October 2015 Archives

A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?

Each of the Board of Education Candidates answered this question and their posts will follow this one here on MM and on the MM FB page. Their posts will begin further down on the page -- some of the answers too long to run on the same page so I will give everyone their own post, in order of the time at which they were sent back to me - Justin Manley, Joann Sabatino-Falkeinstein, Merrill Lunt and Aileen McGuire. 

Please read through and make sure to vote next Tuesday. BE AN INFORMED VOTER!

BofE Candidate Justin Manley's Response to Yale Study Query

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Metuchen Matters: A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?

Justin Manley: This is an interesting question based on a study that is actually still ongoing by The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence in partnership with Born This Way Foundation (founded by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta). The two are launching a national campaign, the Emotion Revolution, to learn more about how high school students currently feel in school, how they hope to feel, and what is needed to bridge the gap. The goal is to push our nation's education system toward creating the best possible learning environments through evidence-based social and emotional learning.

The presentation of the preliminary findings on October 24th at a full day summit revealed the initial results of 22,000 surveyed high schoolstudents. In the questionnaire, the respondents were asked "How do you currently feel in school?" Three blank spaces followed, with room for any answers they felt were appropriate. The results show that 39% of the respondents said they were "tired", 29% said, "stressed", 26% said "bored" and 22% said "happy". While the question asked of us focuses on stress, the number I find statistical significant in the results is actually "tired". It stands apart from the crowd and is known medically to be the potential source of both stress and boredom.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, "Adolescents today face a widespread chronic health problem: sleep deprivation. Research shows that getting enough sleep is a biological necessity, as important to good health as eating well or exercising. Teens are among those least likely to get enough sleep; while they need on average 9 1/4 hours of sleep per night for optimal performance, health and brain development, teens average fewer than 7 hours per school night by the end of high school, and most report feeling tired during the day (Wolfson & Carskadon, 1998). The roots of the problem include poor teen sleep habits that do not allow for enough hours of quality sleep; hectic schedules with afterschool activities and jobs, homework hours and family obligations; and a clash between societal demands, such as early school start times, and biological changes that put most teens on a later sleepwake clock. 

As a result, when it is time to wake up for school, the adolescent's body says it is still the middle of the night, and he or she has had too little sleep to feel rested and alert." Mary Carskadon, PhD, a renowned expert on adolescent sleep, cites several advantages for teens to get the sleep they need:

· less likelihood of experiencing depressed moods;

· reduced likelihood for tardiness;

· reduced absenteeism;

· better grades;

· reduced risk of drowsy driving;

and · reduced risk of metabolic and nutritional deficits associated with insufficient sleep, including obesity.

"Changing school start times is not the only step needed," says Dr. Carskadon. She also advocates reducing weekend sleep lag (staying up later). "It's important to add sleep to the school curriculum at all grade levels and make sleep a positive priority." In Metuchen we focus and strive to use the whole child approach to learning. The five tenets of this methodology state that each child, in each school deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. 

We further enhance these goals by seeking to create well rounded students and adults who are given opportunities to participate in many activities. Whether they be clubs, band, sports, theatre or the arts, we offer a plethora of opportunities for students to grow outside of the classroom. While all of these things are fantastic it remains true that they are all time consuming. I think it will be important as we move into the future to evaluate our start times, the volume of homework being given out and looking at the possibility of adding the importance of sleep to our health curriculum as well communications with our parents. As with almost everything we do in the schools, if it is not supported at home, it is much less likely to be effective. When parents, students, teachers, and administrators all work together towards a common goal, amazing things can happen. 

"Backgrounder: Later school start times." Sleepfoundation.org. National Sleep Foundation. Web. 26 October 2015 "School Start Time and Sleep" Sleepfoundation.org. National Sleep Foundation. Web. 26 October 2015

Metuchen Matters: A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?

JoAnn Sabatino-Falkenstein: A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge  without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?

Both as a parent and as a candidate I support academic rigor as well as student engagement, but I also think challenging curriculum requires the determination and perseverance to absorb it. The Yale study student sample of 22,000 (.0015 of the 14.9 million U.S. children in enrolled in grades 9-12 public school in Fall 2015, per the Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics) was too small to be conclusive. The study was conducted as an online survey and the self-reported statistics listed in the article were "tired"--39%, "stressed"--29%, "bored"--26%, "happy--22% and "excited"--4.7%. This study was conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence with Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation.

