Sunday, May 31, 2009

Theater and Music Curriculum Update

Mr. Jared Ramos and Ms. Stephanie Safko will be working the next few weeks to complete the final aspects of the Arts and Music curriculum. A rough outline of their timetable is to complete K-1 between 5/22-5/25, Grades 2-3 (5/29-6/1), and Grades 4-5 (6/5-6/8).  The entire curriculum will be ready for review for the summer session.
Experience with and knowledge of the arts is a vital part of a complete education. The arts are rich disciplines that include a vibrant history, an exemplary body of work to study, and compelling cultural traditions. An education in the arts is an essential part of the academic curriculum for the achievement of human, social, and economic growth. The education of our students in the disciplines of dance, music, theater, and visual art is critical to their personal success and to the success of New Jersey as we move into the twenty-first century. The arts offer tools for development. They enable personal, intellectual, and social development for each individual. Teaching in and through the arts within the context of the total school curriculum, especially during the formative years of an elementary K-6 education, is key to maximizing the benefits of the arts in education.

Minutes: PTO Advisory Council Meeting May 7, 2009

PTO Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Superintendent’s Conference Room

In attendance:

1) Summer Camp Information- initial discussion centered on information centering on summer activities for school age children. Discussion centered at the county, city and school levels. Suggestions included contacting county representatives and city representatives. The Hoboken School District will have some remedial and academic programs in place for summer 2009.
2) A motion was made to consider having 7th and 8th grade students work out with the HHS track team. Feasibility of this option and it’s legality will be looked into.
3) The topic of reorganizing the district was initiated by a number of PTO members who proposed a configuration of Grades K-6 and the Grades 7-12. It was noted that in some school districts such a configuration has had some positive impacts. A more complete evaluation will need to be made. But, the reconfiguration underscores some questioning of the K-8 model.
4) The size (amount, quantity) of the school lunch, especially for the older students was discussed. There seems to be some discussion that some students are not fully satisfied after lunch. Follow-up discussion with Chartwells.
5) A brief discussion of graduation ceremonies for the 8th grade centered on whether ceremonies should be combined or remain single campus events.
6) A discussion of district statewide testing centered on a desire for the district to communicate results to the parents in some sort of presentation. Results of scores come in at multiple times throughout the year and synthesizing such materials, while not trivial, would seem to have public interest. A follow-up to this discussion will need to occur where a decision on how such a presentation would be most effective for parents.

Next meeting will occur during the evening hours (6pm-7:30pm).

1. Remarks/News
2. Review of April Meeting minutes
3. Advisory Council Group- concerns, issues

- Individual campuses

- District wide issues
4. Discussion of Scholastic Reading Inventory and it’s utilization within district
5. Varia
6. Next Meeting: proposed June 4

Saturday, May 30, 2009

NJ Supreme Court Rejects Abbott: Less Focus on Poorest Schools/Raslowsky quoted in NY Times on Impact Statewide and Locally

Superintendent Raslowsky is quoted (see bold) in this NY Times article written by education reporter Winnie Wu and published on May 29, 2009. The article discusses the recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling upholding a new state formula for school funding. The previous formula favored poor urban district and was the result of a decision three decades ago known as the Abbott decision. One immediate impact in Hoboken for instance will be the eventual elimination of state funding for universal preschool education to be replaced by a larger economic burden being absorbed by either the district (taxpayers) or by parents considered able to pay. Those parents of children who qualify for "free or reduced" lunch will not be impacted by this decision. These changes will not take place for at least 3 years. -Dr. Petrosino
Abbott v. Burke "may be the most significant education case since the Supreme Court's desegregation ruling nearly 50 years ago." 
New York Times Feb, 2002 

Abbott is "one of the most remarkable and successful efforts by any court in the nation to cut an educational break for kids from poor families and generally minority-dominated urban neighborhoods."
New Jersey Lawyer, October 2001

The New Jersey Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a new school financing formula that replaced a controversial one that had favored poor urban districts.

The new formula was adopted by the state early last year in response to widespread complaints that the previous version, a two-tiered financing system, had concentrated education spending in 31 so-called Abbott districts, while shortchanging the state’s 584 other districts in suburban and rural areas.

The new formula apportions money to all districts based on the characteristics of their students, like family income, language ability and special academic needs.

In a 136-page ruling, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote that the new formula was constitutional and that the state no longer had to provide supplemental money to the Abbott districts, which got their name from a long-running lawsuit about inequalities in school financing, Abbott v. Burke. But she also wrote that the formula must continue to be fully financed, and that it needed to be reviewed after three years.

“It represents a thoughtful, progressive attempt to assist at-risk children throughout the state of New Jersey, and not only those who by happenstance reside in Abbott districts,” Justice LaVecchia wrote, describing the formula as “the product of years of work by talented educators, reviewed and reviewed again.”

