February 2009 Archives

Want to catch a glimpse of Kate Winslet's mum?

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Sally_Winslet_734335a.jpgThe Raconteur hosts a monthly Transatlantic Web Cam Jam session with a Reading, England pub called The Retreat.  At last month's session, the mother of this year's Best Actress winner was in attendance at the Reading pub.  From The Raconteur:

If you watched the Oscars this Sunday, you heard Best Actress winner Kate Winslet mention this very same pub and the pickling contest her mother recently won there. Indeed, in last month's Raconteur jam session Kate's mom, Sally Winslet (now known as the Queen of Shallots), was in the foreground eating bangers. No kidding.

That's pretty cool.  The next Jam is this Sunday, March 1 at 11:00AM.

Police to Target Motorists not Yielding to Pedestrians

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Over the past several weeks, the Metuchen Police have investigated several accidents in which pedestrians and/or bicyclists were struck by motor vehicles.  In two instances, motorists fled and their identities have yet to be determined. 
 
This past fall, the police department participated in a campaign for pedestrian safety as the result of a grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.  During the campaign, officers issued 240 summonses for drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in a cross walk.   The police are planning another campaign in early spring - regardless of grant funds. 
 
They would like to remind motorists to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists on the roadway of our community; be aware of our lighted crosswalks and yield to the lights when a pedestrian is crossing.
 
Pedestrians should also be vigilant when crossing the road: Cross in crosswalks or at corners and refrain from jaywalking.

School Report Cards: Data Fields Compared

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Local coverage of the NJ Department of Education 2007-08 School Report Cards has begun reviewing administrative expenses and school performance.  We aren't sure anyone has sufficiently interpreted the raw data to determine what makes a successful district.  But, that is part of what Metuchen's Superintendent's Forums have been established to help decide. (Next session scheduled for April 2nd at 7:30).

We've pulled a few data fields, some recently published and some not, for both Metuchen and three districts we are often compared to due to size, proximity, or demographics.

Administrative Expenses

School Performance

Board of Education Ponders Web Broadcasts of Meetings

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The Metuchen Board of Education debated at the last meeting whether or not to make videos of these meetings available on the school website for future viewing. Ben Small said that he felt that, if the Board was going to make good on their desire to help improve the communication between the public and themselves, meetings should be rebroadcast on the web. His reasoning included that parents with school-age children were busy at the time the meetings are broadcast, whether they are helping children complete homework assignments or putting little ones to bed or going to work.

On the other hand, Devra Golbe felt that the possibility of the Board's comments being You-Tubed and manipulated was far too high to risk putting the meetings online and Eileen Frowenfeld suspected that the demand for this service was only a minimal one.

Dan Benderly acknowledged that the METV broadcasts of the meetings are a popular way for community households to tune into what's going on. He reiterated that the lack of cable in many homes in the area makes it difficult for those households to be part of this process so the availability of these broadcasts on the web would be helpful for a lot of townspeople who wanted to keep up on the Board's discussions.

At present, the meetings are broadcast live via METV. METV is not available on all Cablevision customers' homes.

Metuchen High Music Students Perform at Disney World this Weekend

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If you asked a member of the Metuchen High School's music department where they're going this weekend, they would exclaim, "I'm going to Disney World!" They didn't win the Super Bowl or an Oscar but they are getting an opportunity to play on a stage that is coveted the world over by millions of musicians and performers.  "It's very exciting just representing our school, having huge crowds watch us,'' said Christine Magruder, a senior and drum major. Magruder is one of 97 students from the high school's music department who will perform in Walt Disney World in Orlando this weekend.
 
MHS band students are slated to perform at a daytime parade on Saturday in the Magic Kingdom, and students of the school's orchestra and chorus will perform at the Waterside stage in downtown Disney. This annual program is called Disney Magic Music Days and is open to bands, orchestras, choirs, dance troupes and other performers from schools and community groups who want the chance to sing and play on a Walt Disney World stage. They had to submit tapes of their musical efforts and sustain a long audition process to win this opportunity to sing and play for Mickey and thousands of his closest friends.
 
Their performances aren't the only caveats on this exciting trip. The students will be guided through two paid workshops on instrumental music and voice by top-notch Disney professionals right in the park.

Police Department Reminders

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Thumbnail image for police_badge.jpegThursday, Feb 26:  A Neighborhood Watch meeting focusing on Internet Safety.  All welcome. 7:00 pm in the Metuchen High School cafeteria.
 
Saturday night is the PBA Banquet which, for the first time, is open to the public.  If you would like to share an evening getting to know Metuchen's Finest, please call David Irizarry at 732-841-3223 by the end of the day on Thursday the 26th. Tickets are $75 per person and include dinner, open bar, dancing, and a presentation of awards. Pines Manor, Edison.
 
The CITIZEN POLICE ACADEMY, a 13-week program for Borough residents will begin on March 2nd at 6:30pm at Borough Hall. Classes will be held every Monday night.
 
This interactive program is designed to educate about department procedures, guidelines, and responsibilities, as well as the demands of personnel that guide decision-making. Some of the topics that will be covered include: An overview of the Department's organization and structure, recruitment and training, and the roles and responsibilities of the various divisions and sections. In addition, participants will be given an opportunity to ride-along with a patrol officer and experience a firearms training simulation.  Open to eligible residents and Metuchen business owners.
 
