Principals are asked: What’s new at your school this year

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield schools reopened yesterday, Wednesday, Sept. 5, and it’s a good bet to say mostly everything was in order at each building. Of course, students will be greeted by changes and there is hope they will take them in stride and have a productive year. The question, “What can the students expect?” was asked of all principals and answers from five were in this newspaper last week. Here is the balance of those responses. They were provided last week as principals prepared for the new year.

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
The gang’s all here, along with Watsessing Elementary Principal Gina Rosamilia, second from left.

At Watsessing Elementary School, Principal Gina Rosamilia said there will be four new paraprofessionals, a new learning disability consultant and a new world language instructor. The language instructor will be Michelle Mendoza. There will also be a new teacher in the upper behavioral disabilities class. This is Karley Walek. Jillian Savastano, in a new position, will teach a language and learning disability class.
Rosamilia pointed out that the district will have a crisis counselor for its elementary schools. This is Carol Manning, who will have offices in Watsessing and Demarest elementary schools.

“This is a brand new position,” Rosamilia said. “It was a recognized need throughout the district.”
The top priority at Watsessing is school safety, she said. Having a positive learning environment with a goal of advancing student achievement is also critical.

“The curriculum is phenomenal throughout the district,” Rosamilia said.
Math and science programs will begin their second year in all schools. A new pilot program, the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, will address the academic needs of English-learning students.

“At Watsessing, we’re a team,” Rosamilia said, “and we’re going to do a lot of team building.”
As of last week, there were approximately 330 students enrolled at the school. Rosamilia is beginning her eighth year there as principal.

At Brookdale Elementary, Principal Lauren Barton has added four new staff members: first-grade teacher Christina Testa; two third-grade teachers, Lindsey Kress and Madeline Farrey, who is a maternity leave replacement; and sixth-grade teacher Gerard Benanti, who is a maternity leave replacement until November.

Barton said last school year there were two full-inclusion grade levels This year, two more classes will be added at the fourth- and fifth-grade levels. At the fourth-grade level, it will be the second full-inclusive class; at the fifth-grade level, the third. The school had about 350 enrolled last week.
“We had quite a few new entrants,” Barton said.

She thought maybe this meant new families were moving into the area.
“We’re very fortunate the Brookdale section has such an appeal,” she said.
The curriculum will be status-quo. The teachers will continue to implement the investigation-based Next Generation Science Standards and the Writers and Readers Program. The reading program, Barton said, delivers individualized instruction.
“This builds the student’s stamina to become a better reader,” she said.

Barton is entering her second year as Brookdale principal.

At Oak View Elementary, Principal Mary DiTrani will have two new teachers. Michelle Wullen will be the new speech therapist and Laura Coreas will be a new psychologist on the child-study team.

Another fourth-grade class is being formed. This year there will be three fourth-grade classes. Teacher Jessica March is moving from the sixth grade to the fourth grade. The third-, fourth- and fifth-grade social studies classes will all be getting new atlases, too. Otherwise, she said the curriculum is remaining the same as last year.

DiTrani said she was expecting enrollment to increase substantially.
“There are a lot of houses for sale,” she said.

DiTrani, who will be beginning her ninth year as principal of the school, also said that on Monday, Oct. 1, “My Face,” a non-profit focusing on acceptance of people with craniofacial differences, will give a presentation.
“Our mantra this year is ‘Choose Kindness,’” she said. “My teachers have been in for the last two weeks and the custodians have done a fabulous job. Now all we need are the kids.”

Franklin Elementary School Principal Marianne Abbasso said she will have two new teachers. They are Jessica Clements, who will be teaching the first grade, and Allen Wannat, a physical education instructor. Three teacher are changing grades.
Abbasso also said there will be a new record-keeping and guidance curriculum.

“We’ll be doing a lot of co-teaching,” she said. “We’re still committed to working with Montclair State University. There will be student teachers co-teaching in five classrooms.”

A Franklin teacher, Lucy Villaluz, will be giving a presentation in Charlotte, N.C., in October, on the co-teaching model, Abbasso said.
“As the year progresses, when we see something new and innovative, we’ll try to bring it into the school,” she said.

More will be done with bilingual families. Polly Bachman, an ESL instructor, will help with this. As of last week, Franklin Elementary had 357 students.
At Demarest Elementary, Principal Mary Todaro said last week that for the past two week the school parking lot was filled with the cars of staff members.

“So when the kids come back in, they’ll be ready to work and be welcomed,” she said.
The school had 501 students enrolled, but Todaro is figuring on 20 to 25 more when all is said and done. There will be two new first-grade teachers: Cynthia Christiano and Nicole Cerrone. Kelly Collova will be a new second-grade teacher. Last year, there were two full-time inclusion teachers; this year there will be five.

There is nothing new in the curriculum, Todaro said.
“All of it is good,” she said. “It fosters differentiation and engagement. There’s a lot of investigation.”
She said she thought education was getting better.

“Memorization is out the window,” she said. “It’s about understanding.”
Todaro is entering her 11th year as the principal of Demarest. As at the beginning of every year, safety procedures will be reviewed.
“My message to my staff is on the impact we can have here,” she said.

Todaro said it is impossible to control all the problems individual children have, but she wanted her teachers to feel empowered.