The Metuchen School District adheres to principles of the Whole Child philosophy, which includes emotional intelligence, grit and perseverance. The core belief of Whole Child is that nurturing children's natural inclination to learn allows each child's highest and best abilities to flourish. Our 2015-2016 district goals are structured along the Whole Child tenets: Healthy, Safe, Engaged, Supported and Challenged. Our district has made many positive changes in recent years with respect to challenging children to achieve their personal best.

Mr. Cohen gave an extensive presentation on Mindfulness, Socio-Emotional Learning and Growth Mindset at the September 29th Board of Education meeting, which can be accessed on the district website: http://www.metuchenschools.org/metuchen/Announcements/Mindfulness%20Presentation%20September%2029%2C%202015.pdf?1445863754. To summarize, Whole Child philosophy centers on student-educator relationships and a responsive classroom, a focus on common core problem solving and character education and enrichment through sports, competitions and clubs.

Is it possible to ensure that over 600 teenagers are not tired, stressed or bored at any given time? It seems unlikely. To engage our students, we might ask them what they think about their school, as well as ways they would like to see it change.

The job of the Metuchen School District is to engage all students from the moment they enter our schools and prepare all of them to become successful adults in the world after graduation. The Whole Child approach will help ensure that all students achieve their personal best.

BofEd Candidate Merrill Lunt's Response to Yale Study Query

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Metuchen Matters:  A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?  

Merrill Lunt: Hello Metuchen Matters, Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to this question.

As the survey was nationwide, we would need to understand how our High School students fit into this mold. There are 3 negative feelings in particular the study identified - Bored, Stressed, and Tired.  I will address each separately. Though the Yale study was focused specifically on High School students, these feelings may apply to students in younger grades as well.

Bored: If students are not being engaged in the classroom they are going to be bored. And some subject matter will be boring to some students no matter what you do. I believe what we can control includes the quality of instruction, the diversity of classes offered and the proper fit for each student in the classes they are taking.  Individualizing a student's learning through differentiated instruction will help maintain interest level and reduce boredom. I would also like to see added diversity in the offering of classes, clubs, and sports. The more we can engage a student in learning, both in and out of the classroom, the more likely we are to help them be successful. Adding a variety of different classes, including new subject areas, clubs, & sports would have the benefit of allowing our students to find what they enjoy and excel at. The enthusiasm of that discovery would engage them in the process of their learning as they realize they have what it takes to be successful.

Stressed: High school students across the country are told the minute they enter the high school everything they do, every class they choose, every test they take, every activity they participate in impacts their post-high school plans. This message in and of itself is stressful. Dr. Caputo has defined goals for our district that focus on the Whole Child. Two of these tenets - SAFE and SUPPORTED -have goals related to reducing student stress across all grade levels.  As a board member my role would be to continue to make sure these goals remain in place and are being measured, met and supported.

Tired: We are extremely fortunate our school district starts the High School day at 8:30 am. Other districts across NJ start their High School day as early as 7:00. That's something we definitely got right.  But many of our high school students are still sleep deprived.  According to the National Sleep Foundation teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Our students are encouraged to participate in sports and other after school activities.  This may get them home late to start their homework. Other school districts have programs such as allowing students to opt out of physical education when taking a high school sport and then have a study hall to give them time to work on their homework.  Is that something we could consider? As a board member, I would be asking questions like this to understand if it could help our students.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to answer this question. I hope to have the opportunity to serve our community as a board member. My focus on diversifying the offerings in our curriculum would have a direct and positive impact on the well-being of our students. As we increase rigor we need to maintain our focus on the health and well-being of all students.


BofEd Candidate Aileen McGuire's Response to Yale Study Query

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Metuchen Matters: A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?

Aileen McGuire: We can ensure and encourage student engagement through rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety in the current system through the monitoring of specific areas such as guidance, instruction, and extra-curricular activities. 

