After working with the district for 15 years, the Wyckoff Business Administrator, Alan Reiffe, will retire in January. When asked about his retirement, Reiffe explained, “I love my job. I will miss the people. I will miss being around the students and watching them perform. And, I will miss being able to use my position to ensure that the teachers have the financial support that they need to enable them to continue the excellent work they do in educating all of the district’s students. There is so much I will miss.”
As the Business Administrator, Reiffe has a history of helping the district maintain financial security. He has received the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from Association of School Business Officials International for 13 years in a row. He is striving to attain the certificate for his final year with the district.
Prior to his work with the district, Reiffe served as a Certified Public Accountant and licensed Public School Accountant. He continues to use his experience to make sure the schools funds remain in check. “It’s important that we maintain a series of checks and balances to see that funds are spent wisely. We use fund balances to help offset taxes.”
Under Reiffe’s guidance, the district has also been able to maintain its quality educational services within the State’s mandated 2 percent cost increase limitations. He is particularly proud of the fact that he has managed to fund the district’s annual maintenance and improvement projects, including most recently electrical upgrades to all of the schools to support the installation of air conditioning in the hottest parts of the school buildings, despite the limitations imposed by the 2 percent cap.
Reiffe visits the five schools in the district as often as he can so that he can see the fruits of his hard work. “I’ve been around a lot of districts. This is one of the top districts anyhwere. We have great administrators and great teachers. The students are very lucky to be under the tutelage of such great minds.” And, Reiffe gets to watch the students continue to excel on his visits.
Reiffe will be enjoying his retirement with his wife, Helene, in Florida. Instead of crunching numbers, he will be reading at least two books a month, playing tennis, taking piano lessons, bike ride, and enjoying the new scenery, including becoming a Miami Dolphins fan.
He has two sons who each have two sons of their own and are living in Bergen and Essex counties. His family will be visiting often to enjoy time with their father and grandfather.
The Board has named Patricia Salvati as Reiffe’s successor. She will begin her work in mid-December, which is when Reiffe will complete his work in the district. He will be assisting in the transition and ensuring the Wyckoff continues its excellence in financial standing.
Read more about Alan Reiffe's work with the district and retirement here.
Do you remember the phone chain? Your child had a snow day. The school principal called a parent. Then, that parent called the next parent on the chain. Eventually, it would get to you, and you know that school was closed. It was a long process, but everyone did their part to make sure the community stayed informed.
Then, there were automated voice messages. Instead of a chain, a voice and email message from the superintendent was sent out to all families, letting them know that schools were closed. It was efficient, direct, and easy to stay informed. At some schools, administrators would create humorous videos for their community, letting them know that schools were closed. A spoof on Disney's Frozen went viral during last year's blizzard, receiving over four million views.
Although your school administrators may not be creating Frozen snow day videos for you, Nick Jacobus, Priscilla Jurgens, and Rob Shean have been working to create an even easier, more efficient way for you to receive messages and stay informed. It's the new Wyckoff School District App.
The Wyckoff School District has established a mass notification system that is used for distributing emergency announcements and time sensitive information to parents and staff around the district. The new notification system is hosted by Blackboard, which is utilized by many large Universities, including Rutgers and The College of New Jersey. A free mobile application is also included in the Blackboard contract that has many useful features for the parents of students attending the Wyckoff School District.
Not only does the app keep Wyckoff parents informed with emergency messages and information regarding school closings, but it also serves as a centralized hub to view social media feeds, news from the different schools, and student’s grades and attendance. Parents can also set the app to notify them when grades fall below a customizable grade scale as well as other features for their students.
According to Nick Jacobus, "Having the ability to contact all staff and parents at a moment's notice is essential for keeping the students and community safe and well informed. In using the mobile application, the Wyckoff community has the ability to stay connected and up-to-date with what’s going on in their school district."
