With summertime winding down and Labor Day on the horizon, interim Superintendent Richard Perry, as well as assistant superintendents Gregory Cappello and Lynn DiPietropolo, spoke with The Sun about the upcoming school year.
Though it has been a common theme at recent board of education meetings, Perry doubled down saying Holly Glen will be open for September.
“Holly Glen is going to open on track, that’s been a big concern with the community, not so much as the school, but also rebuilding trust, open communication with residents and trying to build that working relationship with people in the community,” he said.
Perry intends to use Holly Glen as a learning experience in trying to stay on top of other facilities in the district. He mentioned looking at energy programs and bond referendums, specifically supplanting bonds that are coming off the books to have no to minimal tax impact. He added the district could use its capital and maintenance reserve accounts as well for future projects.
“We’re looking at creative ways to create the funding so we can stay ahead of maintaining our facilities district wide so we don’t run into a problem like Holly Glen in the future,” Perry said.
Going into the upcoming year, Perry said he looks forward to working with the township to partner with an energy program, specifically solar energy. He said there are state programs that offer 80 percent funding where the district will only have to foot 20 percent of new, energy-efficient equipment. From electricity to boilers to new HVAC equipment, there is a possibility the district and township could receive a makeover by partnering on a new energy program.
In terms of curriculum, Perry said the district is looking at new, innovative instruction at all grade levels, including infusing technology. In this vein, he is looking to have more professional development opportunities for staff as well as more communication between grade levels and buildings.
“We’re working collaboratively on curriculum updates in terms of how to best disseminate instruction to all the grade levels,” Perry said.
While he would like to increase enrollment and scores for the SAT, Perry wants the district to work with private companies to have a trade night, similar to college night, where representatives from local unions or trades will come to a school and speak with students. He is also looking at a cooperative mentorship program with those organizations.
When it comes to school security, Cappello said the district is making some improvements and looking at ways to upgrade its system.
“We’re reviewing all of our plans and procedures, and we expect to continue our tradition of being a very safe school. And, of course, we’re a designated safe school by the state of New Jersey and our EVVRS (Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System) designation,” Cappello said.
Cappello and Perry confirmed the two school resource officers will be back at the high school, and they have completed installation of the antenna boosters to increase radio signals previously reported as a cooperative program with the township.
One of the improvements the district plans on rolling out this year is the “Crisis Go” application that will streamline communication between staff, students, parents and community members. Cappello said it can and will be used for things ranging from road closures to fire drills and more. More information on “Crisis Go” will be available at a later date.
DiPietropolo spoke about the summer intervention program offered at Radix Elementary School that gave children a chance to keep their education going to reduce chance of a “summer slide.”
“It was very successful to the point we had so many we added another teacher down at Radix,” DiPietropolo said. “It was a good program. Parents were very happy, a lot of positive feedback from parents. We’ll get to see those effects in September when the kids come back and can continue their education.”
The most important thing for Perry in the upcoming school year is to simplify things and, in a way, go back to basics.
“Our mission is to educate and that’s what we want to focus on this year – education,” Perry said.
One of the ways he plans on doing that is by speaking about instruction and education at every board meeting. Whether that’s bringing up a student to speak or present something innovative that’s happening in a classroom or having a member of student council give feedback on what clubs they’re interested in, his goal is to keep students and education at the forefront.
“Because I think sometimes we lose sight of that with whatever the monthly concern or issue is with people talking about various things,” he continued. “I want to try to keep the board focused on education and instruction this year. That’s my job as superintendent and not be so defensive and not waiting for complaints and issues and defending, but being proactive about creative programs, things that can move the district forward.”