The COnnection

MARSD Central Office Newsletter - December 2016

From the Office of the Superintendent

I hope your holiday season is off to a wonderful start. When we return from break we will be roughly half way through the school year. It is amazing how fast each year passes, especially as I get older! With the year almost at the midpoint, we will begin to reflect upon our accomplishments as they relate to our Strategic Plan. I am happy to report that the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District is working diligently toward the many goals of the plan and we will continue to closely monitor our progress and achievements. Please join us at the December 20, 2016 Board of Education Meeting as I will be reporting out on our current status. I encourage you to come out and learn about our continued commitment to the children and young adults of the district. The complete PowerPoint will be available on our website following the meeting. If you have any questions after reviewing the PowerPoint, please feel free to reach out to me at 732-705-4003.

On behalf of the Board of Education and our over 300 outstanding staff members, we wish each of you a fantastic holiday and a restful and family filled break.

Happy Holidays!

From the Office of Curriculum & Instruction


As many of you are aware, the 2016-2017 school year marks the third administration of the PARCC for students in grades 3-12. In addition, the NJ Department of Education has adopted new high school graduation requirements, which now mandates a passing score on the Algebra 1 and ELA Grade 10 PARCC Assessment in order to graduate. The PARCC assessment is aligned to the Common Core State Standards for ELA and Mathematics. These new, more rigorous standards are designed to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the necessary college and career readiness skills. The following article titled "The Cost of Catching Up" discusses how mastering high standards can save students from having to take remedial coursework in their first two years of college, saving students and families precious time and resources.

Study Shows High Standards Can Save Families Billions

"The Cost of Catching Up," a newly released study from the Center for American Progress, shows that remedial coursework in the first two years of college costs students and their families about $1.3 billion per year in tuition and loans, all for coursework that should be part of K-12 curricula. The report says that between 40 and 60 percent of all first-year college students require remediation in English, mathematics, or both, with the problem being most prevalent among African American and Latino students.

According to the study, in Florida, Nevada, and Oregon, states which all have a higher Latino population than the national average, more than 3 in 4 college students require remediation, and students who need catching up are likelier than average to drop out of school before getting their Bachelor's degree.

The authors write that high-quality standards and assessments like PARCC, which are aligned to them, will provide students who meet their college-ready benchmarks with the certainty that they can start college without needing costly remedial courses. The study's authors list a host of recommendations for both students and education policymakers in states, including raising standards from elementary school on, and being more realistic about what standards students must master in order to succeed after high school. "States that are implementing the Common Core have already shown positive outcomes," the authors write, citing PARCC jurisdictions like Massachusetts and the District of Columbia as places where students are showing real growth. "States must continue to implement and improve the Common Core standards and their aligned assessments."

How One Author and Parent Learned to Love Common Core Math

Beth Kassab, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, wrote last month about how working with her third-grade daughter on her Common Core-aligned mathematics assignments taught her the value of this "new" way of learning the subject. While the ways of teaching students math are different from what their parents may have been accustomed to a few decades ago, Kassab writes that the new standards are helping create a country where far fewer children grow up to be adults who claim to be "math illiterate." Common Core math, she writes, is more visual-based, reflecting the way most children actually process information, while building on the basic, critical competencies that were taught in past decades.

More students are using real-life examples to process math more effectively and efficiently, Kassab writes, while also learning "why" certain math concepts are what they are, rather than just being told flatly that they exist. She also tells parents that, while math assignments involving Legos or boxes might seem intimidating, they can help adults learn and grow while also helping their kids learn valuable skills they're likelier to retain fully as adults. "I know what it's like to sit at the dining room table next to my child, worksheets in front of us, and worry that I won't be able to help with homework. I grew up believing that I was bad at math," Kassab writes. "Such math anxiety, though, is exactly the reason I have learned to embrace and - I never thought I would say this - love Common Core math."

From the Business Office

School Security

The roles of schools have changed drastically over the past several years. Not too long ago they were responsible for educating students and helping them become well rounded productive members of society. The greatest concern at the time was on the way to and from school. We all heard the stories about kidnappings, dog bites, traffic accidents and the like. These problems obviously still exist but have certainly taken a backseat to acts of school violence. Because of this, schools are now more responsible for physically protecting our students. This has led to a nationwide movement to consider new and better safety regulations, policies and procedures. Schools are considered soft targets (This means they are easily accessible and causing harm or damage would not be difficult). This has led to target hardening initiatives. These initiatives come with a price, both monetary and psychological. Prior to implementation, we have to ask some difficult questions. Should we spend more money on educational programs or security measures? I believe the primary focus of the school is to educate children. However, there are recent opinions indicating students learn better when they feel safe, secure and protected. The National School Boards Association conducted an initiative with the Center for Public Education regarding this very matter. National Data compiled by The National Center for Educational Statistics report from 2013 shows:

· 7.1% of students had missed school in the last 30 days because they did not feel safe.

Center for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance for 2103 reported:

· 5.2% of students had carried a weapon (e.g. a knife, gun or club) on school property on at least one day in the last 30 days.

· 6.9 % had been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property one or more times during the 12 months prior to the survey.

· 14.8 % of students reported being electronically bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites or texting during the 12 months prior to the survey.

· 19.6 % had been bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey.

· Among the 73.9% of students who had dated or went out with someone during the 12 months prior to the survey 10.3 % reported physical dating violence.

· 29.9% had felt sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row and has stopped some usual activity.

· 17% seriously contemplated suicide.

The Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District has implemented Security Vestibules and a Visitor Management System (which requires a valid government issued photo id). The system prints a visitor pass with a photograph and maintains a record of the visit. We also have a comprehensive safety and security plan, which outlines procedures for natural disasters, weather incidents and other emergency situations. We also conduct the State mandated two drills per month, to train and prepare staff and students for an emergency situation. These drills are much more intense than the fire drills and maybe even the bomb drills we remember from our youth. The school district also collaborates with state and local authorities on best practices and how to implement them in our schools.

The district works to foster an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance for all students. There are procedures in place for students to seek assistance from the Student Assistance Counselor should the need arise. The current precautions we have taken have been met with overwhelming support and satisfaction. We are currently exploring mobile apps for crisis management and emergency notification, as well as an updated radio communication system.

The questions become how much should be spent on security initiatives, and what or how many precautions should be taken. Some say the amount spent will outweigh any damages awarded from a single lawsuit in which a child was injured. The financial impact is more easily quantified than the “what” and “how many”. There are a vast number of actions and products that may be taken or purchased. Some are relatively easy and inexpensive, while others are difficult and costly. I believe this is a discussion that must continue take place in each community. The conversation should include: parents, teachers, administrators, law enforcement as well as members of the Board of Education. As we move forward here in Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, I know we are very proactive in our approach to the safety and security of our buildings, students and staff.

Please let me know what you think. I welcome your ideas and input.

Additional information:

School Safety Program

For over 40 years, WeTip has provided

a safe, anonymous hotline to Schools

throughout the Nation. In 2008, WeTip

added the 1-855-86-BULLY Hotline. In

2011 They added a Mobile Tip,

Making WeTip easier for students

of all ages to report crime especially

bullying in their schools. It also allows for

the reporting of graffiti and other vandalism.

Helpful links:

From the Office of Human Resources

Maintaining Sanity During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a very hectic and crazy time for everyone. Between family gatherings, decorating, shopping, attending various holiday-themed events, going to see Santa, deciding who has been naughty and nice, hiding elves and gifts, financial decisions and obligations, maintaining personal health and so many other things that need to be done, it is no wonder why you may feel ultra-stressed during this time of year.

Here are some helpful tips for maintaining your health, happiness, and your sanity during the holiday season.

  1. Monitor healthy habits. This time of year does not mean you need to neglect your body’s health. Even if you do not have time for a regular exercise routine, try and go for some walks, find time to do some stretching, and try to eat some healthier items. During get-togethers with family, friends, and co-workers, consider portion sizes and limit alcohol intake. Try to save room for indulgences by eating and acting in a healthy manner at other times, so when you do need to attend that holiday party you know you have prepared for the indulgence you are about to engage in.

  2. Maintain your finances. Sometimes we feel obligated to buy gifts for everyone that may break budgets. Remember, it is not the monetary amount of a gift that matters, but the giving of the gift that matters. Giving suggests thoughtfulness and your friends and family will appreciate gifts that are meaningful and the fact something was given to them as opposed to the monetary value of the gift. When you are shopping be sure to look in advance for coupons and sales which are never-ending this time of year.

  3. Avoid talking about politics. As we all know, this was an unusually intense election season and brought out some controversy no matter which candidates you were supporting. Being that politics are not always viewed similarly, and arguments are something we strive to avoid, especially at the holidays, it may be best to not bring up politics at all during the holiday season while with family and friends. Instead, use the time to catch up on highlights of some family happenings, talk about great vacations you may have been on, books, television shows, or movies you have recently enjoyed, good restaurants you have visited, and, maybe most exciting, reminisce about old family memories you all cherish, while making new memories to pass down for future generations.

  4. Take some deep breaths…alone! Sometimes spending just a few minutes alone can help you gather your thoughts, give you a sense of relaxation, clear your mind and restore your inner peace. Maybe you have a room in your house, a favorite space to be, even in your car if that is somewhere you can find quiet and comfort. Just a few minutes may be all you need.

  5. Stay Organized. Use your phone’s calendar to maintain appointments, parties, when sales will be occurring, when items need to be purchased or picked up by. Also, using a list is another highly effective organizational tool that can help keep track of the things you need to do and the progress towards accomplishing those tasks. Consider setting a timer for your elf too. How often have you gotten cozy in bed, falling asleep and realize that your Elf needs to move!

Use these suggestions to help keep you feeling, cool, calm and collected during this hectic holiday season. Enjoy the time with family, friends and your loved ones and may your days be merry and bright.

From the Office of Special Services

Moving + Grooving = Learning!

The students in Mrs. Biaganti’s fourth and fifth grade special education LLD classroom have learning disabilities, autism, and/or communication impairments. Many of them benefit from sensory input while working in order to reach their potential since they often struggle to maintain attention and stay on task. But she found her students competing for use of their sole sensory equipment: a wiggle seat and a bouncy band. So Mrs. Biagianti created a Donors Choose grant asking for three Zuma rocker chairs, three HowdaHug seats, two Bouncy Bands for desks, a beanbag chair and stress balls.

We’re so excited to share that Ms. Biagianti received all of the funding requested for her project and her classroom will soon be sporting a wide variety of sensory seating!

Who is Feeling Thankful?

Our students in some of the special programs had the opportunity to take trips to ShopRite and purchase food to prepare for their Celebration Feasts in November. Students chose products such as fruits, vegetables, mashed potatoes, and let’s not forget the desserts! Students prepared the food with classmates and teachers to help prepare for the holiday. An activity like this gives students the opportunity to prepare, share, and enjoy what they’ve worked so hard to create. What a way to teach and model how to be thankful! Other special programs will be celebrating this month by participating in similar activities before the holiday break.

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