Guidance for our students with respect to appropriate course selection, placement, and awareness of academic opportunities will motivate our students to challenge themselves and maintain their interest, curiousity, and creativity in most classes. 

Instruction and methodology needs to evolve with the growing appeal of teachers and students to use technology in the classroom.  Professional development for teachers in the areas of technology, differentiation, and use of data, will enable teachers to motivate the 21st century learner through rich, varied, and challenging instruction and assessment.

Extra-curricular activities in our district need to continually reflect the interests, skills, and backgrounds of our students.  A variety of clubs and athletic opportunities should be offered to all students to engage and enrich their academic and social experience in school.

Our school district has been pro-active in implementing a variety of programs designed to empower the learner to actively engage in the learning process and maintain ownership of their learning.  The Advisory program at Edgar Middle School offers the student an opportunity to discuss topics such as study skills, time management, and goal-setting in a small group setting.  At Campbell Elementary School and Edgar Middle School, the teachers have been receiving professional development in connection with the "Growth Mindset" and "Executive Functions" philosophies.  At Metuchen High School, students meet periodically with Guidance counsellors to discuss academic opportunities, extra-currivular activities, and organizational and prioritization skills and strategies.

We must continue to assist students to maximize their learning style and potential, enhance their study and time-management skills, and inspire them to reflect and discover their strengths and interests.  In doing this, we will help them to alleviate the frustrating experiences such as boredom, stress, and fatigue often encountered throughout adolescence. 



Democratic Candidates Sponsor Get Out the Town Walk Nov. 1

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Girl Scout Gold Award Offers Yoga Stress Relief THIS WEEKEND

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MHS Music Department Griggstown Pie Fundraiser on NOW

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pie fundraiser.jpg

Chamber Halloween Parade at Metuchen High October 25th

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Join us for the 5th Annual Halloween Parade scheduled for Sunday, October 25th from 2:pm until 3:15pm. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS YEAR THE PARADE WILL BE HELD AT METUCHEN HIGH SCHOOL ON THE TRACK. As always, all costumed youngsters are invited to "trick or treat" at Chamber merchant tables; this year around the high school track. The Fire Department will also be on hand  and DJ Mitch will be on the scene a well. Please also note that THERE WILL BE NO TRUNK OR TREAT THIS YEAR as we transition to a new location. And remember, It's all part of Metuchen's Halloween Weekend! Questions? Contact the Metuchen Chamber at metuchenchamber@optimum.net or call (732) 548-2964 or the Metuchen Recreation Department at 732-632-8502.

Disney's Aladdin Jr. at Temple Emanu-El January 2016

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Temple Emanu-El in Edison welcomes children from the entire community to

participate in its third musical production for youth, Disney's Aladdin, Jr.
This is the perfect opportunity for children in grades 2 through 12 to enjoy
the experience and camaraderie of working on a show with their peers, not to
mention the chance to try performing in a fun, family friendly environment.
The musical will be directed by experienced, professional children's theater
director, Tova Halpern from Fresh Theatre Arts, LLC, who has directed the
two prior children's musicals at the Temple. Disney's Aladdin, Jr. is
presented through special arrangement with Music Theater International
(MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI

Rehearsals will be held on Sundays, from 2 through 5 p.m. at Temple
Emanu-El, beginning on January 3, 2016. Additional time will be required for
technical rehearsals immediately preceding the performance which is
scheduled for March 13, 2016. The participation fee is $150 per child and
$125 per sibling. Registration is due no later than December 15. Space is
limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis. To register or for
more information, call the Temple Emanu-El office at 732-549-4442 Ext. 4 or
email lhyman117@gmail.com. Temple Emanu-El is located at 100 James Street,
Edison. <http://www.edisontemple.org/http://www.edisontemple.org/

SAVE THE DATE! Neve Shalom Auction December 6th

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Come join us on Saturday, December 6th at 7:30 pm for the annual Neve Shalom Goods & Services Auction!  There will be table seating, light dairy snacks, and soft drinks.  Exciting new items, faster paced live auction, tricky tray, raffles, and fun giveaways!  The admission price is $10 per person if you purchase tickets by November 30th, $15 per person at the door.