If interested, please complete an application and forward it to Captain R. Rentenberg.
The Pool Commission, Borough Hall, Public Works and Pool employees have begun the renovations and repairs necessary to bring the Metuchen Municipal Pool back into regular service, including the replacement of the pool filtration system. Additional key improvements include the following:
 
    • Renovations to bathrooms
    • Installation of large umbrellas for shade
    • Repairs to benches
    • New floor surfaces
    • Replacement of life guard chairs
    • General cleaning and painting of common areas
To ensure that both the kiddie pool and main pool are in compliance with the most recent United States Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations, the municipal Health Inspector is performing an assessment of the pool drain covers. The Pool Commission assures that, if the assessment identifies any shortcomings, remediation work will be done prior to the facility's opening.
 
There will be no increase in membership fees for Metuchen residents who renew their membership from the 2008 season--returning families will pay $265 before April 15 just like last year.  The new membership fee schedule is being distributed to all Metuchen residents and is available here as well and new family members will pay $280 before April 15 for the season. New senior memberships are available for $45, $5 more than returning seniors. Any additional questions should be forwarded to the Pool Office Manager at 732-632-8517.
 
Virginia Weber, on behalf of the Pool Commission, stated, "The renovations and improvements should make the Metuchen Municipal Pool the safe, fun, and affordable place to keep cool this summer. We look forward to seeing you there."
MetucheSportsplexCover Page Signage.jpegAt tonight's Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, Recycland, developers of the proposed indoor sports complex to be constructed in the abandoned warehouse adjacent to Vidas Park, received approval for a conditional use variance. (Click here for previous articles on the Recycland project.)
 
In a vote of six in favor, one opposed, the board agreed to accept the proposal with two major conditions:  One, that Brownfield remediation work plans be completed and approved by the NJ State Department of Environmental Protection and two, that a public roadway, to be constructed by the developer, completely connect Durham to Middlesex Avenues within 18 months after project completion or be granted an extension from completion at that time, by the board, due to approved circumstances surrounding development of the remainder of the property.

Local Girl Scouts ring in the Year of the Ox at Meiying's

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Earlier this month, scouts from Brownie troop 80417 and Daisy Troop 80763 of Campbell School had a fun-filled Chinese New Year celebration at Meiying's on Main Street. Families dined on a buffet-style luncheon and the girls learned how to make pork dumplings and Chinese crafts.  The folks at Meiying's were gracious and sweet with the girls, the space was roomy and comfortable, and the food was delicious.  Happy New Year!


Questions surrounding replacement of auditor

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As previously covered, at the January 20th Borough Council meeting, council members were asked to vote for or against contracting with Suplee Clooney & Company, an auditing firm to replace the existing contract with Ernst and Young.  E&Y was not only $5,000 more expensive but was on-watch at the time of the $624,000. overpayment error and late audit.  The resolution passed by all but one vote.
 
We have received copies of letters from the Borough to Ernst & Young, attesting to a mutually agreed upon termination of contract.  The first letter is dated January 5, 2009.  
 
Council was first asked to vote on replacing E&Y at the January 20th council meeting, after the termination letter had already been mailed.   
 

Beware of Edison's Red Light District

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redlightcameragraphic.jpegLate last month, NJDOT announced six municipalities to join in a red light camera pilot program created last year. Edison, Jersey City, Lawrence, Linden, New Brunswick, and Wayne will install cameras at locations with a demonstrated history of violations and crashes related to red light running.
 
Route 1 and Plainfield Ave. in Edison is one of the intersections to get a red light camera. 70 red-light citations were issued and 113 accidents occurred at the intersection last year
 
In 2009, the DOT will designate additional municipalities from each region for participation in the program. Municipalities are encouraged to apply for designation.

School Transportation: Is walking really an option?

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State school busing requirements mandate that any child in K-8 more than 2 miles from school and high school students more than 2 ½ miles from school is entitled to transportation.  In addition, while not mandated, courtesy busing may be offered to children within the required limits if their route requires traveling a dangerous road or intersection.  Courtesy busing is offered to Campbell students on the south side of Route 27 for this very reason.  
 
However, South Main, the intersection of Main and Amboy, Grove Avenue, North Main in the morning and as schools are letting out - several serious examples of roadways that might be considered dangerous.  Add to that the reported attempted child-lurings we read about each year and it's hard for a parent to make the decision to send a child off on his or her own for a walk to school.
 
And so, each day, families not entitled to busing must carve out an hour or two to head out with their kids in the morning and head back to school in the afternoon for pick-up - perhaps careening across town from one school to another. Crowded carpools sometimes result in un-belted children and some licensed seniors are driving more than one friend home despite provisional license requirements. 
 
But what can the district do?  Busing is expensive and the budget only stretches so far. We are raising the issue with hopes of learning what people think and perhaps we'll hear a suggestion or two.

Poll results from last week.

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The results from last week's poll are final and "Pub" (my personal choice) wins with almost a quarter of the votes. Maybe someone can help out the single reader that voted for "Nail Salon" and direct her/him to one of the approximately 200 fingernail facilities we have in Metuchen.

