New elective classes, interesting school clubs, and a positive behavior reward system are among the anticipated highlights of the 2013-14 in Guttenberg schools, according to the district’s top administrator.
“This is a very exciting year, there are a lot of changes,” said Superintendent of Schools Michelle Rosenberg, who will be entering her first full year as the district’s top administrator. She was named school system head in January.
One of those efforts will be improving the district’s state scores.
“We’re not giving them enough academic instruction” and that will change now, Rosenberg said.
Another 2013-14 school year change will be extending the school day by 15 minutes.
Revamping that system was not a hard task for Rosenberg: her last post was as master scheduler for the school district.
There will now be 13 29-minute periods. This will allow for two periods of social studies and science, core curriculum classes. It will also allow for two double sessions of language arts, basically four classes, for upper grade students.
“We owe it to our kids to raise the standards.” – Michelle Rosenberg
Lunch periods were shortened, but the change won’t be detrimental. The students were finished eating after 10 minutes anyway, according to the superintendent.
More elective courses
“In addition, we added elective courses,” Rosenberg said, and there will be four a day.
They will include character education, American Sign Language, and keyboarding, the latter so students will be able to write their essays on the computer. In addition, third graders will learn cursive, something school systems have let go for years.
“What I’ve noticed as an administrator since students are writing more is that they’re writing slower,” she said. “They’re not writing script; they’re not writing fluid.”
An elective class, “Dynamic Math Class,” will now be offered. It will consist of students learning about geometry, and using it to build structures.
“It’s science and math and putting them together,” Rosenberg said.
There will be different electives in the different grades.
In addition, health and physical education instruction has increased in each four-day rotation.
Success skills emphasized
Part of what the district is doing this year is adding “success skills” in grades one, three, and eight, according to the superintendent.
“We’ll teach kids organizational skills; how to keep a day planner, how to take notes,” she said, noting that these type of skills are also ones that schools have gotten away from emphasizing. Students will have double the amount of those types of classes they have now.
New extracurricular offerings
Extracurricular activities will be increased as well. Clubs such as Spanish culture, chess, drama, and “math Olympiad” will be added.
Some of the curriculum changes Rosenberg is instituting had not been made in “40 or 50 years.”
“Things really needed to be changed to meet state mandates,” she said.
But this year’s classroom improvements will not be the only changes being made, according to the superintendent.
Social needs to be helped
“The social and emotional needs of kids are important too,” she said.
To that end, students needing extra English language help will now be able to receive it for one hour after school each day, if they sign up for it.
“We’re also trying to offer more parents’ classes for port of entry” students and their families, the superintendent said.
Another of the new initiatives is a program that awards children for good behavior.
“We have a positive point system being instituted,” Rosenberg said.”The students will start with 30 points that promote character building and positive behavior.”
More points could be added if the students “go above and beyond” what is expected of them. But points can also be deducted. Those with higher “plus” totals would be eligible for quarterly awards.
“It’s an incentive for kids to do better and be better behaved,” the superintendent explained.
Rosenberg said that the school district would also “stand firm” on its discipline policy this year. Not adhering to it could cost student athletes playing time if they are not meeting “behavior and academic standards.”
The superintendent said that she could boil down what the two major goals of the school year. “Our focus this year is to really emphasize doing well, learning, and ensuring this is a place they want to be,” she said. “Also, we want to academically ready the students to succeed in the 21st century. We owe it to our kids to raise the standards.”
Guttenberg, a town of 11,000 people, has one public school. Pre-kindergarteners through 8th graders attend the Anna L. Klein School on 69th Street. The town has a K-8 population of more than 1,000 students. The first day of school for those students is Monday, Sept. 9. Guttenberg’s high school students attend North Bergen High School, which began classes on Sept. 5. Jolene Mantineo is the district’s business administrator.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.