Questions? Please contact Martha Mack at 732-548-2238 ext 17 or mjmack@aol.com

Metuchen High School Marching Band is #1 AGAIN!

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From Pride of Metuchen Twitter feed:

1st place this week 89.753 and high visual. I told you, you have to see this band. Don't miss next week!

Metuchen Mayoral Candidate Lebar Addresses Transportational Issues

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Metuchen GOP Mayoral hopeful Dan Lebar has been sounding off at public meetings lately. Nothing unusual about that.  Budding politicians traditionally utilize comments from the public 'open mike time' at local governing body sessions to 'make a name for themselves', but on the face of it, Lebar's appearances were at seemingly unconventional place - Middlesex County Freeholder Board. 

Lebar explains, "When it comes to 'hyper local' questions solely within municipal control, and Metuchen has its fair share, Mayor and Council along with relevant agency officials will hear from me directly but as 'hole in the donut' (surrounded entirely by Edison Township) crossroads community, the Borough often confronts multi-jurisdictional transportation questions calling for special handling".

During his June Primary write-in campaign that won Lebar the GOP nomination, a series of  Letters to the Editor published in Greater Media's 'Sentinel' regional weekly caught his eye. "The complaining letter writer's home is at intersection of Amboy Avenue (County Route 501) and Eggert Avenue, a local street that after crossing Woodbridge Avenue (County Rte  660) becomes inter-municipal, jurisdictionally still local Grove Avenue. Under Metuchen's Borough Code Section 185-18 Eggert-Grove and all other municipal thoroughfares categorically exclude trucks over 4 ton gross vehicle weight (sole exception -  pick up and delivery of materials). Unfortunately, the most comprehensively descriptive 'no trucks' weight limit prohibition  is erected on Eggert after offending vehicles have already turned off Amboy, Woodbridge Ave then being sole lawful bailout".

Lebar continues, "from outward appearance, Grove Avenue has all attributes of a County road, akin to Main Street (Route 531), Central Avenue (Route 669), Plainfield Road (Route 531), Amboy and Woodridge. Along its course through Metuchen and north Edison it intersects with NJ State Hwy 27, Oak Tree Road (County Route 604), New Dover Road (County Route 650 within Colonia) finally terminating at Inman Avenue. No surprise, it's a popular 'cut-through' for landscape contractors operating fully loaded dump trucks headed to north County work sites towing flatbeds bearing earth moving equipment, a combination easily breaching the tonnage limit. Apart from irksome sidewalk and curb fracturing at Amboy unquestionably resulting from repeated heavyweight vehicle tire rollovers, nuisance of building vibrations, telecom interruptions from lines being torn down by tractor trailers and other over height vehicles, a preeminent concern is maintaining structural integrity, 'orphan' bridge over Conrail's Port Reading 'Chemical Coast' freight railroad line located just before entrance to Metuchen High School. That bridge's superstructure is comprised of same 'horse & buggy' era wood planking and masonry as prevailed on State Highway 27 RR overpasses north of Grove and at Lake Ave over County Greenway (abandoned Lehigh Valley-Conrail RR right-of-way) before NJDOT's recently completed multi-year replacement projects. Loss of Grove Ave crossing would present an untrammeled traffic nightmare".

"From transportation planners and anecdotally", Lebar observes, "effective road signage must be set up like 'old-style Burma Shave roadside advertising. You've got to drill into motor vehicle driver consciousness specific behavior sought to be achieved. On all our high speed roads - New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Atlantic City Expressway -  upcoming service areas, exit ramps are repeatedly stated at specific milepost intervals so you don't miss them, then having to stop and back up. Similarly, appropriate sign progression along Amboy beginning at Borough border several blocks before Eggert is essential, coupled with sustained police enforcement. [Letter to Sentinel's Editor from North Edison resident describes same problem, different location - Stephenville Parkway]."

Additional issues raised by Metuchen homeowner, unstable manhole covers engendering ceaseless, resonating 'drum roll' concussive sounds, ponding after sustained precipitation leading to dangerous 'skating rink' road conditions in Winter are 'tip of iceberg' scenarios, Lebar adds. "Turns out, manhole cover instability is systemic problem. All over, you'll see repavement circles or squares surrounding them denoting post road resurface project drill outs to reset lids and in some instances, decommission them [on Lake near soon to be demolished Veterans Hall following Highway 27 bridge replacement]. On Amboy at County Route 514 [Woodbridge Avenue]  ponding problem is severe due to absence of catch basins."