EWA Keeps Pressure on Akzo Nobel/Basell with Continuing Protests

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Edison Wetlands Association (EWA) will hold their eighth public rally to spotlight the ongoing discharge of carcinogenic chemicals and contaminants into the Raritan River from the Akzo Nobel / Basell industrial site, just 100 yards upstream from the popular Edison Boat Basin fishing spot.  The rally will be held on Midvale Road on Monday, February 23, 2009 from 12-12:30 PM near the Basell factory, located at 340 Meadow Road in Edison. The EWA hopes to restore Raritan River - the longest river solely in New Jersey - for safe public enjoyment and as a wildlife habitat.

 

Sampling of soil and water from the area by Akzo Nobel's consultant, Sovereign Consulting, found benzene levels at over 860 times the acceptable state levels and arsenic at over 550 times above NJDEP surface water criteria.  EWA's sampling also found high levels of the carcinogens 4-chloroaniline and asbestos, as well as  other contaminants.

Oh, by the way, It's OSCAR WEEKEND!

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33593715-17162118.jpgThe fancy clothes. The pretty faces. The little gold men. No, I'm not talking about THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL! On February 22nd, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences launches perhaps the most inappopriately bling-y of all the self-congratulatory award ceremonies of all time--THE 2009 OSCARS!

What excitements await on Oscar night? Watch as Brangelina tries to adopt one of the Octomom's babies on the red carpet! Thrill at the awkward exchanges between Mickey Rourke, his latest labradoodle and Billy Bush! Exalt in the presence of the greatest song-and-dance man from Down Under, Hugh Jackman, as he smiles his way through a four-hour parade of Bernie Madoff victims! Oh, please excuse me while I tuck my cynicism back into its beaded clutch bag. Aren't the Oscars about having fun? I think so. Ready to have some FUN? Can I get a YES?

Baby Hitler

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HilterCampbell2.jpeg
You've probably heard the story by now but this NJ family has three children:  Adolf Hitler Campbell is 3, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell is 1, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell will turn 1 in April.  These are the folks who made national news when they tried to get a "Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler" birthday cake made at a Warren County supermarket.  
 
DYFS removed the children from the home for undisclosed reasons.

Stimulus Package Offers Billions for New Jersey

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Thumbnail image for skyway_picture.jpgThe Pulaski Skyway and New Jersey transit lines are two of the possible recipients of money coming into the state via President Obama's new stimulus package. About $624 million will go toward highway infrastructure in the state, while $524 million will head toward transit projects.
 
Of the estimated $4.3 billion to be allotted to New Jersey, Senator Robert Menendez says that forty-five percent of the money in the stimulus package comes in the form of tax cuts. According to Senator Menendez, the "Make Work Pay" tax cut will put $400 back into the hands of individual taxpayers, $800 into the hands of married couples and adjustments to the Alternative Minimum Tax in the package will save 1.74 million New Jersey residents up to $5,600 each in taxes. "New Jersey is going to do exceptionally well," Senator Menendez enthusiastically declared.

Superintendent's Forum Well Attended and Insightful

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School Superintendent Terri Sinatra was hoping for a turnout of at least 100 and last night's forum attendance didn't disappoint.  With at least that many interested parents and teachers providing small-group feedback to administrators on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of the district, there were more than a few take-aways to evaluate and consider as goals, programs, and budget allocations are decided upon.
 
The issues presented by each of the six discussion groups were similar; consistent concerns became apparent:  Is our curriculum developmentally appropriate and does it address core skills and provide for effective transitioning into the next grade level? Is there too much reliance on parents and at-home work and instruction? Are our teachers consistent?  Can we leverage programs and experiences from similar districts?  How are our teachers hired and evaluated?  With what criteria do we want to judge our performance?  Are we providing enough to the "middle student?"  Is tracking appropriate in the earlier grades?  ... and much more.
 

The strength's discussed were consistent as well.  Most people are grateful for teachers who show sincere devotion to the students, see the benefit of committed parents and a community that supports the district, understand that students feel safe in school and know that is due to a concerted effort on the part of administrators as well as a good working relationship with the police, and believe the schools are very good at balancing security with a friendly, welcoming environment. And all acknowledged that a small district is easier to steer and change than a larger one would be.  Many other strength's were noted as well. 

 
Mrs. Sinatra said that the school district's website will provide an opportunity for feedback from members of the community interested but unable to attend the forum. We will post a link to the site once that is up.  The date of the next forum has not yet been determined but will be announced shortly.

Junebug Seeking Artists to Grace our Town this June

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  Junebuggraphic.jpegThe Metuchen Area Chamber of Commerce and the Metuchen Cultural Arts Commission are seeking artists of all kinds (visual and performing) to participate in Metuchen's 2nd Annual Junebug ArtFest!  The ArtFest will transform Metuchen every Friday evening in June into a haven for artists and a heaven for art lovers.  The event is slated to take place the evenings of June 5, 12, 19 and 26, from 7 to 10 pm.  Any artist interested in finding out more about the event should contact the Metuchen Area Chamber of Commerce at 732-548-2964 or by e-mail at metuchen.chamber@verizon.net.
orchardave.JPGAt the last planning board meeting, a property at 84 Orchard Street was denied a subdivision application. The owner wanted to build two 4-bedroom, 3 bathroom houses on three combined lots. That same property is on this week's planning board agenda again--now to adopt a resolution which incorporates that decision. In what could be considered a show of disdain for the Board's actions, the property owner has put out a sign, announcing that the house will be available as a Section 8 rental. Could this be vindictive behavior or simply a chance for the property owner to make some money during a difficult economy? 