Gov. Jon S. Corzine said in a statement on Thursday that “the court has allowed us to focus in a unified and predictable way on meeting our obligation to all of our children, while in no way prejudicing those who have benefited from the Abbott rulings in the past.”

But in some Abbott districts, educators and parents were sharply critical, expressing disappointment over what they saw as a major setback in their efforts to turn around troubled schools.

“New Jersey used to be in the leadership of the move toward educational fairness,” said Tina Cintron, president of the Statewide Education Organizing Committee, which represents families in Newark, Paterson, Jersey City and Asbury Park. “Now we are seeing a drastic turnaround for the worse.”

Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund, a group of parents and community members who support the schools, said the district would have to cut back on programs and reduce staff to keep up with rising operating costs. “The children lost,” she said. “We were flat-funded last year, and we will be flat-funded for the next two years. It’s going to be a very constrained environment.”

David G. Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which sued the state over the financing formula, said that his group planned to step up its efforts to track the impact of the formula on school districts. He added that the proposed state budget for next year did not pay for all the increases called for by the formula, which included an expansion of preschool programs.

“We are deeply concerned that the new formula will quickly return New Jersey to the unequal school system of the past and undo a decade of measurable progress for our poorest students,” he said.

Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy said that the state was committed to financing the formula and helping all districts including the Abbotts use their resources most efficiently.

Jack Raslowsky II, superintendent of the 2,600-student Hoboken district, said that concentrating money and resources in the state’s poorest districts brought about significant academic improvements, and that the new formula may dilute those efforts.

Hoboken, as an Abbott district, received an additional $6 million a year to pay for preschool for 500 3- and 4-year-olds, two-thirds of whom qualified for free or reduced lunch. In coming years, Mr. Raslowsky said, the district will have to shoulder more of the cost, or cut back the program.

“I think the ultimate goal is to level the playing field with respect to state funding for education so everyone gets a fair share,” he said. “But the Abbott needs are not changing, and we’re adding new needs to the pot, and the pot is not necessarily growing.”

In Union City, an Abbott district that has nearly 12,000 students, the district initially received a $22 million increase in state aid for the 2008-09 school year under the new formula, or twice as much of an increase as the year before. The money was used to buy new school buses, upgrade technology and cover expenses for a new high school opening in September.

But next year, the district will receive only a $7 million increase in state aid. Anthony Dragona, the district’s business administrator, said that the amount of state money fluctuated more under the new formula, while under the Abbott system, it grew steadily. “So doing our budget this year, we had to sharpen our pencil,” he said.

Picture: NJ Supreme Court, Top row, L to R: Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto; Justice Barry T. Albin; Justice John E. Wallace, Jr.; Justice Helen E. Hoens; Front row, L to R: Justice Virginia Long; Chief Justice Stuart Rabner; Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Curriculum Committee, Petrosino speak to Calabro PTO

On Tuesday evening, May 26, Dr. Petrosino spoke with members of the Calabro Parent Teachers Organization from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Calabro School. Petrosino presented on development efforts, progress of the committee, curriculum philosophy, professional development, and planned implementation strategies. He also spoke about his own background, the State of NJ curriculum audit of Summer 2007, a number of programs he has helped bring to the district that are intended to support and be consistent with the curriculum rewriting efforts. After the presentation, Petrosino and the members of the Curriculum Committee took part in a 45 minutes Question and Answer period. Petrosino has been invited and will speak at the Wallace PTO meeting on Wednesday, June 3rd at 7:30pm. Like the Calabro PTO Meeting, the general public is also invited to attend. 

Early Language Groups Receives/Incorporates Feedback

On Thursday, May 28 members for the Early Language Curriculum Group received feedback from their curriculum writing efforts from LitLife Coordinator Patty Reily. The full day meeting took place at the Brandt Professional Development Center and gave the group time to incorporate feedback into the curriculum writing process. The feedback was constructive and attempted to insure that the efforts of LitLife were in synch with the overall district efforts in Early Language studies. The group met from 8:30AM to 3:30PM and found the meeting to be mutually beneficial. Members of the Early Language Curriculum Group who participated included: Ms. Suyat, Ms. DiVincent, Ms. Yula, and Ms. Coppola.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do...

The following information was given to me by Ms. Jean Marie Mitchell for distribution to all interested parties. It involves information on Summer 2009 Programs offered by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hudson County. For those of you unaware, the Boys and Girls Club house the Edward A. Dalton Unit at 123 Jefferson St in Hoboken (phone: 201-963-6443) and the Robert T. Williams Jr. Unit at 1 Canal Street in Jersey City (201-333-4100).  -Dr. Petrosino

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hudson County is proud to highlight our two spectacular summer programs for another year serving youth ages 5 to 18 in the Hudson County community. There are separate programs for teens and for younger children. However, both are designed to keep young people engaged and off the streets, to educate during the non-school months, and to provide fun recreational experiences. The programs offer a range of educational, social, and cultural activities to make a camper's experience exciting.

