The beginning of the new year has brought two new members to the Board of Education. Daniel P. McHugh and Timothy Murtha were elected to replace incumbents Nicholas Mamola and Dr. Samir Taneja who did not seek re-election. The November election also saw the reelection of Christopher Della Pietra, who has held his post since 2012.
“I always say ‘actions speak louder than words’ and running for the Board of Education allowed me to demonstrate to my children the importance of putting yourself out there and being involved in organizations that have an impact on people's lives,” says McHugh, who has a daughter in Eisenhower Middle School and a son in Coolidge Elementary School.
McHugh is a 13-year resident of Wyckoff, has been active as a coach in numerous recreation sports, and is a field agent for the Knights of Columbus Insurance Agency. He has a Bachelor's of Science degree from Ramapo College and a Master's of Business Administration in Finance degree from Montclair State University.
Education is also something of his family’s vocation, he says, noting his wife’s career in education-related companies, and his sister’s role as a high school teacher, and a brother-in-law who has been a principal and assistant superintendent.
Murtha is a 15-year resident of Wyckoff and has five children who are current students or have already gone through Wyckoff’s schools. He is an options broker on Wall Street and is also certified as a high school business teacher and a middle school mathematics teacher.
He ran for the Board of Education because he saw a benefit in bringing together his various experiences. “I thought with my financial background (I was a options market maker on the floor of the exchange for 20-plus years before I became a broker) and limited educational background, I might be able to help out with the Board,” he says.
Murtha has a Bachelor's in Finance degree from Villanova University and a degree in Arts with a minor in Education from Ramapo College. He has coached recreation sports in Wyckoff for 15 years and currently coaches football, girls’ travel basketball, and boys’ lacrosse.
Pat Salvati is not exactly a new face in the Wyckoff area. The District’s new Business Administrator was the Assistant Business Administrator at Ramapo-Indian Hills from 2006 to 2012.
“It’s nice to be back in the FLOW District,” she says, after spending the last four years as the Business Administrator first at Little Falls and then in River Edge. “I look forward to joining the administrative team here,” she says. “It has been very welcoming so far. I feel at home already.”
Salvati arrived in December to replace Alan Reiffe, who retired after 15 years as Business Administrator. She credits Reiffe with taking time during the two months prior to his retirement to meet with her and implement a smooth transition. They also had four days of overlap in the District Office before Reiffe’s final day. “I think that helped prepare me well,” says Salvati, adding: “I will continue to provide Wyckoff with the strong financial leadership it’s been accustomed to.”
The Business Administrator, who is also the Secretary of the Board of Education, is in charge of the operations of the District. This means everything from keeping Board minutes, to developing budgets, to doing financial analyses, handling day-to-day financial management, and ensuring compliance with State rules and regulations. Buildings and grounds, transportation, purchasing, and insurance are also among her many duties.
Salvati says she is happy to have the opportunity to build upon what Wyckoff already has in place. “I look forward to supporting our excellent educational program,” she adds.
The many policies and regulations developed by the Board of Education are not just for the Board or the bored. They affect the lives of thousands of students plus the staff members and administrators in the District and now they can be viewed online under the Board of Education tab on the District’s Website.
Ever wonder about the policies and regulations governing “student attendance?” A quick search shows 10 pages of information deemed relevant. A search for “snow” turns up two policies and three regulations. “Technology” appears in 14 policies and 11 regulations.
The policies and regulations have always been available for public review, but having them searchable online is expected to make them much more accessible and useful for interested parties. "The searchability function is a useful tool for our adminsitrators," says Dr. Kuder. "There are thousands of pages of policies and regulations that guide decisions in the Wyckoff School District. The ability to search them efficiently allows our administrative team to use them effectively to inform their decisions. Parents also have the abiltiy to use this same search function. I believe that parent accessibility allows for greater transparency and ultimately trust."
Students eating in the cafeteria at Eisenhower Middle School have had a new view this school year. A glass wall on the west side of the room is literally a window into the future of STEM and possibly into their personal futures as well.
The view into the new 1,200-foot STEM Lab shows numerous big-screen monitors, lab benches, and 3-D printers, and a laser cutter that are already being incorporated into the school’s classes and clubs related to technology, robotics, design, and art. The new facility, which was constructed during the past summer and completed in October, replaced an old stage that had been used infrequently for plays and concerts in the cafeteria since a new, modern, multi-purpose room opened in 2007.
The Board of Education paid $376,000 for the construction of the STEM Lab and the Wyckoff Education Foundation donated $50,000 toward equipment.
“Nobody has built a space like this,” says Eisenhower’s Principal Chris Iasiello when asked how the Eisenhower lab compares to facilities at middle schools in nearby towns. “We really want kids to be little engineers where they’re creating things and bringing them to life.”
Iasiello says the lab will feature ways of building that are not high tech. Drills, hammers, and other tools will be used on wood, foam, and plastic. The high-tech angle, though, is very impressive as art teacher Monique Sarfity works with students to create images with Corel Draw that can then be cut into metal with the Epilog Mini laser cutter. Other students are designing their own figurines, which are then brought to life in the 3-D printers.
“We’ve built a cool innovative space we think we can continue to grow into,” says Iasiello. The District is continuing to work on curriculum development with Chris Anderson of the Center for Excellence in STEM Education at The College of New Jersey.
The middle school lab is part of a larger district-wide initiative to create “Maker Spaces” in all Wyckoff public schools. Dr. Kuder sees these Maker Space/STEM areas as an important part of a child's education in Wyckoff. "As we grow these programs around the District, we are hoping to provide our students with many opportunities to engage in the design process as described in the image below:
Traditional classrooms and subjects are not always well-suited and accommodating of student tinkering and experimentations," Kuder adds. "We get more focussed on product than process. These new spaces and resources in the District allow us to focus on process, as much as, or more than, product. This enhances critical problem solving and creativity."
Registration of all incoming kindergarten students new to the District for the 2017-2018 school year is scheduled for February 15 and 16 in the Eisenhower Middle School Media Center from 8:30am - 1:00pm.
The February 15 signup session is for students whose last names begin with A - L.
The February 16 signup session is for students whose last names begin with M - Z.
Parents will need to complete the Student Information Online Registration and the appropriate registration and residency forms, which can found on the Registration Information Page. In addition, the following forms are necessary for Kindergarten registration only. Please click the links below to print each form.
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.