Thumbnail image for 11273894_gal.jpgThere are a lot of people who live in Metuchen whose work takes them to places far beyond our town's borders. Robert Kaplow is a time traveler--not only has his work led him to great adventures in culture but it also takes him back and forth in time, like a character on LOST, between the decaying remnants of our present-day greed to a previously- changing world where the WPA was keeping artists productive and literature and theater hosted the greatest talents and collective hope for the American arts.

Having grown up in nearby Westfield, Kaplow is no stranger to these parts and truly loves the small-town feel of Metuchen.Robert Kaplow spends the school year teaching four courses at Summit High School, including a classic film survey class and AP English classes. Carrying him through his academic work, there is the specter of a free summer--the time when he sits on his screened-in porch facing Woodbridge Avenue and 'watches the world go by' while concocting his next great American novel. His Sears home is chock-full of remnants of another time--the cultural history of early 20th century America is a particular interest--and these things have helped him create the works that have made him a successfully-published author. ME AND ORSON WELLES, his paen to the bright young genius and his protege, a young kid from Westfield, who learns the ropes of adult life when he stumbles into the Mercury Theater production of "Julius Caesar" is the best known of them all.

This attention to the details of Americana has struck a chord with readers--and his humor-filled bent on celebrity culture has led to several parody novels, namely WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT WRITERS OF AMERICA? But it has been ME AND ORSON WELLES that has taken him on the most rollicking adventure of his writing career.

Senator Buono Sponsors Fair to help families cope with Recession

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A message from Barbara Buono, Senator 18th District:

Date:  March 3rd  Time:  9:00am - 12:00pm  Place:  Middlesex County College, College Center, CafeteriaC
 
I am writing to invite you to an event I am sponsoring, the Family Assistance Fair, Coping with the Recession: Services, Outreach, & Solutions.  
 
The Assistance Fair will connect participants with government and community resources intended to help them cope with the recession.  During these difficult economic times, this event will provide direct access to these resources without the inconvenience of traveling to Trenton or making endless phone calls.

Governor Corzine, Assemblymen Diegnan, and Assemblyman Barnes have been invited to deliver opening remarks.
 
I believe this event will provide a unique opportunity to connect citizens with policy makers and elected officials in Trenton.  I look forward to seeing you on March 3rd.

Route 27 Bridge Construction to Alter Traffic Pattern

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FROM THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (NJDOT) as submitted to Metuchen Matters by Councilman Richard Weber:

Look for lane closures, road closures, and redirected traffic patterns on Route 27 at the bridge between Wakefield Drive and Homestead Road to begin on March 20th at 11 pm.
 
The railroad bridge re-construction (demolition and construction) start date had been scheduled and postponed twice before as utility company work needed to be completed before bridge work could begin.
 
Continue on for details on traffic changes:

Homeschooling Provides Options for Metuchen Families

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While this site spends a great deal of time considering and investigating the choices we make in our school district regarding education at all its levels, Metuchen is no stranger to alternative solutions to educating children. Metuchen Matters spoke to two families with very different situations who homeschool one or all of their young children. With improved internet programs available as well as living in a metro area that provides an endless array of additional resources that enhance the educational process, homeschooling has a much different face now than it did just twenty years ago.
 
New Jersey legally acknowledges homeschooling as an option for school-age students in any school district. The State Department of Education provides some guidance in terms of helping districts work with homeschoolers and ensure that they stay on testing schedules required by the government.
 
Take a look at the issues facing homeschooling families and how they are dealing with complying with governmental requirements as well as enjoying the freedom that comes with a more flexible school schedule. Metuchen Matters gratefully acknowledges the help of the Revano and Wilcox families in filing this report.

Web-Em Offers Email Communications During Town Emergencies

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At the time of the recent bomb threat at Metuchen High School, WEB-EM was in full force, sending email alerts about the situation immediately to all registered users. Emergency situations and weather evacuations, school closings and other such events are broadcast quickly and in complete detail but you have to sign up for them. Here's some information about how the service works. You can find further information and sign up to receive these alerts at www.webem.tv.
 
Q) What sort of Emergency information will I receive?
A) You will receive information affecting your community. This information might include bad weather alerts, school closings and early dismissal, flooding, road closures, evacuations, forest or brush fires, terrorism alerts, hazardous materials spills, and other events that will require you to take immediate actions. You may also receive "warnings" of pending problems so that you can take preventative measures and prepare for contingencies.

Q) Who will originate the alerts?
A) Alerts in your community can be issued by municipal officials, school officials and your County Emergency Management Office.

Poll results from last week

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Here are the not-very-surprising results from last week's poll. Check out our new poll in the left sidebar.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! Honest Abe and the Garden State

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alincoln.gif
February 12th was the official 200th celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, and, on this, PRESIDENT'S DAY, we take a look at the ways in which Honest Abe and the Garden State intersected in his lifetime. Although the lanky, big-hearted senator from Illinois turned Great Emancipator never lived here, he had a relationship with the state that took many forms. Add your own, if you're a history buff with secrets to tell!

