Guest Column: The School Year Draws to a Close
Holmdel Board of Education President Barbara Garrity looks back on the board's accomplishments in the past year.
As graduation approaches, we look back on a year in which some things have changed while others remained much the same.
On the change side, we introduced a 10 minute longer school day this year. The added time was used to support character education in grades K-8, which dovetailed nicely with the increased focus on anti-bullying. At the high school, coupled with a few schedule tweaks, it allowed us to add 3 minutes to each class period, yielding added instructional time each day. We also outsourced the remaining 40% of our busing, and relocated the school district’s central office to Village School, both of which changes help us focus our financial resources on educating Holmdel’s children.
Among many constants is our focus on converting our students’ potential into achievement. In striving to achieve that goal, we continue to update curriculum and instructional approaches to incorporate best practices. We value the feedback and support our families provide, recognizing that a solid home-school partnership is one of the foundation stones of student success. This year Holmdel High School was named a “reward” school, among “the highest-performing in the state, in terms of school-wide proficiency, subgroup proficiency, and graduation rates,” by the NJ Department of Education, and a “gold medal” school (among the top 500 of more than 22,000 US high schools) by U. S. News and World Report. We are proud of these designations, which reflect the hard work of students, teachers and administrators and the support given by our parents and community.
One of our constants is change itself. The state is in the process of adopting new core curriculum content standards, and new student and teacher evaluation systems. It is not clear yet what exactly will be required. However in the 2012-13 budget, we have begun increasing our computer resources to be ready for the change to on-line student testing that will occur within the next few years. In July we will be setting our district goals for the coming year. Planning for these changes, cost containment and seeking non-tax revenues remain high on the list.
Another change was moving the school board election date to November in hope of increasing voter participation and to reduce costs. As a result, the reorganization of the Board’s leadership and committees that usually happened in May will now occur in early January. For those of you who might be interested in serving the community on the Board of Education, this is your final notice that the filing deadline is now 4 PM on June 5, and your nominating petition must filed with the county clerk in Freehold. Information and nominating petition forms are available under “district news” on the home page of the district website, www.holmdelschools.org.
And finally, we look forward to graduation. Our high school students have compiled an admirable track record across a wide range of endeavor -- the performing arts, athletics and many extra-curricular clubs and teams -- which has been publicized over the year. Academic highlights of this year’s senior class include 6 National Merit Scholars Finalists and 32 Commended Scholars, 1 NJ Scholar Finalist and 1 Semi-Finalist (only 39 selected in the entire state of NJ), 7 Perfect 800 SAT scores on Critical Reading, 9 Perfect 800 SAT scores on Math, 10 Perfect 800 SAT scores on Writing, College Board – AP Exams - NJ State Winner (one of two), and a Siemens Intel Science Competition – National Semifinalist.
We get many inquiries about our graduates’ college acceptances. Here’s a partial return: one each is accepted into Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Bryn Mawr, and Georgetown; two each at U. Penn, Duke, and Princeton; seven each at Cornell and U. of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana; and 11 at NYU, to name only a few among many fine institutions. When the complete list is available, we’ll post it to the district website.
Many people have contributed to preparing our students for graduation – teachers, administrators and staff – and I am grateful for their hard work, dedication and caring hearts. I am also grateful to all the parents who sent their children to school ready to learn each day, and gradually prepared them to handle the freedom and responsibilities that independent living will bring. Congratulations, Class of 2012, and good luck! We are proud of you and of your accomplishments!
With summer nearly here, we will take a vacation from the monthly Board of Education column, and resume on an every-other-month basis in the fall beginning in September. If additional topics arise over the course of the year, we’ll add columns on an as-needed basis.
We on the Board of Education celebrate our seniors and the year that’s ending, and look forward to the school year ahead. We welcome your interest and input, appreciate your support and hope to see you at a Board of Education meeting soon!
On behalf of my Board colleagues,
President, Holmdel BOE
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