Young Enterprisers | June 29th - August 14th | 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
A summer program for youth, ages 10-18, focuses on introducing them to the world of business, industry and commerce, while creating an awareness of traditional and emerging career opportunities. Experts from many fields will facilitate instructional and research sessions utilizing the Boys & Girls Club's Technology Center. Sessions will be complimented by field visits throughout the summer.

Tentative Field Trips
Trips are designed to be both fun and educational, exposing youth to a variety of career opportunities and professionals in those fields. This summer's trips include:
- State of Liberty
- Jenkinson Aquarium | New York Aquarium
- Keansburg Park
- Rutgers University | Drew University
- Newark Museum | Intrepid Museum
- Bronx Zoo
- Fosterfield Historical Farms
- Liberty Science Center
- Six Flags Great Adventure | Hurricane Harbor
- New York Liberty Basketball Game
- Museum of Moving Image NY
- Cheesequake Park
- Museum of National History
- Seaside Heights | Sandy Hook
- Bowling, Rollering Skating, and other fabulous fun trips!

Members/Non-Members (9:00AM - 5:00PM): $525.00
Registration Fee: $75.00
Early Drop-off (7:30AM): $50.00

Click HERE to download full brochure.

Monday, May 25, 2009




Memorial Amphitheater 
Arlington National Cemetery


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Admiral Mullen, for that generous introduction and for your sterling service to our country.  To members of our armed forces, to our veterans, to honored guests, and families of the fallen -- I am deeply honored to be with you on Memorial Day.

Thank you to the superintendent, John Metzler, Jr., who cares for these grounds just as his father did before him; to the Third Infantry Regiment who, regardless of weather or hour, guard the sanctity of this hallowed ground with the reverence it deserves -- we are grateful to you; to service members from every branch of the military who, each Memorial Day, place an American flag before every single stone in this cemetery -- we thank you as well.  (Applause.)  We are indebted -- we are indebted to all who tend to this sacred place.

Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.

A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country.  As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice.  And we've gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air.

Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost.  And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray.

Old soldiers are pulling themselves a little straighter to salute brothers lost a long time ago.  Children are running their fingers over colorful ribbons that they know signify something of great consequence, even if they don't know exactly why.  Mothers are re-reading final letters home and clutching photos of smiling sons or daughters, as youthful and vibrant as they always will be.

They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor; who waged war so that we might know peace; who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity; who paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom.

Those who rest in these fields fought in every American war.  They overthrew an empire and gave birth to revolution.  They strained to hold a young union together.  They rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, and stood post through a long twilight struggle.  And they took on the terror and extremism that threatens our world's stability.

Their stories are the American story.  More than seven generations of them are chronicled here at Arlington.  They're etched into stone, recounted by family and friends, and silently observed by the mighty oaks that have stood over burial after burial.

To walk these grounds then is to walk through that history.  Not far from here, appropriately just across a bridge connecting Lincoln to Lee, Union and Confederate soldiers share the same land in perpetuity.

Just down the sweeping hill behind me rest those we lost in World War II, fresh-faced GIs who rose to the moment by unleashing a fury that saved the world.  Next week, I'll visit Normandy, the place where our fate hung on an operation unlike any ever attempted, where it will be my tremendous honor to address some of the brave men who stormed those beaches 65 years ago.

And tucked in a quiet corner to our north are thousands of those we lost in Vietnam.  We know for many the casualties of that war endure -- right now, there are veterans suffering and families tracing their fingers over black granite not two miles from here.  They are why we pledge anew to remember their service and revere their sacrifice, and honor them as they deserve.

This cemetery is in and of itself a testament to the price our nation has paid for freedom.  A quarter of a million marble headstones dot these rolling hills in perfect military order, worthy of the dignity of those who rest here.  It can seem overwhelming.  But for the families of the fallen, just one stone stands out -- one stone that requires no map to find.

Today, some of those stones are found at the bottom of this hill in Section 60, where the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan rest.  The wounds of war are fresh in Section 60.  A steady stream of visitors leaves reminders of life:  photos, teddy bears, favorite magazines.  Friends place small stones as a sign they stopped by.  Combat units leave bottles of beer or stamp cigarettes into the ground as a salute to those they rode in battle with.  Perfect strangers visit in their free time, compelled to tend to these heroes, to leave flowers, to read poetry -- to make sure they don't get lonely.

If the fallen could speak to us, what would they say?  Would they console us?  Perhaps they might say that while they could not know they'd be called upon to storm a beach through a hail of gunfire, they were willing to give up everything for the defense of our freedom; that while they could not know they'd be called upon to jump into the mountains of Afghanistan and seek an elusive enemy, they were willing to sacrifice all for their country; that while they couldn't possibly know they would be called to leave this world for another, they were willing to take that chance to save the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.

What is thing, this sense of duty?  What tugs at a person until he or she says "Send me"?  Why, in an age when so many have acted only in pursuit of the narrowest self-interest, have the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others?  Why have they been willing to bear the heaviest burden?