  • Lincoln's great-great-grandparents lived in Monmouth County and his great-great-aunt is buried in Upper Freehold Township, under a stone marked: "Little Deborah, 3 years, 4 months, May 15, 1720."
  • A former U.S. senator from New Jersey, William Dayton, defeated Lincoln for the 1856 vice- presidential nomination and ran against Lincoln for the 1860 presidential nomination. Gen. George McClellan--from the Army of the Potomac--moved to West Orange in defeat after Lincoln fired him in 1862 and ran against Lincoln in 1864.
  • Mary Lincoln took to the waters at Long Branch in 1861 and 1863, which she felt had helped her immensely, as she searched for a respite from her depression.
  • Princeton University, then known as the College of New Jersey, awarded Lincoln an honorary degree in 1864--it was sent instead through the U.S. Mail.
  • Former New Jersey governor William Newell was appointed by Lincoln to direct the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which in 1915 was renamed the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Under the category of WHAT WERE WE THINKING: New Jersey denounced the Emancipation Proclamation, lobbied against the war, and was the only Northern state that failed to ratify the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, in 1865, ratifying it on a second pass in 1866. New Jersey is the only Northern state Lincoln lost in both presidential elections.
  • A  statue of Abraham Lincoln was erected in front of the old Essex County Courthouse in Newark--the sculptor was none other than Gutzon Borglum, who carved the famous faces of Mount Rushmore.

Jersey Native Demetri Martin Has Issues & We Love Him For Them

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I have a theory that everyone in the world eventually lives in New Jersey at some point in their life. That goes for local girl Susan Sarandon, Scientology-nut Tom Cruise and comedian Demetri Martin. AKA Demetrios Evan Martin, the wacky young comic is the host of his own show on Comedy Central, Important Things with Demetri Martin. Hailing from Toms River, he is also an Emmy-nominated actor, artist, musician, writer, and humorist. Martin is best known for his previous work as a contributor on The Daily Show but we think he is best on HBO's deadpan comedy hit, "Flight of the Conchords." Check out this stand-up clip--we defy you not to laugh!

hp-history-of-valentine.jpgWe have heard about the "power of attraction" but Rutgers Anthropology professor Helen Fisher has spent most of her career discovering what makes one person specifically attracted to another. Hired by match.com to create the website www.chemistry.com, Fisher lent her considerable scholarly research to both a hormonal-based and a personality-based matching system. Why Him? Why Her? The Science of Seduction, her latest book and the focus of a recent 20/20 ABC News special, uses these studies to define different love match-ups. Fisher establishes four personality types which she associates with particular body chemicals and colors. Fisher's type is listed first; the matching temperament according to psychologist David Keirsey's personality tests can be seen in parentheses and the associated chemical is last:

      • explorer (artistic, orange) - dopamine
      • negotiator (intuitive, blue) - estrogen
      • director (reasoning, green) - testosterone
      • builder (sensible, gold) - serotonin
Does this make sense in regards to your own love match? Let us know. And If this is all too scientific for you, don't forget that a simple "I Love You" has kept hearts afire throughout the ages. Happy Valentine's Day! It really is the thought that counts!
Thursday, February 19.  7:30 p.m. -- MHS Cafeteria
 
The first in what will be a series of public forums will hope to get feedback on the following questions:
 
1. What do we want for our children?
2. What do we value in our schools? 
3. What do we want our district to achieve?
 
After an overview by Superintendent of Schools Terri Sinatra, the audience will break up into small groups, facilitated by Administrators, to discuss these questions.  Results of the small group discussions will form the basis for upcoming meetings. 
 
Organizers are hoping that at least 100 citizens come and participate.  Sometimes a vocal minority has more influence in shaping the direction of our schools than perhaps they would if people with many different ideas and opinions shared their thoughts.  No speaking before a large audience will be required.
 
Maybe you are an educator with a great deal of experience in another district.  Maybe you are the parent of child entering kindergarten or one graduating high school; your opinions are valued and your perspective is necessary.
 
The 2009-10 budget is currently in development.  Will what you value be represented as our resources are allocated?

Cultural Arts Commission to Propose Public Art Space

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Members of the Cultural Arts Commission are planning to propose to the Borough Council that the Rotunda of Borough Hall become a gallery space. They have provided a "virtual gallery" slideshow of what it might look like:


Please take a look. If you have any questions or concerns you'd like the Commission to address, please send your comments. If you'd be interested in supporting their plans, please consider attending the Borough Council meeting when they make their proposal (date to be announced) or contacting the mayor about it beforehand.

METV Broadcast Schedule Is Now Online

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Check out this link if you want to find out what our local public access channel holds in store for you! You will find programming information, contact numbers and other cable access support at METV's website. Besides live broadcasts of Board of Education and Borough Council meetings, you can find local school and town cultural events highlighted as well (so set that DVR for your child's latest TV appearance!).

Campbell School Goes Green with Paperless Reports

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As of March 1, Robert Gugliara, principal of Campbell School, has announced that Campbell School will no longer send masses of paper notices home in backpacks each day. Instead, ongoing notices, such as lunch schedules and calendar information, will be updated on the school's website and made available there exclusively.  Asking families to make a habit of checking online for information on a regular basis, Gugliara states, "We want to save paper as it is costly. Copy machine costs are also high. We will save on time spent running-off and distributing routine notices. I believe that it is time for us to rely more on the available technology."

Moving Campbell School into the completely interactive age will not make up for some notices which will be continuing, such as communications from Special Services or the school nurse, as well as parent-teacher conference sheets and all emergency announcements.

