Superintendent's Monthly Newsletter

Parent & Community Edition 3 ~ October 2022

Dr. McGann - October 31, 2022 Message

Fall Reflection

October is my favorite time of year. With the opening of school underway, students are settled into their school routines and instruction is humming along. The weather is mild, with cool evenings and a kaleidoscope of changing leaves. This is the time of year when I pull out my crock pot and forage for recipes that can simmer all day. Here's a versatile recipe for a fall stew that my family enjoyed this past weekend.

Homework: Survival Tips for Parents

Now that the school year has begun, regular homework has likely become a part of your child’s life. There are strategies listed that may help you to have a peaceful household when your child sits down to complete homework. Remember that children put in a 7-hour school day and are focused, well-behaved, and responsible for nearly all of that time. Most likely, they are worn out at the end of the day and need some support and nurturing to put forth their best effort and thinking on homework. Our ultimate goal for homework should be to encourage self-motivation, self-discipline, responsibility, and a love of learning.


It is probably unrealistic for us to expect our children to LOVE homework. Most of us have homework associated with our jobs and I don’t know anyone who comes in the door at 6:00 at night thinking, “Hooray! I have homework tonight!” Above all, DO check with your child’s teachers if you sense that your child is having a difficult time with homework, learning concepts, etc. They appreciate and value your input.

Set a Regular Homework Time

Meals and bedtime are at regular intervals, and giving homework the same consideration gives it equal importance. Tune into your child’s body clock. Many children need “downtime” when they get home from school and won’t be able to put forth their best effort on homework until they’ve had a break. Some children are worn out by 7:00 and won’t be able to concentrate on challenging work if it comes too late in the evening. Ease the transition to homework. Gentle reminders like, “You have 10 more minutes before you need to sit down for homework,” will get your child mentally ready for stopping their play. Try to limit conflicting activities during the school week.

Flemington-Raritan Board of Education believes that homework has a positive influence on learning and achievement. The district has a board policy that recognizes the time allotments for homework. Traditionally, time allotments for homework gradually increase from grade kindergarten through grade 8. It is impossible to present a precise daily time allotment since children work at varying rates. The following guidelines are based on the average student.


  • Grade K: Teacher Discretion
  • Grade 1: 10 to 20 minutes daily
  • Grade 2: 15 to 30 minutes daily
  • Grade 3: 30 to 40 minutes daily
  • Grade 4: 40 to 50 minutes daily
  • Grades 5 and 6: 50 to 70 minutes daily
  • Grades 7 and 8: 70 minutes to 2 hours daily


In addition to these homework times, all children in the district are expected to read at home nightly. Aim for 20 minutes per night making exceptions for younger children who may only be reading for 5 to 7 minutes aloud to a grown-up. The other remaining minutes can be used as a time for parents to read aloud to their child.


Research has shown that children who read for 20 minutes daily outperform those who do not. Experience has shown us that this amount of daily reading practice allows all of our students to become the best readers they can be. Younger children should read to or with their parents, guardians, or a grown-up. Older children may read independently. All children should read material that they can read with ease and interest. Reading at home should be for enjoyment, not a time for children to struggle through a text.

Click to access the District Homework Policy available online.

More on Reading...Strategies for Fostering a Love of Reading

As parents, we spend an enormous amount of time trying to decide what is best for our children. One of the best things a parent can do for their child is to read to them. Though the development of reading skills varies from child to child, encouraging reading and creating a reading environment at home are important steps toward literacy. Remember, the primary goal is for your child to enjoy reading. Here are some tips to help foster a love of reading:

  • Read magnificent books to your child, model your own love for reading, and listen carefully to your child to find out their interests, passion, or things that tickle their funny bone and find books that match those interests.
  • Convince your child that reading is fun, each day telling them explicitly, how fun it is.
  • When you want to reward your child for something your child has accomplished let it be reading time with you. Or, even let it be a trip to the bookstore to buy a new book or a special visit to your local library to browse and choose books together. Picking out a new book is always exciting and will allow you to observe the kinds of things your child wants to read. Then take the book home and read it together.
  • Make sure your child has his or her own library card. Picking out books from the library is just as exciting as picking books out at a bookstore. Except that your child can usually pick out a lot more from the library than the bookstore. Being a member of the library usually means access to storytellers and reading programs as well. These are both motivators for creating a love of reading in children.
  • Talk, talk, talk about books. Participate in this reading journey with them.
  • When teaching your child to love reading, keep in mind one very important thing. Never use reading as a consequence. Doing this will link negativity to reading and create a resistance to reading in your child. Keeping your child’s reading experiences positive and fun is important for your child to view reading as an enjoyable pastime.
  • Set aside time each day for reading. Before bedtime is a logical choice, but any time of the day is fine.