Whatever it is, they felt some tug; they answered a call; they said "I'll go."  That is why they are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those of us who have not served in uniform -- their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.

My grandfather served in Patton's Army in World War II.  But I cannot know what it is like to walk into battle.  I'm the father of two young girls -- but I can't imagine what it's like to lose a child.  These are things I cannot know.  But I do know this:  I am humbled to be the Commander-in-Chief of the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  (Applause.)

I know that there is nothing I will not do to keep our country safe, even as I face no harder decision than sending our men and women to war -- and no moment more difficult than writing a letter to the families of the fallen.  And that's why as long as I am President, I will only send our troops into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and I will always provide them with the equipment and support they need to get the job done.  (Applause.)

I know that military families sacrifice more than we can understand, and feel an absence greater than we can comprehend.  And that's why Michelle and I are committed to easing their burden.

And I know what a grateful nation owes to those who serve under its proud flag.  And that's why I promise all our servicemen and women that when the guns fall silent, and you do return home, it will be to an America that is forever here for you, just as you've been there for us.  (Applause.)

With each death, we are heartbroken.  With each death, we grow more determined.  This bustling graveyard can be a restless place for the living, where solace sometimes comes only from meeting others who know similar grief.  But it reminds us all the meaning of valor; it reminds us all of our own obligations to one another; it recounts that most precious aspect of our history, and tells us that we will only rise or fall together.

So on this day of silent remembrance and solemn prayer I ask all Americans, wherever you are, whoever you're with, whatever you're doing, to pause in national unity at 3:00 this afternoon.  I ask you to ring a bell, or offer a prayer, say a silent "thank you."  And commit to give something back to this nation -- something lasting -- in their memory; to affirm in our own lives and advance around the world those enduring ideals of justice, equality, and opportunity for which they and so many generations of Americans have given that last full measure of devotion.

God bless you, God bless the fallen, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)


11:30 A.M. EDT

Picture: The World War I American Expeditionary Forces Memorial Boulder, dedicated by the Knights of Columbus in 1925 sits at the foot of 1st St at Pier A. This memorial honors the three million A.E.F. troops who passed through Hoboken, the port of embarkation for all troops during World War I. President Woodrow Wilson sailed from Hoboken in 1918 to attend the Paris Peace Conference, during which he proposed the formation of the League of Nations, forerunner of the United Nations. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Understanding by Design Workshop: Tentative Administrator Participants Announced

The following administrators will attend an Understanding by Design workshop on June 4, 2009. This workshop will be designed specifically for administrators to assist them in evaluating the quality of UbD curriculum and pedagogy implementation. The workshop will be held at the Brandt Professional Development Center and is part of the implementation process for the new curriculum

Erbe, Linda; Falco, ElizabethFitzgibbons, ThomasPalumbo, LindaPetrosino, AnthonyTortorella, CharlesBussanich, John;Tremitiedi, MaryVega, EdithPeters, JessicaMcKenzie, HowardKezmarsky, Kate;

Developed by nationally recognized educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Understanding by Design is based on the following key ideas:

·         A primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding.

·         Students reveal their understanding most effectively when they are provided with complex, authentic opportunities to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize and self-assess. When applied to complex tasks, these "six facets" provide a conceptual lens through which teachers can better assess student understanding.

·         Effective curriculum development reflects a three-stage design process called "backward design" that delays the planning of classroom activities until goals have been clarified and assessments designed. This process helps to avoid the twin problems of "textbook coverage" and "activity-oriented" teaching, in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent.

·         Student and school performance gains are achieved through regular reviews of results (achievement data and student work) followed by targeted adjustments to curriculum and instruction. Teachers become most effective when they seek feedback from students and their peers and use that feedback to adjust approaches to design and teaching.

·         Teachers, schools, and districts benefit by "working smarter" through the collaborative design, sharing, and peer review of units of study.

Brain Research and Music Instruction in the Curriculum

The following article appears in the online version of the Los Angles Times and was written by Liz Bowie. The article can be reached directly by pointing your browser HERE. It's important to realize that in the Hoboken School District the arts are fully supported with music, music appreciation, violin, band and chorus at many grade bands. -Dr. Petrosino

For years, school systems across the nation dropped classes in the fine arts to concentrate on getting students to pass tests in reading and mathematics. Now, a growing body of brain research suggests that teaching the arts may be good for students across all disciplines. Scientists are looking at, for instance, whether students at an arts high school who study music or drawing have brains that allow them to focus more intensely or do better in the classroom. Brain research in the last several years has uncovered startling ideas about how students learn. First came proof, some years ago, that our brains do not lose brain cells as we get older, but are always capable of growing. Now neuroscientists are investigating how training students in the arts may change the structure of their brains and the way they think. Does putting a violin in the hands of an elementary school student help the child do math better? Will learning to dance or paint improve a student's spatial ability or ability to learn to read?

