teacher at Franklin Park Elementary School in Franklin Park, NJ, for 16 years.
Mrs. Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Rutgers University, a master’s degree in elementary education from The College of New Jersey and an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Seton Hall University. She is committed to fostering collaborative relationships with faculty members and families and is proud to bring her skills in organizational management, scheduling and team building to the proud Cougar community.