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Upcoming 2019-20 Meetings

Sept. 17
Oct. 22
Nov 26
Jan 21
Feb 18
March 17
April 21
May 12

Regular meetings held at The Hickcok Meeting Room, Summit Public Library, 9:15 a.m.

September 2019 Meeting

NO ROOM FOR HATE.

Speak up Summit unequivocally condemns any expression of hatred. We are shaken and deeply saddened by the recent use of anti-Semitic symbols in our schools. We believe that diversity is our strength and as a community, we should reinforce our commitment to inclusion across race, gender, age, religion, identity, and experiences.
It is reassuring how many voices have delivered messages of unity and love, but in moments like this, it’s essential we take a step back and recognize that these acts are not the first ones, they are not happening in the void, and they didn’t come out of nowhere.

This should be our wake-up call.

I have no doubt of the greatness of this city, but if some kids felt bold enough to commit such acts, we have failed them. We have failed to communicate to them our common values of respect, compassion, and inclusion. It’s imperative that we acknowledge that sometimes by not taking a stand, by not looking carefully of how we are interacting with each other, by neglecting or downplaying the importance of small acts of prejudice, bias or just plain rudeness, we are sending the wrong message to our kids. If kids failed to recognize the real meaning of these symbols, we have failed to educate them.

A joke is not a joke when someone is going to be hurt.

A symbol is not just an emoji when it embodies the suffering of millions of people.

A chant is not a catchy tune when it conveys a message of repudiation against others.

Above all, it should be clear for everyone, that in Summit, there is no room for hate, period.

I share the belief that this is a teaching moment for our children and for the whole community. We must actively work to strengthen our connections, trust, and mutual understanding. We must embody our shared values with actions that bind us together and make cooperation possible. We must care for the marginalized, unrepresented members of our community just as we care for our own.

We must advocate for effective anti-bias education and policies, as well as restorative practices in our schools. We must ensure we have created a system able to respond adequately to wrongdoing, one fast to restore a healthy and positive environment where ALL our children can thrive. We must continuously and mindfully work on educating ourselves too.

After all, as Malcolm Forbes said: the purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.

Bad Medicine and Frappuccinos. Final.

Instead of keep reviewing the concerns about the proposed calendar, like sports and the NJEA convention, I would like to make my position clear:

I don’t like the idea of starting before Labor Day either.

But even if I don’t like that idea, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable to consider building in more snow days, given the kind of weather we have experienced and the late school has ended in the last couple of years. It might be bad medicine but:

More than questioning Why we need to do this change, I think the question is How can we make this change better? Continue reading Bad Medicine and Frappuccinos. Final.

Bad Medicine and Frappuccinos. Part C

3) Temperature-controlled environment

Although I don’t wish to talk only about legal issues, I do believe it serves us well to know what the regulations and guidelines are mandated by the State (in Speak Up Summit lingo, I shall say ‘to stay informed’) about what is the minimum we can expect from the administration. Note: expecting is not the same as demanding.

Like with Virtual Instruction, I couldn’t find any regulations about the temperature-controlled classroom in NJ. There had been at least 3 different bills submitted in the last couple of years to the State Legislature for establishing temperature control guidelines and standards for school facilities with no success.

There are guidelines though for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), which is affected with higher temperatures. For instance, at 85 F, if the HVAC system (see 6) is not running, it is very likely that Carbon Dioxide is building up causing sleepiness and other IAQ issues. this will not be a suitable environment for learning or working in general (N.J.A.C.12:100-13.1-13.8). As I understood, what the administration should be monitoring is the levels of Carbon Dioxide -not necessarily temperature- inside the building and providing proper air ventilation, mechanical or not mechanical, to keep compliance with IAQ standards.

Although in NJ school districts are not mandated by law to install temperature-controlled systems in the classrooms, Continue reading Bad Medicine and Frappuccinos. Part C

Bad Medicine and Frapuccinos. Part B

2) Virtual Instruction and school attendance.

Currently there are no guidance for Virtual Instruction in NJ. In February of this year, the bill A3321 was submitted to the Assembly Education Committee to allow the use of virtual instruction to meet minimum 180-day school year requirement under certain circumstances, it’s still under review (see 3).

Regarding attendance, according to the NJSMART guidance for Reporting Student Absences and Calculating Chronic Absenteeism (see 4), a student must be present at least two hours to be recorded as present for the full day, when the school is in session and under the guidance and direction of a teacher in the teaching process. (N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3(k)). For a half-day preschool or kindergarten session or half-day, the student must be present for at least one hour to be considered present. (New Jersey School Register, Ch.3). Continue reading Bad Medicine and Frapuccinos. Part B

Bad Medicine and Frappucinos. Part A

School is in session! Hope your transition from leisure to full schedule has been smooth despite the heat.

It’s no secret that over the last couple of weeks parents have been commenting about the proposed changes in the school calendar. There are many concerns about the consequences this change will bring and some arguments about the benefits driving this change. If this change is welcome or not varies mainly because its impact it’s different for different families, its pros and cons are not defined equally across the district and what is more, it will not only affect students but also teachers and staff alike.