Research in those areas, Harvard University psychologist Jerome Kagan said, is "as deserving of a clinical trial as a drug for cancer that has not yet been shown to be effective." There aren't many conclusions yet that can be translated into the classroom, but an interdisciplinary field is emerging between education and neuroscience. Much of the research into the arts has centered on music and the brain. One researcher studying students who go to an arts high school found a correlation between those who were trained in music and their ability to do geometry.  A four-year study, conducted by Ellen Winner of Boston College and Gottfried Schlaug of Harvard, is looking at the effects of playing the piano or the violin on students in elementary school.

Winner said she was skeptical of claims that schools offering fine arts had seen an increase in test scores and a generally better school climate. She said she had examined those assertions and found that they couldn't be backed up by research. The study Winner is working on has shown that children who receive a small amount of musical training -- as little as half an hour of lessons a week and 10 minutes of practice a day -- do have structural changes in their brains that can be measured. And those students, Winner said, were better at tests that required them to use their fingers with dexterity.

"It is the first study to demonstrate brain plasticity in young children related to music playing," Schlaug said.

About 15 months after the study began, students who played the instrument were not better at math or reading, although the researchers are questioning whether they have assessments that are sensitive enough to measure the changes. The study will continue for several more years.

Charles Limb, a Johns Hopkins University doctor, studied jazz musicians by using imaging technology to take pictures of their brains as they improvised. He found that when they allowed their creativity to flow, their brains shut down areas that regulated inhibition and self-control. So are the most creative people able to shut down those areas of the brain? Most of the new research is focusing on the networks of the brain that are involved in specific tasks, said Michael Posner, a researcher at the University of Oregon.

Posner has studied the effects of music on attention. What he found was that in those students who showed motivation and creativity, training in the arts helped develop attention and intelligence. The next focus in this area, he said, is on proving the connection that most scientists believe exists between the study of music and math ability. Brain imaging is now so advanced that scientists can see the difference in the brain networks of those who study a string instrument and those who study the piano intensely.

The brain research, while moving quickly by some measures, is still painfully slow for educators who would like answers today. Mariale Hardiman, a former principal, was once one of those educators who focused attention on reading and math scores. But she saw what integrating the arts into classrooms could do for students, and researched the subject. She is now the co-director of the Johns Hopkins Neuro-Education Initiative, a center designed to bridge that gap between science and education. She said the research that is just starting could answer myriad questions, but there are two she'd like to see approached: Do children who learn academic content through the arts tend to hold on to that knowledge longer? And are schools squeezing creativity out of children by controlling so much of their school day?

Even without research, Kagan said, an arts education can give self-confidence to many children who aren't good at academics. "The argument for an arts education is based not on sentimentality but on pragmatism," he said. "If an arts program only helped the 7 million children in the bottom quartile, the dropout rate would drop."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Understanding by Design Workshop Tentative Teacher Participants Announced

On June 2 and June 3rd there will be a two day teachers workshop on "Understanding by Design" ("UbD").  The workshop will run all day from 8:30 - 4:00, both days and will be held at the Brandt Professional Development Center.  This is a follow-up workshop to the one held in April and is intended for those from the Curriculum Committee who were not able to attend the first 2 day workshop. The purpose of the workshop is twofold. First, to provide more depth and understanding of UbD in order to edit and modify curriculum units previously developed and two, in order to impact teacher pedagogy in the classroom. A tentative list of participants includes:
Kelly Sogluizzo                 Connors
Damian De Benedetto       Demarest
Christopher Munoz            Demarest
Melanie Alberto-Kolmer        HHS
Geidy DeLaRosa                 HHS
Kate Dominique                   HHS
Michelle McGrievey              HHS
Meghna Patel                      HHS
Jared Ramos                       HHS
Ryan Sorafine                      HHS
Andrea Canonico             Wallace
Tasha Leggard                 Wallace
Martin Shannon               Connors
Mary Sifonios                     HHS
Derek England                Demarest
Victoria Chodos                  HHS
Fiona Stephens                  HHS
Denise Toles                      HHS

Diagram explanationIn schools, where curriculum is a central issue, there are three competing interests that are often in conflict with one another. There is, of course, the district, the governing body that oversees the delivery of educational efforts to students within the oversight boundaries of the district itself. In the case of the district the goals for curriculum are driven from the top down. Districts, no matter how large or how small, are driven by the need to seek standardization, to centralize the decision making process, and to control, to the best of its ability, the outcomes of the process of teaching and learning. In direct competition with the district, and at the other end of the continuum is the classroom. Classroom teachers spend their day in direct contact with children and are, therefore, far more prone to devote their energies into understanding the context within which they work. Classroom teachers understand the need to decentralize schooling and to approach the classroom with an open and flexible attitude if they are to be successful. Stuck in the middle is the school itself. School administration is, in fact, stuck in the middle, having to contextualize yet retain administrative control. This paradox of leadership leads to understanding curricular continuity and negotiating curriculum design through professional conversations within the school.