Diocese of Metuchen No Stranger to Difficult Economic Choices

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The economic difficulties of this past year have not overlooked religious factions, according to a report in the Home News Tribune. The Diocese of Metuchen, whose seat is literally in town, has established salary and hiring freezes while asking all administrative departments to cut budgets by 5 percent. The diocese's investment income sits at a 30 percent loss and their endowment fund dropped from $68 million to $47 million throughout the last year. The salary freeze will affect all diocese priests and religious staff.

The Triangle, The Trees, and the Law

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The case of the downed evergreens at the horse trough triangle continues as Borough Attorney David Frizell's findings are made public. In his opinion, after an extensive review, the Shade Tree Commission has jurisdiction over the property in question and has the right to prosecute the offenders.  The Woodwild Park Association members who defiantly cut down the two evergreens could face fines of up to $1,000 or 90 days of imprisonment or community service.  Each tree could be looked at as a separate incident. 

Legal fees for 20 hours of billable time plus fees for the professional services of a local land surveyor are now due. 

Attorney Frizell's Letter to the Mayor 

February 13th Update:

To round-out the story, attached please find copies of three letters sent from Woodwild Park Association to the mayor and council.  They are posted on the Woodwild Park website.

December 15th letter   January 16th letter   February 13th letter

Bomb Threat at Metuchen High School Today

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Early this afternoon, the Metuchen Police department was alerted by Metuchen High School administration of a bomb threat which was discovered on the premises of the High School on Grove Avenue.
 
The threat, written on a wall, was found by a teacher and immediately reported to school administrators.
 
The Metuchen Police Department, acting on the threat, made contact with the Middlesex County Sherriff's Department, as per Middlesex County guidelines.
 
The Middlesex County Sherriff's department arranged to have six bomb dogs search the grounds.  The search, conducted at 1:10 pm, produced negative results.  During the search, students were evacuated to a nearby religious facility and returned safely approximately one hour later - following the clear search of the school.
 
Responding units included two canine teams from the Middlesex County Sherriff's department, two canine teams from the Monmouth County Sherriff's department, one canine team from the Somerset County Sherriff's department, and one canine team from the Edison Police department. 
 
In addition, members of the Metuchen Auxiliary Police, the Metuchen Fire department, Metuchen EMS, the American Red Cross, and Metuchen's Emergency Management Coordinator responded and assisted the Metuchen Police.
 
The investigation into the bomb threat is open and on-going.

Buono, Diegnan Weigh in On Consolidation Legislation

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State Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) is a Metuchen resident and has strong feelings about the prospects of the "Doughnut Hole Municipality" consolidation legislation explained in our post yesterday. She responded quickly to our request for her take on the bill with the following:

"The "Doughnut Hole" legislation is based upon the discredited, undemocratic concept of forced consolidation as a sure fire way to cut costs.  As a current Metuchen resident and former Metuchen councilwoman, I've experienced first-hand the twin benefits of raising my family in a small, nurturing town that also happens to be run in an exceedingly frugal and efficient manner."

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan answered the same queries just as promptly with the following response:

"I do not support the legislation.  The residents of Metuchen and Edison should not be forced to merge if they do not wish to do so.  The reality of this proposal is that it would actually increase costs rather than reduce them."

We appreciate their attention to this important issue.

CQE Responds to Superintendent's Numbers on MHS Guidance

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Citizens for Quality Education, in a response to Superintendent Terri Sinatra's guidance counselor research, stated that these numbers can be interpreted in different ways.

CQE president Kathy Liss points out that "Millburn High School does have 7 counselors but in addition, there is a full-time director of guidance. Cranford has 5 counselors but an additional supervisor as well. So if we look closely, these schools have more professional support than one would notice at first glance." A director, as opposed to a counselor, not only handles students' daily guidance requirements but also oversees the education planning, career planning and the all-important, transition to post secondary education procedures for the entire school.

c_orsonwelles.jpgFor every ten people in town, there might be the ghost of a book club, half-formed, maybe only meeting once in a blue moon--people with great intentions who LOVE the reading but find it hard to keep on a good schedule for discussion. To make sure you find the time and get a lot out of the experience,  Metuchen Matters invites all of you who love to read to join us in our very own virtual book club on March 19 (time TBA) at the Raconteur! To make the discussion unique, the author of each book will join the club at the Raconteur, with the blessing and cooperation of Alex Dawson, for the discussion! When was the last time you read a book and then talked about it with the person who wrote it?  

We want to concentrate on New Jersey authors, so we are offering up as our first book ME AND ORSON WELLES, a beautifully-rendered, hilariously funny valentine to first love, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater, by Metuchen's Robert Kaplow! The book has already been adapted into a film starring America's sweetheart Troy Bolton (I mean, Zac Efron!), directed by Dazed and Confused auteur Richard Linklater (US release date TBD). The book can be bought at the Raconteur and Mr. Kaplow will grace us with his presence for questions and lively discourse about his novel.

READ THE BOOK AND JOIN US FOR A GREAT DISCUSSION WITH THE AUTHOR! BUY YOUR COPY RIGHT  AT THE RACONTEUR! We are soliciting your comments on the book and your questions for Robert so sign in and let us know what you think! Your questions and responses will help guide the conversation at the book club event.