Here are the links to download the Wyckoff School District App:
Eisenhower Middle School recently hosted a H.A.P.P.Y. presentation to the community and students . H.A.P.P.Y. stands for Heroin Addiction Prevents People’s Years and is a program that was designed by Northern Highlands junior Stephanie Reifman to bring awareness about the severity and prevalence of heroin addiction in Bergen County.
In 2013 alone, Bergen County experienced more than 27 fatal heroin overdoses. To help combat this trend, Wyckoff District School Counselor Erica Ward brought the H.A.P.P.Y. program to Eisenhower Middle School.
Reifman spoke with students about the death of beloved Glee actor Cory Monteith, who lost his life to a heroin overdose in 2013. While providing students with information about the issues of heroin addiction, Reifman also brought awareness to the community by discussing its presence in the county. She also brought in a parent from Franklin Lakes to discuss the tragic overdose and death of her daughter. Bringing real faces to this issue made the community more aware of the severity of this issue.
The program was a huge success, especially among students. Erica Ward commented, "In addition to the need we saw as staff to educate our students on the risks and prevalence of substance use, students reported they found the information Stephanie provided especially informative and impactful because it was coming from the perspective of a student not much older than they were."
For more information about the H.A.P.P.Y. program, please visit their website.
Parents and guardians play a key role in their child’s education. As models of determination and hard work, cheerleaders of growth and self confidence, and proponents of continued learning and excellence, parental involvement is key to their child’s academic success. Wyckoff has a strong history of partnering with parents to enhance its continued excellence in education. With the new Wyckoff Connected Parent series, Curriculum Supervisor Grace White has created sessions that invite parents to learn about new curricular initiatives and engage in beneficial learning experiences.
Grace White states, “I began to think about these [the past parent sessions] as mostly being “sit and get” informational sessions. If we are true to our belief that all people learn better by doing, by experiencing, then our parent professional development needed to reflect more active engagement.” That is exactly what the Wyckoff Connected Parent series offers members of the community. Instead of going to these sessions to “sit and get” information, parents will be engaging in activities alongside their child, community members, and Wyckoff staff members. Parents will get a taste of what it’s like to be a Wyckoff student by being encouraged to experiment, create, participate, and take action at these sessions.
All Wyckoff Connected Parent sessions embrace parent interest. White commented, "I am impressed with and appreciative of teachers' enthusiasm to offer new, innovative sessions and partner with parents." Sessions will be offered to parents at different times. Wyckoff parents have broad ranges of work and household demands. With great support from the teaching staff, the Wyckoff Connected Parent series is moving away from “evening only” sessions to three time slots: during the school day, after school, and in the evening. With these different offerings, parents can get connected at their convenience.
The offerings will also be diversified according to their child’s school. Parents will have a choice to attend both elementary and middle school sessions that focus on getting parents involved in their child’s education. From parent book clubs to learning sessions that aim to help parents understand the Google suite of apps that their child uses on a daily basis, each session is aimed at helping parents understand how their child learns.
A sampling of the offerings range from guidance counselors facilitating parent book clubs, STEM in the kindergarten classroom, a Family Fit evening, a middle school Innovation Lab experience, and many more.
The series of offerings was sent out to parents in one document, with electronic sign ups, making it easier for Wyckoff parents to view all the offerings at once, and sign up in one place. Parents will actively participate in all of these offerings! The flyer was sent out prior to Thanksgiving break. Click HERE to see all of the offerings.
As daylight hours are shortening and Halloween activities are upon us, I would like to once again bring to your attention the importance of reviewing with your child(ren) basic safety guidelines.
To help with your conversations, I have included ten tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: http://www.missingkids.com. Teaching children how to be safer needs to be at the top of our list of things to do. An analysis by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children of attempted abductions during the past five years found that children are at most risk when going to and from school or school related activities1.
Parents and other adults can help keep children safe by following these ten tips2:
1. Teach your children to always TAKE A FRIEND with them when walking or biking, and stay with a group while standing at the bus stop. Make sure they know which bus to ride.