Friday, May 22, 2009

LitLife Summit Meeting

On Thursday afternoon, LitLife coordinator Patty Reily, NCLB district coordinator Jennifer Lopez and Dr. Petrosino met to discuss and review LitLife implementation that occurred this year and presented plans for next year's continued implementation. Ms. Reily reviewed with Ms. Lopez and Dr. Petrosino the implementation of LitLife at each of the 3 campuses and discussed issues related around staffing, administration and consistency of implementation. LitLife supplies ongoing and systemic long term professional development to district faculty in Grades 1-3. For academic year 2009-10 there will be a planned expansion into grades 4, and 5. LitLife complements self regulation and metacognitive strategies that lead to long term gains in literacy. This is especially important in the early elementary grades. LitLife complements the PreK-K TOOLS OF THE MIND curriculum as well as lays a frim foundation for the Middle Years Program for IB. Together, it forms a tight coupling for the new curriculum. 

The group also spoke about Ms. Reily meeting with the Early Elementary Language Group on Thursday, May 28th at the Brandt Professional Development Center in order to review the curriculum. LitLife and Ms. Reily are serving as outside reviewers for the new Language curriculum. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kindergarten Teachers Visit Parsons Elementary School

The following is a list of Teachers and Staff that attended a two day visitation trip on Tuesday May 19 and Wednesday May 20 to Parsons Elementary School in North Brunswick, NJ . The visitation was intended for district Kindergarten teachers, aids, and administrators in order to see TOOLS OF THE MIND implemented in a school setting similar to our own. The field trip was organized by Ms. Jessica Peters and could not have occurred without the cooperation of the building principals at Calabro, Connors, and Wallace Schools. As part of the ongoing preparation for next year's Kindergarten implementation we have organized visitations, workshops, presentations and professional development days for our Kindergarten teachers. -Dr. Petrosino

Connors School: A. Simone; E. Schwartz; K. Sturdivant; M. Morales (Vice Principal)

Calabro School: J. Littzi

Wallace School: A. Coppola; B. Tomilson; M. Alt; R. Purwin; D. Valejo

Supervisor of Early Childhood: J. Peters

Picture: Parsons Elementary School in North Brunswick, NJ

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Athletic Schedule – County & State Tournaments

Varsity Baseball

County Tournament

1st. Round – Wednesday, May 20, 2009 – Home vs. St. Joseph @ 4:00 P.M.

2nd. Round – Wednesday, May, 27, 2009 – If Necessary – TBA

Finals – Saturday, May 30, 2009 – If Necessary @ Caven Point (Jersey City) – 11:00 A.M.

State Tournament

1st. Round - Bye

2nd. Round – Friday, May 22, 2009 – Away vs. High Tech @ 4:00 P.M.

3rd. Round – Tuesday, May 26, 2009 – If Necessary – TBA

Sectional Final – Friday, May 29, 2009 – If Necessary – TBA


Varsity Softball

State Tournament

1st. Round – Bye

2nd. Round – Thursday, May 21, 2009 – Home vs. New Providence @ 4:00 P.M.

3rd. Round – Wednesday, May 27, 2009 – If Necessary – TBA

Sectional Final – Friday, May 29, 2009 – If Necessary – TBA



Tuesday, May, 19, 2009 @ Secaucus – 3:00 P.M.

Friday, May 22, 2009 @ Parsippany – 2:30 P.M.

Saturday, May 23, 2009 @ Parsippany – 9:00 A.M.

Picture: Hoboken Little League All-Stars (circa early 1980's)


Hoboken Historical Museum Joins in Curriculum Effort

Sherrard Bostwick, Educator at the Hoboken Historical Museum and Cultural Center along with Executive Director Bob Foster are lending an hand in editing and giving feedback to the Social Studies curriculum. Discussions first started last year. Members of the Social Studies committee involved include Ms. Donnelly, Mr. Taraszkiewicz, Mr. DeBenedetto, Mr. Munoz, Ms. Suyat, Ms. Kelly and Mr. England. 
The purpose of social studies education is to provide students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to be active, informed, responsible citizens and contributing members of their communities. The standards define social studies as the four disciplines of history, geography, civics, and economics. The teaching of social studies should include interdisciplinary connections among these areas. Social studies instruction can be based on one or more of these core disciplines or on a combination of these in the problem-solving or inquiry mode. This is frequently the basis of social studies activities in the classroom. In addition, these standards identify a common core of skills that are integral to the social studies disciplines.