Unraveling vexing transportation-related mare's nest 'punch lists' like these is familiar territory to Lebar, 20-year member of Middlesex County Transportation Coordinating Committee, paralleling 17 years' service (January 1995 to October 2012) on Metuchen's Traffic and Transportation Advisory Committee.

Lebar notes, "I was named to Middlesex County TCC January 1992 while still member of Borough's Cable TV Advisory Committee (now known as TV & Technology). First time I attended County agency meeting, commenting on Metuchen issue, Borough's rep was taken aback because I hadn't 'checked in' with local Committee but sometimes it's simpler to work from 'top down' instead of 'bottom up' or whatever 'the book says'. Years later, as duly-appointed member and member-elected chairman, Traffic Committee observed spalling of supporting stonework within Amtrak owned northeast corridor Main Street pedestrian passageway. Situation struck us all as emergency 'loss prevention' matter. So, as then actively practicing attorney, I didn't hesitate to fire off memo directly to Amtrak's corporate counsel under my office letterhead relaying our Committee's concerns, accompanied by supporting digital photographic prints supplied by one of our members, instead of following traditional government protocol, 'standing by' for response while condition worsened. It worked. Promptly, Amtrak officials conducted essential bridge inspection assessing stone wall's state, cleaned up flaked stone and fallen concrete debris, effected masonry repairs abating problem, granting us all some peace of mind. Before that, I took similar preventive action to urge clearance of  dead trees off Amtrak-owned embankment at Lake. Lines of communication between Amtrak and Metuchen Borough officials have improved somewhat but there's plenty of unfinished work at Main Street. Amtrak retains responsibility for maintenance and repair of height warning blinkers (often dislodged or entirely wiped out in over height collisions); NJ Transit services passageway illumination, access stairs to platform, platform itself but continuing potential tripping hazard from broken, missing sidewalk segments within pedestrian passage along southbound Main Street remains unsettled, not to mention overall platform modernization consistent with what's been provided other towns throughout the commuter rail system, extension of west (Philadelphia) bound side to accommodate lengthier trains, provide riders direct, uninterrupted  access from train into Pearl Street parking garage now under construction."

Lebar concludes. "going the extra mile" to provide top drawer constituent service means exactly what it says."

ESL Classes at the Library This Fall

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Metuchen Volunteer Fire Dept Offers Open House Friday night

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Library Book Fair IS NOW October 10th (old pic, new info)

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District Parents SEPAC Meets First Time Oct 8 at 7 PM at MHS

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Metuchen parents of students with learning challenges are coming together as advocates for their children. The Special Education Parent Advisory Council is a forum for parents to exchange ideas, collaborate with special education professionals, and help their children reach their full potential. The first meeting of this school year is scheduled for Oct. 8, 7 p.m., in the Metuchen High School library.

The Metuchen SEPAC includes parents with children from preschool to high school who are enrolled in the district and have identified learning disabilities. Diverse and enthusiastic, the parents have discussed ways to help children with challenges ranging from dyslexia to autism, ADHD to physical concerns. All 345 families in the district with classified children have been notified by email about the monthly meetings, which generally are held on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

"Raising a child with learning disabilities is daunting and can be isolating," says co- president Courtney Delia, parent of a child at Campbell Elementary School. "We are a supportive, committed group of parents who are excited to work closely with the district to ensure success for our children."

Delia and co-president Michelle Rosenfield, a high school parent, see two distinct goals for the group: "One is to provide a conduit for parents to learn about resources available to them, whether they be within the district or external to it. The other is to give parents, who often face challenges above and beyond those of normal parenthood, a place to connect with other parents, share their stories, and learn from one another." Heartened by the group's promise, Delia and Rosenfield welcome all parents to join them in the thought-provoking meetings. Parents of children who attend school out of district are particularly encouraged to attend.

MHS Music Department Fundraiser on NOW

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