BCS board of education reflects on 2016–2017 school performance report

At the latest meeting, six candidates interviewed for the vacant BOE seat.

Sixth grader Carina Marella receives the December student of the month award by Superintendent Kristen Martello.

At last week’s meeting, the Berlin Borough School District Board of Education reflected on Berlin Community School’s 2016–2017 New Jersey School Performance Summary Report.

Principal Shelly Ward-Richards presented the district’s results, analyzing students’ academic assessments from last year as compared to statewide averages.

In English, BCS is “showing progress” on PARCC assessments with 58.4 percent of third through eighth graders meeting or exceeding expectations, surpassing the state’s average of 54.9 percent. The district exceeded its own projected target of 52.4 percent.

In mathematics, BCS is also “showing progress,” as 48.3 percent of third through eighth graders met or exceeded expectations in PARCC exams, trumping its target score of 44.8.

As far as chronic absenteeism, a category the state identified as its unique concern to report to the federal government for the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, the BCS target was to not exceed 8.5 percent. The district reported 7.1 percent.

The report also measures how much students are learning by analyzing individual student growth percentile, or SGP.

Each student in grades four to eight receives a SGP for English, and each student in grades four to seven also receives one for math. The percentiles, ranging from one to 99, explain their progress compared to students who had similar test scores in the past.

If the student growth percentile for all students in the school were ordered from smallest to largest, the median student growth percentile is the percentile in the middle of that list, according to the report.

For English, BCS reached a median of 54, surpassing the state average in this same category by four percentiles. In math, SGP category, BCS is considered to be “excelling,” clinching a median of 61 while the state’s average is around 50.

The state report also acknowledged some of BCS’s other noteworthy aspects.

“This year, we were able to highlight the different things about our school,” Wards-Richards said. “We highlighted the National School of Character, our STEAM instruction for all our students grades K to eight and pre-engineering in grades six to eight and, then, all the new things we’re doing in redefining academic outcomes by leveraging technology to promote personalized learning. So, there’s a lot of genius — our passion projects and other things that are going within the school.”

In other news:

• The board interviewed six candidates to fill its vacant seat. The candidates included Cassandra Buchanan, Louis Lucente, Kristine Height, Christopher Iacono, Karen Mariner and Shelley Pampanin. During non-public executive session, the board cast its votes, but did not come to a majority. Height received three votes, Iacono received two and Lucente received one. Since a majority was needed to confirm a replacement, the vacancy stands until a specific meeting is scheduled within 60 days.

• Mayor Jim Bilella spoke to the board regarding the borough’s ability to meet the round three affordable housing requirements. According to Bilella, the borough has settled its third-round compliance, which was stated from 1999 to 2015. After much legal review, council negotiated with Fair Share Housing, configuring a number of 131 additional low- to moderate-income houses for the borough to meet the standards. All 131 already exist within the borough, meaning, of the round three compliances, the town does not have to provide any additional new housing units to satisfy affordable housing. Being compliant, the borough now controls its own zoning.

However, this does not include the Tansboro Road Project, which has concerned the school district in the past. This project emerged from the brough’s failure to meet the second round of requirements in the early 2000s. The project includes a 470-unit apartment complex — 70 of which will be designated for affordable housing. This project went through the planning board for final approval in December, according to Bilella. As the market absorbs the unit, the project will built out in phases over three to five years.

• The board voted on budgeting $4,500 for championship jackets if the schools’ athletic teams win such titles throughout the 2018–2019 school year.