Picture: St. Francis baseball team circa early 1980's

Sunday, May 17, 2009

PTO Advisory Council Meeting Minutes- 4/2/09

PTO Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Superintendent’s Conference Room

In attendance:
Jean Marie Mitchell
Maureen Sullivan
Alicia Rodriguez Fresse
Felicia Drasheff
Irene Sobolov
Debbie Zitani
Dr. Anthony Petrosino

- The topic of having accurate and detailed school calendars was discussed. This discussion expanded to the idea of a district wide calendar that might be accessible on the Internet. One challenge that was mentioned was what information would be useful for everyone to know and what information really should be limited to individual schools. This is an important issue since current format of calendars allows for fairly limited data/information. Potential content included but is not limited to: “Good News”, sporting events, state testing dates, Handbook (procedures), others? In addition to the calendar, a more general discussion developed concerning what should be on the district website. Items of interest would include: What is available in the summer for children, summer programs. Also, increased ability to navigate effectively on the website (search features) was mentioned as a concern.

- A significant amount of time was spent on the district’s uniform policy. Discussion centered on such questions as “Is there a District policy?”, Should the policy be dropped or enforced? Should there be different policies for K-4; 5-8; High School? Tuck or no tuck policy. Concern was also raised about the legality of a dress code with some polite but dissenting opinions.

- A discussion of meeting dates and times was conducted with the decision to alternate afternoon meetings (1-2:30PM) with early evening meetings (6-7:30pm). The group seems to agree that monthly meetings would be appropriate.

- Dr. Petrosino handed out copies of the Curriculum Mapping that the curriculum committee has been working on and distributed it to the group for review and some discussion.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kindergarten Visits and Tools of the Mind

Today, Thursday May 14, Early Childhood coordinator Jessica Peters and Dr. Petrosino visited a number of Kindergarten classrooms around the district in preparation for next week's visit to the North Brunswick School District to see classrooms currently enacting the "Tools of the Mind" curriculum. The visits consisted of brief "walk throughs" with casual and informal conversations with both the teachers, aids and young children. The visits were coordinated with building principals and were very enjoyable. Like any new program, the Tools of the Mind program has and will take the coordinated efforts of a number of people at many different levels. Also, like any new program, there is both excitement and anticipation at what lies ahead for the 2009-10 academic year. You may recall that this year all Pre-K children were taught with the "Tools" curriculum and there has been a number of professional days dedicated to "Tools" for this year's Kindergarten teachers. To be clear, "Tools of the Mind" is part of the new curriculum efforts in the district and cover Pre-K and Kindergarten grades only.

Picture: Kindergarten class at Wallace School  

Nepotism Policy Clarification- No Curricula Content, General Interest Only

May 13, 2009

TO: District Superintendents

Charter School Leaders

FROM: Gerald J. Vernotica, Assistant Commissioner

Division of Field Services

SUBJECT: Nepotism Policy Clarification


DISTRIBUTE TO: Staff as appropriate

The attached document, “Nepotism Policy Clarification,” is provided to assist you in implementing the requirements of N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2. Please share this policy clarification with appropriate staff and with your district’s board of education members.

Nepotism Policy Clarification

As local school district administrators begin the process of recommending approval of contracts for employees for the 2009-2010 school year to their Boards of Education, questions have arisen regarding the implementation of the regulations at N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2, which requires that districts implement a nepotism policy that includes the following:

a provision prohibiting any relative of a school board member or chief school

administrator from being employed in an office or position in that district except that a person employed by the district on the effective date of the policy or the date a relative becomes a school board member or chief school administrator shall not be prohibited from continuing to be employed in the district (N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2(a)(2); and

a provision prohibiting the chief school administrator from recommending to the school board pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4.1 any relative of a school board member or chief school administrator (N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2(a)(3).

Districts have questioned whether school employees that are hired under one year contracts are considered “new” employees each year that they are recommended for another contract, and are therefore not eligible for hire if they are a relative of an existing school board member or chief school administrator.

Please be advised that under N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2, school employees that are employed under a one year contract on the effective date of the nepotism policy or the date a relative becomes a school board member or chief school administrator are covered by the provisions of N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2(a)(2), and they are not prohibited from continuing to be employed in the district. In other words, chief school administrators may recommend those employees for rehire in the district.

Districts are reminded that the nepotism policy must also include a provision prohibiting a district administrator from exercising direct or indirect authority, supervision or control over a relative of the administrator. However, where it is not feasible to eliminate such a direct or indirect supervisory relationship, appropriate screens and/or alternative supervision and reporting mechanisms must be put in place.

Boards of education, as always, retain the option of creating a nepotism policy that is more restrictive than required by the regulations.

Picture: A chance meeting of two members of the Social Studies Curriculum Group (Mr. Munoz and Mr. DeBenedetto) at Yankee Stadium with Dr. Petrosino.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) Testing Schedule

The following is the schedule for NJASK testing in the State of New Jersey.

Week 1 (April 27-May 1): Grades 7 and 8
Week 2 (May 4-8): Grades 3 and 4 (make up for Grades 7 and 8)
Week 3 (May 11-15) : Grades 5 and 6 (make up for Grades 3 and 4)
Week 4 (May 18-22): Make up for Grades 5 and 6

With the enactment of the NCLB Act, New Jersey’s statewide assessment of elementary students has undergone further change. Under the provisions of this federal legislation, every state is required to administer annual standards-based assessment of all children in grade 3 through 8. Federal expectation is that each state will provide tests that are grounded in that state’s content standards and that assess students’ critical thinking skills in three content areas: language arts literacy, mathematics and science.