SOME OF MY FAVORITE TEXTS

  • Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong (Great text for 5th-8th grades)
  • The Great Fire by Jim Murphy (Great text for 5th-8th grades)
  • Peak by Roland Smith (Great text for 5th-8th grades)
  • The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan (Great text for 5th - 8th grades)
  • The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (5th grade)
  • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (Grades K-5)
  • Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh (Grades K-5)
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (Grades K-5)
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (Grades K-5)

The Dreamer and The Emerald Atlas are both fiction texts and will captivate readers’ interest. In the book The Dreamer, Ryan creates a most compelling and exquisite fictional portrait of a young Chilean poet named Pablo Neruda. Our students that love historical fiction, biographies, and stories about writers’ childhoods will enjoy reading The Dreamer. The other text, The Emerald Atlas, was Amazon’s Best Books of the Month, in April 2011. Any reader who fell in love with the gripping tale in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief will see similarities of mystery and magic in The Emerald Atlas. The fantasy world in The Emerald Atlas is described in such detail that it really comes to life in the mind of the reader. My own two boys begged me to read another chapter to them each night before they fell asleep when they were in third grade. I am sure that if your child chooses to read either of these fantastic fiction books they will share their love of the story and characters with you. Happy reading!


Below is a District photo gallery of reading in action throughout our schools, including special guest readers, read-alongs, reading buddies and reading time with our media specialists. We love reading!

Superintendent’s Lunch Bunch

Lunch with the Superintendent program provides the opportunity for the Superintendent to interact with students and talk to them about what they enjoy about their lives as students and what ideas they have to make their lives better at school. The students shared ideas with me about having longer recess and being with their friends after school. They also talked about the activities they love at Copper Hill, such as the walk-a-thon. One student arrived at the Lunch Bunch with a list of questions that included, “Why did I become a superintendent?” and “What part of my job is the hardest?” The next Superintendent’s Lunch Bunch will be held in December at Francis A. Desmares School.

Staff Shortages

Staff shortages in bus drivers, transportation aids, teachers (especially special education and world language teachers) child study team members, and substitute teachers continue to affect the District daily. We are short substitute teachers each day. Please consider becoming a substitute. Click for more information and to learn how to apply to become a substitute.

Cold and Flu Season

Please help us keep our school community healthy by keeping sick students home. We appreciate your cooperation with keeping sick students at home, particularly as we enter the typical flu season. Parents/caregivers are strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of illness every day.

Remember, parents should not send students to school when sick. Students must stay home if they have a fever of 100.4 (with no other symptoms), vomiting (with no other symptoms), or diarrhea (with no other symptoms). Our local urgent care reports high incidences of flu, cold, and RSV. Please remind your children to wash their hands frequently.


For students with chronic illness, only new symptoms, or symptoms worse than baseline should be used to fulfill symptom-based exclusion criteria. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, please inform the school health office. For COVID-19 testing locations, please visit the Hunterdon County Department of Health’s website: https://www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/Coronavirus/testingsite.html#other

Superintendent’s October Talk-a-Latte

In October, the Superintendent's Talk-a-Latte focused on civics, social studies, and health curriculum updates. Approximately 50 community members gathered at J.P. Case. The majority of the conversation centered on the Comprehensive Health and Physical Education standards that are required by the state of New Jersey.


The health and physical education standards are divided into four main sections:

  1. Personal growth and development;
  2. Pregnancy and parenting,
  3. Social and sexual health, and
  4. Health conditions, diseases, and medicine.


Community members that were present heard members of our team discuss the standards and how Flemington-Raritan will address the standards. The discussion revolved around the standards in multiple grades. For example, a New Jersey student learning standard in second grade is to explain the ways in which parents may care for their offspring. In Flemington-Raritan Regional School District, the curriculum lesson objective for this standard is for students to be able to provide examples of how parents care for their offspring and provide for the following needs: physiological needs (food, water, warmth, hygiene), safety needs (security, safety), belongingness and love (unconditional love, develop family and friend relationships), esteem needs (encouragement, praise, accomplishment ), and activities that promote self-actualization (life-lessons, hobbies, clubs, etc.).


The Grade 8 New Jersey Student Learning Standards list that eighth-grade students will “identify short and long-term contraception and safer sex methods that are effective and describe how to access and use them (e.g., abstinence, condom).” In Flemington-Raritan Regional School District, abstinence will be stressed. The 8th-grade curriculum focuses on standards that describe developing a plan to eliminate or reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Lesson objectives in Flemington-Raritan Regional School District include students being able to identify trusted adults who can provide guidance about contraception methods such as a parent and guardian, physician, or other trusted adult.


Click to access the full October 20 Talk a Latte Presentation online.
Click to access the Talk A Latte Schedule and Registration links.

STEM News

We have exciting news to share in the world of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Mrs. Kathleen Mikalsen of Barley Sheaf Elementary School has been selected as this year‘s recipient for the Anton Banko Award. As the award recipient, she receives a $2,000 reimbursement for the purchase of science materials for her classroom. She was also able to attend a state science convention held at Princeton University on October 18 and 19. We are very proud of Mrs. Mikalsen and excited about the recognition of Flemington-Raritan Regional School District!

Important Reminders for Parents


  • General Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Schools will be closed for students. Polling locations will be open from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. November 8 is a professional development day for faculty and staff.

  • Please be sure to send your child to school with a warm jacket. Students enjoy the outdoors during recess and during fire drills and emergencies students may be outside for an extended time. Be sure your child is dressed warmly all winter long.

Dr. Kari McGann

Superintendent of Schools

Flemington-Raritan Regional School District