Yesterday the administration published the proposed 2019-2020 calendar and some of its key points. I have been analyzing many of the concerns and questions and these are some of my findings (in installments) : Continue reading Bad Medicine and Frappucinos. Part A

Welcome to the 2017-18 School Year!

All Welcome!

I have been trying all summer to write a welcoming note so motivating that many of you will be curious enough to join us for a cup of coffee and bagels in our new cycle of Speak-up Summit meetings. I have been writing and erasing paragraphs trying to decide what subject will be the more sought-after. Changes are happening on many fronts, from new appointments in the state and local Boards of Education, student loans forgiveness policy to a discussion about the constitutional right to literacy, etc.

Speak-up Summit is a non-profit, non-partisan group, open to all parents interested in the improvement of our kid’s public education system, with the main purpose to offer a space where discussions can happen in a relax and amicable manner, where we share our worries -not only about schools and policies- but also about the challenges we face daily while our kids are growing up in this ever-changing digital era. Regardless my intention to focus on policies and regulations, my mind keeps wondering towards issues happening outside the classrooms. If you had the chance to visit the Lincoln-Hubbard commons, you’ll notice some wonderful quotes decorating the walls; one of them reads: “You are the author of your life story”. I believe that to be true for everyone: for an individual, a couple, a family or a community. We are so convinced that schools are the best platform for the transfer of knowledge that we are committed to sending our children -sometimes against their own will- for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for most of the year. However, this transfer of knowledge doesn’t happen in the void. School is an important pillar of the development of skills and character of our young, but what surrounds them has also a weight on their development. A happy kid is a better learner. A kid feeling safe, appreciated and well taken care of has more chances to flourish. We are the authors of our own life stories, but our individual stories are interconnected; other people’s experiences shape our own, changing our perceptions and enriching our vision.

Reading the story of Michel Oher as part of the “One Book One Community” initiative has strengthened my conviction that we all have an important role to play in transforming the lives of those around us, for the worse or for the better, by taking action or by neglect. We all praise individual accomplishments but for some, the importance of our collective effort to support their individual and sometimes unnoticed struggles can have a life changing impact, an impact so big as to prevent their life stories to be short. The suicide of Mallory Grossman, a six grader in the Rockaway School District should serve as a reminder that no one is immune to tragedy. Everyone is entitled to their own personal opinions based on their religious beliefs, work ethics or cultural backgrounds and although there’s perfectly acceptable to agree to disagree, more often than not, it’s vital that we reach consensus for the betterment of everyone. Sometimes our disagreements can be resolved if we take the time to “read” a bit more of other people’s life stories, if we decided to understand better what substantiate their concerns and addressed them instead of just dismissed them, only if we recognize our strengths and weaknesses we can grow stronger as a community.

We advocate for Speaking up-but this time, I invite you all to join us and start speaking, just speaking to each other, to create a strong bond and open communication for when the time comes we are ready to join our efforts and Speak up together. I invite you all to be part of this new chapter of Speak-up Summit and to participate actively in making the story of this wonderful community a story worth telling!

TIME CHANGE- April 18th

TIME CHANGE: Please note that the April 18 regular monthly meeting will begin at 10am (not 8:30 am.)

THREE IMPORTANT EVENTS COMING UP!

Speak Up Summit, of course, is an organization about Summit’s public education. Sometimes, news and events a little outside the box are of importance to our members. It’s not too much of a stretch to note that the current choice for Secretary of Education, Betty DeVos, is no friend to public education. Therefore, because of choices like this and many others impacting our citizens, it is imperative that we share three local post-election events and activities which will be very well attended by Speak Up Summit’s members. 

First up is a three-part postcard-writing event, “Summit Marches On!” which begins tomorrow morning. Three area women– Tracy Allocco KeeganBeth Keane Little, and Lacey Cotter Rzeszowski are opening up their homes so that people can write to their legislators and express their concerns about the choices the administration is making. This article details the events and locations.

Second is a Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre performance on Thursday, February 2 at 7:30 pm. “Continuing the Conversation, an Evening of Short Plays in Response to the Election” Eight 10-minute original plays, all written since the election, will be read at this one-time only performance. This link tells more about the impetus for the show and how to buy the $20 tickets.

Third is an event run by the Summit Municipal Democratic Committee, “Stand Up/Speak Out: A User’s Guide to Democracy.” This Feb. 9, 7-9 pm program will show the community how to get your voice heard, from contacting elected officials, using social media, and fundraising, and will provide a practical introduction to effective community participation. The free event will feature current and former elected officials, local party leaders and other active citizens sharing their experience and insights.  Click here to RSVP and read more.

Hats off to those mentioned here along with Andrea J. SteinTerri Gamier Tauber, and Laura Ekstrand —some of our strong local community activists, who were impassioned enough to dream of these projects, who have faith in the democratic process, and who understand that a grassroots-solution is the best way to impact large scale change.

Many of us at Speak Up Summit will be attending all three events and hope to see great community participation!

Conversation with the Administration Video Available Online

If you missed the annual “Coffee and Conversation with the Administration” meeting, the video of the event will be broadcast on Hilltopper TV.  Alternatively, you can watch the video of the very informative discussion at this link.