2. Walk the route to and from school with your children pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they're being followed or need help. Teach your children they should NEVER TAKE SHORTCUTS and always stay in well-lit areas.
3. It is not safe for young children to walk to and from school, even in a group. Parents should always provide supervision for young children to help ensure their safe arrival to and from school. If your children wait for a bus, wait with them or make arrangements for supervision at the bus stop.
4. Teach your children that if anyone bothers them, makes them feel scared or uncomfortable to trust their feelings and immediately get away from that person. Teach them it is ok not to be polite and IT IS OK TO SAY NO.
5. Teach your children if anyone tries to take them somewhere they should RESIST by kicking and screaming, try to run away and DRAW ATTENTION by kicking and screaming "This person is trying to take me away" or "This person is not my father/mother."
6. Teach your children NOT TO ACCEPT A RIDE from anyone unless you have said it is ok in that instance. If anyone follows them in a vehicle they should turn around, go in the other direction, and run to a trusted adult who may help them.
7. Teach your children that grownups should NOT ASK CHILDREN FOR DIRECTIONS, they should ask other adults.
8. Teach your children to NEVER ACCEPT MONEY OR GIFTS from anyone unless you have told them it is ok to accept in each instance.
9. Make sure the school has current and accurate emergency contact information on file for your children and confirm names of those authorized.
10. Always know where your children will be. Teach your children to always CHECK FIRST before changing their plans before or after school. Teach your children to never leave school, with anyone unless they CHECK FIRST with you or another trusted adult, even if someone tells them it is an emergency.
Children should be taught to trust their feelings. They need to know that if someone makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, they should tell a parent, guardian, or trusted adult.
Once again, I wish to remind you that child safety should always be first and foremost on our minds.
If you have any questions relative to your child(ren)’s safety, please feel free to contact your building principal or guidance counselor. Thank you.
1Data is based on National Center for Missing & Exploited Children analysis of 4,202 attempted abductions confirmed with law enforcement across the U.S. spanning a period from February 2005 – March 2010).
2Tips are adapted from Know the Rules…For Going To and From School More Safely. Copyright © 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2009 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). All rights reserved.
Each year, the National Forum for Accelerating Middle Reform holds their annual conference in Washington D.C. with the purpose of recognizing new and re-designated School’s to Watch. Over 800 participants joined this year’s conference, which included middle schools from seventeen different states and approximately 30 newly named Schools to Watch for 2016. Representatives from Eisenhower’s application team spent four days in our nation’s capital attending workshops, meeting with local congressmen, presenting on two of our hallmark programs, and being honored at a gala in which Eisenhower Middle School was officially awarded our new designation as a NJ School to Watch. Our team attending the conference included Loris Chen, Tom DeLoughry, Sue Dobson, and Chris Iasiello. Highlights from this rewarding experience included collaborating with some of the best middle schools in the nation on how best to balance academic rigor with developmentally responsive programs, meeting with House of Representative Member Scott Garrett and his education staffer to discuss public policy, and presenting our TIEE and Advisory initiatives to an eager audience who wanted to learn more about our outstanding middle school. We could not be more proud of this achievement and for having the opportunity to represent the Wyckoff Public Schools as a School to Watch. National Schools
The K-8 Board of Education is installing a $376,500 science, technology, engineering and math lab in its middle school and has included it as part of its 2016-17 operating budget.
Over the past several years, the Board of Education has made significant investments to improve the safety and security of students and staff at all of our schools. At our most recent November meeting, the Board of Education approved a shared services agreement with the Ramapo Indian Hills School District (RIH) that provides the Wyckoff Public Schools with access to the RIH Security Coordinator, Mr. Charles Wolff.
Mr. Wolff, a retired police officer and school security expert, has been and will be, observing many of our emergency drills. He is also working with the other K-8 FLOW (Franklin Lakes-Oakland-Wyckoff) districts to coordinate and clarify emergency drill protocols. This is especially important as the vast majority of all of our students attend our regional high schools.