Drop Out Report- Millions on the Margin

The soaring dropout rate is causing the United States to lose ground educationally to rivals abroad and is trapping millions of young Americans at the very margins of the economy. The Obama administration acknowledges the problem in its new budget, which includes a $50 million dropout prevention program, but solving this predicament will require a lot more money and a comprehensive national strategy.

The alarming scope of the dropout crisis is laid out by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston and the Alternative Schools Network of Chicago, a nonprofit known for its work in educating dropouts. Their study, which examines data from the 12 largest states, finds that 16 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 24 have dropped out.

The problem is especially pronounced among men, who make up more than 60 percent of those who leave school nationally. The dropout problem hits minorities really hard.

For full article click HERE

Picture: Louis DePascale, Jimmy Quinn and Bill Doyle (Joe Petrosino Social Club, circa 1968)

Monday, May 11, 2009

"The Story Of Stuff" Video About Consumption Sweeps Nation's Classrooms

Who would have thought that a video about how a linear process can't exist on a real, limited planet would be popular with the kids? According to the New York Times, "The Story of Stuff" with Annie Leonard has made stats and statistics about consumption palatable to young people (and old people, for that matter).

The thick-lined drawings of the Earth, a factory and a house, meant to convey the cycle of human consumption, are straightforward and child-friendly. So are the pictures of dark puffs of factory smoke and an outlined skull and crossbones, representing polluting chemicals floating in the air.

Which is one reason "The Story of Stuff," a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption, has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.

Quadricentennial Tug and Barge Tour- Hoboken Next Stop!

The following is a list of community educational and cultural events centered around the visit of the tug Pegasus and Lehigh Valley Barge No. 79 to the Hoboken waterfront. In addition, the Hoboken Schools are partnering with both The Pegasus Preservation Project and the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge to bring field based, informal educational opportunities to our school children during the Hoboken visit of the tour. The barge and tug will be docked from late May to early June at the foot of the Erie Lackawana terminal. -Dr. Petrosino


“Steamboat Bill Junior”: The 1928 film, starring Buster Keaton, will be presented with live piano accompaniment by Ben Model, silent film accompanist at MoMA. Presented by Projected Images of Hudson County. Tickets: $8 in advance at or toll-free (877) 238-5596. Tickets $10 at the door.


“ON THE WATERFRONT” – STAGED READING: Budd Schulberg’s iconic play, which was set in Hoboken, will be performed by Brave New World Repertory aboard Barge #79. Wine & Cheese at 7:30; Show at 8. Tickets: $18 at toll-free (877) 238-5596. For further information: or call (917) 285-8911 or


FUZZY LEMONS: Hoboken’s own toe-tapping band, featuring zany audience participation, is great for kids of all ages. With the all-wood acoustics of the barge, the sound is high-energy perfection. Tickets: $12 at toll-free (877) 238-5596 or $14 at the door.. For information: call (201) 355-9167.


SEA SHANTIES: The Crimson Pirates, sea songs and traditional Irish tunes. Drinks and light refreshment available $10 at or call toll-free (877) 238-5596, and $12 at the door. For information: (202) 420 2207


CIRCUSundays: Brooklyn’s CircuSundays on the barge brings its show to Hoboken, featuring professional performers from around the globe, including an acrobat from the Chinese National Circus, one of Germany’s finest jugglers, slackwire and more. Hosted by Artistic Director Karen E. Gersch. Advance tickets for Adults: $14; Kids under 12: $10 at or toll-free (877) 238-5596. Tickets at the door: Adults: $18; Kids $12.


“THE QUADRICENTENNIAL”: Hoboken Historical Museum Executive Director Bob Foster will present an illustrated lecture on honoring Henry Hudson and Samuel Fulton at the Celebration of 1909. Tickets: $7 at the door, or call (201) 656-2240 or visit:

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3 At 5:30-7:30 PM

TUG & BARGE Fundraiser & Party: Support the Tug & Barge Tour up and down the Hudson. Food, drinks and entertainment in nautical style. Tickets: $35 and up. For more information: or or call (212) 406-2225

Education Aboard the Barge:


SCHOOL & GROUP VISITS: A unique 1-hour visit about the role of barges look at the Captain’s original living quarters, tools used by longshoremen, gongs and bells of the tug and barge system. Visit finishes with showboat entertainment by the juggling captain. Reservations required. $7 per student. To book group visits: call (718) 624-4719 or

Education Aboard the Tugboat:


PORTS & PARKS: Free Public Trips Tug Trips: Learn about the harbor, the Port of New York/New Jersey (3rd largest port in the nation) and one of the most diverse estuaries in the country. Sponsored by Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs. No boarding permitted for the trips without a printed email confirmation. Reservations at or call (212) 406-2225