Many thanks to Robert Kaplow and Alex Dawson for helping make this endeavor possible! We look forward to reading and talking with all of you!

Consolidation of Doughnut Hole Municipalities on the Table

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Consolidate all "doughnut municipalities" and "doughnut-hole municipalities" within 10 years--that's the synopsis of a bill introduced last week by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (District 15 - Mercer County).  The bill proposes that municipalities such as Metuchen and Edison merge without the need of approval from either one.  Assemblyman Gusciora does not provide any concrete evidence as to how these consolidations would benefit the municipalities or the state. Rather, there is just a vague reference to saving money with economies of scale.  The word is that this bill has no chance of passing; Assemblyman Gusciora has tried to pass similar legislation in the past without success.  We are trying to get a comment from someone closer to the situation and will update when we do.

In the meantime, you can e-mail Assemblyman Gusciora at AsmGusciora@njleg.org and let him know what you think of the bill.  You can also e-mail our representatives, Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan at AsmDiegnan@njleg.org and Assemblyman Peter Barnes at AsmBarnes@njleg.org.  

Metuchen had to deal with consolidation discussions a few years ago when the state floated the idea of combining certain school districts, Metuchen and Edison being one pair.  That idea never really got off the ground thanks in part to the efforts of a group of mayors from smaller towns, including former Mayor O'Brien, and an ardent mass of families who came out against the idea in town meetings.

Full-day Kindergarten Poll Results

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Last week's poll is closed, here are the final results:

Calendar Events for This Weekend

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On Saturday night, The Raconteur presents Brian Slattery and Idiots' Books.  It's a one night literature/music/art festival in celebration of the local publishing company. Come see/hear authors, artists, musicians, comics, idiots, physicists, and dancing hoolock gibbons.  Click here for details on the event.

Sunday is Metuchen-Edison Local History Day at the Metuchen Public Library.  This year's theme is "Transportation" and will feature pictures of horses, boats, and railroads from the town's long past as well as other transportation and  highway memorabilia from the 1880's to the 1970's.  You can learn more about the event by clicking here.

Keep up-to-date or tell others about your event:  Check out our calendar to learn or tell what's coming up right here in Metuchen.  
The NJ Department of Education School Report Cards for the 2007-08 school year have been released.  While there will be many line items to review and discuss over the next several weeks, we're happy to report that Campbell School is #1 in Middlesex County for the percentage of students scoring at the Advanced level on three out of four standardized Math and Language Arts assessment tests.
 
Of the 156 third graders tested last year, 14.7% scored at an Advanced level for Language Arts Literacy versus a state average of 4.6% advanced scorers.  And in Math, 58% of the same third graders scored advanced as compared to 33.4% at the state level.
 
The 161 fourth graders tested resulted in 3.7 advanced in Language Arts Literacy versus a 4.6% advanced state average (and in this category we ranked third in the county), but again for Math, 54.7% of our fourth graders were advanced versus 40.5% on a state average.  Fourth graders are also given a science assessment test and scored 56.9% advanced versus a state average of 39.4%.
 
An additional point to consider is that the student body in Campbell is larger per grade than most other grammar schools in the state and the administration to student ratio is larger. 
 
Congratulations to Mr. G., the staff at Campbell, all of the students and their families.
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A magnitude 3.0 earthquake that rocked several towns in Morris County Monday left no reported injuries or significant damage so far, authorities said. It might seem weird--earthquakes in our backyard?--but quakes of varying degrees are not an anomaly in Central New Jersey. Sitting on a fault called the Ramapo Fault, which separates the Piedmont and Highlands Physiographic Provinces, our area has suffered many small tremors and quakes over the last 200+ years. The Ramapo Fault Zone, a 10 to 20 mile wide area lying adjacent to, and west of, the actual fault, is where most of the seismic activity occurs.






Financial Aid Night for College Bound Metuchen Students

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Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes, III invite students and parents to attend a financial aid night presented by the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority. The workshop will review financial aid options available on the federal, state and institutional level for students pursuing higher education opportunities. 
 
METUCHEN WORKSHOP
Wed, February 25th, 7 - 9 pm, Metuchen Senior Center - 15 Center Street 
 
SOUTH PLAINFIELD WORKSHOP:
Wed, February 18th, 7 - 9 pm, South Plainfield Senior Center - 90 Maple Avenue
 
For more information: (908) 751-1677 or asmdiegnan@njleg.org

Snow pictures from Tuesday

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Here are some snow pictures from around town of Tuesday's snow.  Check out the cool sculpture someone on Durham Avenue made.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for MAntczak.jpegWhile I'd always recommend calling an experienced and reputable carpet cleaner to remove difficult stains, it's not practical to do so during a party or gathering. Here's a safe do-it-yourself process to remove red wine from your carpet and upholstery.

Pre-test all spot removal agents in an inconspicuous area such as in a closet or under a piece of furniture prior to attempting any spot removal.

To pre-test: put several drops of the recommended solution (as outlined in each step below) on the carpet or fabric and press with a white towel for ten seconds. Remove and check to see if there is any color transfer. If no, continue:

Our New Calendar Link - Yours to Share

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Get connected, stay connected, share and participate with the community:  Metuchen Matters is happy to announce the launch of our new community calendar.  The CALENDAR link at the top of our page will enable you to view upcoming events as well as submit events or announcements for publication.   
 