In addition to Mr. Wolff’s services, the FLOW Districts and RIH have jointly purchased the services of a company called Share911. This service allows us to obtain real time data during a drill or in the event of a real emergency. While we have always been able to communicate with our staff, Share 911 allows the staff to communicate with us and provides us with real-time attendance information as well as emergent issues that may occur during an emergency. This system is used by several other local districts and will be in place in the spring of 2016.
The safety and security of our schools is a top priority. In conjunction with Mr. Wolff and the Wyckoff Police Department, we will continue to make improvements that are based on best practices. As parents, one of the best ways that you can help us keep our students and staffs safe is by following established protocols for visitors. While sometimes those protocols may be inconvenient, they are there for the safety and well-being of everyone. I ask that you also be mindful of your driving behavior while picking up and dropping off your children at school. Together, we can ensure that our students and staff not only get safely to school, but are safe when they are at school.
True learning communities are characterized by disciplined professional collaboration, shared leadership, and ongoing assessment. This is the surest, most promising route to better school performance, and the reasons are compelling. Teachers do not benefit from learning solely from outside experts, but instead, if given the time and necessary support, teachers can learn a great deal from each other. Notably, each elementary school in Wyckoff has an instructional team of learning leaders (reading specialist, math specialist, instructional coach, principal) that provides students and teachers with this essential support. One crucial advantage of this support is that teachers receive ongoing, targeted, in-house support to hone their instruction and plan how best to implement our curriculum to meet student needs.
An essential layer of additional support at Sicomac comes from the volunteer teacher leaders on the Principal Advisory Committee, all of whom have been instrumental in Sicomac’s selection and implementation of Responsive Classroom this year, and who continue to advise Mr. Raimo on important matters. The tangible, positive impact of Responsive Classroom has been nothing short of astounding. Students throughout the building practice social skills and responsible behavior daily through the Responsive Classroom tenets of responsibility to self, to others, and to our school. Each classroom begins the day in community with Morning Meeting, a Responsive Classroom feature that has enriched our school culture greatly by strengthening student connections and relationships.
One indication of a healthy school community is the degree to which parents and the school partner in ways that provide mutual support. Sicomac parents continue to support our school, most evidently through the creative initiatives of the PTO that enrich our school in so many ways: supporting Environmental Awareness through the Green Ambassadors club, the generous Book Fair and Casino Night fundraisers, community service projects, cultural programs, Harvest Festival, Theme Day, the Memory Book, field trips, teacher grants, assistance in the lunchroom and in the media center, providing meals and emotional support to Mrs. Melchor, promoting nutritional wellness through Farmigo, and supporting parents with positive parenting lectures. Without our invested parent community, we would not be the vibrant school we are, and importantly, teachers partnering with parents is our norm.
Ultimately, school is about learning. Without excellent teachers, none of the aforementioned initiatives or efforts would have the desired impact. Teachers at Sicomac are empowered to lead in their classrooms and in the school, pursuing best practices and examining their instructional choices as they relate to student learning in daily team meetings and in consultation with our instructional coach, Mrs. White, or with Ms. Giumarra and Mrs. Petermann, our Math and Reading Specialists. A few examples of this thoughtful collaboration and reflective teacher practice include evidence of improved writing in kindergarten through expanded paper choice, using authentic assessment to drive refined compare/contrast essay writing in third grade, and establishing the norm of regular practice in complex, non-routine Math problem solving in fourth grade. In each case, teachers received critical support from members of our instructional team that ultimately led to changes in instructional practice and improved student learning. Beyond simply being thoughtful work, these successes grew from key cultural elements which are indicative of a thriving learning community, and which teachers are encouraged to embrace: divergent thinking, error tolerance, and a growth mindset. Teachers deserve this investment of support, and if we hire well and retain only the best and brightest, then we can be confident that our investment in supporting excellence will bear fruit in every classroom. Teaching, like parenting, is particularly difficult to do well. As a professional learning community, with strong parent and district support, we are motivated and honored to do our best each and every day.