If you have questions or suggestions about the calendar, please email us at calendar@metuchenmatters.com.

Metuchen-Edison Historical Society presents Local History Day 2009

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Hillsideave2.jpegOn Sunday, February 8, the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society will hold a Metuchen-Edison Local History Day 2009 at the Metuchen Public Library from 1:30-4:30 PM. The theme for this event is "TRANSPORTATION" and will feature a selection of photographs from both the Grimsted Collection and the Glasofer Collection. Historical artifacts will be on display as well, This program is free to the public. A wide array of gifts, including the ever-popular MEHS calendars, will be on sale to benefit the Historical Society's work.


In a recent television interview, Bill Cosby, discussing the state of public schools in America, questioned the process by which small groups of guidance counselors handle large numbers of high school students. As covered in past posts, it is an issue that continues to concern Metuchen families and taxpayers.

Terri Sinatra, Superintendent of the Metuchen School district, addressed those concerns at the most recent Board of Education meeting by providing the ratios of various schools from Middlesex and Monmouth Counties. The table below illustrates the counseling ratios that Sinatra presented and what percentage of their graduating seniors attend 4-year colleges.  The guidance numbers were provided by Terri Sinatra; the other data was taken from the NJ Monthly 2008 rankings of high schools.
 
NJ Monthly              Rank School District District Factor Group * Students/   Counselors Ratio of Students to Counselors % Attending 4 year colleges

86

Metuchen 

I

650/3** 275 to 1 63%

1

Milburn

J

1394/7 199 to 1 94%

6

Princeton

I

1359/5 272 to 1 83%

29

Cranford

I

1200/5 240 to 1 88%

33

Highland Park

GH

385/2 193 to 1 63%

52

Edison Twsp: JP Stevens only

GH

2121/9 236 to 1 77%

53

Verona

I

563/2 282 to 1 81%

76

East Brunswick

I

2300/11 209 to 1 73%
 
* A socio economic ranking assigned by the state.

** MHS has two counselors and 1 Director of Guidance. Director carries 100 students & is not in ratio 

 
Advocacy groups such as Metuchen's Citizens for Quality Education hope that a lower ratio of counselors to students in the future could help ensure a higher percentage of graduating seniors go on to attend four-year institutions.

A winter weather advisory is in effect until midnight tonight.  Remember to check back  here throughout the day for delayed openings, closings, or early dismissals.

At this time, school is in session.

Three Winners for The Rapscallion Club Contest Announced

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Upstanding Metuchenites who frequent the Raconteur and devour its cultural diversity like thirsty travelers drink water in a desert wrote in by the droves and begged us to choose them as winners of the fantastic new novel by The Rac's own Alex Dawson. However, only three winners could be chosen and so here are the lucky fans whose dreams come true, courtesy of Metuchen Matters and Alex Dawson himself!
 
Jake Falkenstein, Mary Morrison, and Tom McKiernan--your books are at The Raconteur waiting to make their way to your bookshelves and into your reading lives! Congratulations!

Thanks to everyone that participated.

Peanut Product Salmonella Scare

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The Peanut Corporation of America's plant in Blakely, GA is responsible for the 8 deaths, more than 500 illnesses, and recall of 430 peanut-based products due to salmonella infection.  It seems to stem from utter filth in their now closed plant as well as illegal efforts to hide initial findings of contamination. 

Girl Scout cookies are safe as are most store brand peanut butters. It's the large, industrial sized containers of peanut butter and a variety of bakery and animal products with ingredients from the plant that have been recalled.

Here are some links with more info on recalled products, NJ residents affected, and Salmonella.

FDA Tainted Peanut Butter Product list

NJ residents sickened by the contamination

Salmonella:  The disease and the symptoms

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Super Bowl Sunday--an international holiday for most sports fans! If you're hosting the party, the desire to recreate stadium food is utmost on your mind. It's a day that demands a menu that will threaten your waistline like a snack stadium or Jersey's own Newark-Style Italian Hot Dog (a fried hot dog, onions, peppers and fried potatoes stuffed into a pizza roll the size of a handbag). Easy to make, hard to digest, it is only one of a myriad of cholesterol-laden snacks that make for a properly manly meal.

Having fun with the food that accompanies this supersized sports extravaganza is a must but you don't have to sacrifice good health and good taste when preparing your big night. Get your kicks from the play on the field and not the fat coursing through your veins by sampling what are considered the healthiest choices for your superfeast.

Not a Big Football Fan? Check Out Our Alternatives!

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ts.jpgOkay, so it may be the biggest sports event in the world, with 100 million viewers on average, but if you don't like football, you don't like football! It doesn't mean that Super Bowl Sunday has to be a drag for you, standing around at the back of someone's living room, wishing you were somewhere else. Why not send the rest of the friends and family on to the party for some precious downtime? We've got some suggestions on how to enjoy it.

Pamper yourself while all spa treatments are on sale at Appearance Day Spa on Main Street in Metuchen or check out one of the recently-nominated Oscar-worthy movies at one of our many local cinemas or catch a live performance today at the Raconteur. If you want to stick close to home, check out the 31 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies, starting with Billy Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE starring Kirk Douglas tonight at 8. If you're forced to, there's always those parts of the Sunday paper you never get a chance to read on your average weekend.

Score a touchdown for serenity and enjoy your time in the mellow zone.


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