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Push to Improve Brick's High Schools Underway

Superintendent, principals spearheading effort

Brick Township's two high schools have the potential to be great, and school officials say a new plan which will use data-driven assessments and a team outlook on teaching and learning will help it reach that potential.

"We want to make sure that all our students are learning at the highest possible level," said Dr. Richard Caldes, principal of Brick Memorial High School.

He and Brick Township High School Principal Dennis Filippone announced an ambitious plan at Thursday night's Brick Board of Education meeting which they say will improve test scores, get the two high schools in sync in terms of curriculum and create a professional learning community.

"We want teachers to build shared knowledge and be collegial about testing and pacing," said Filippone.

The two administrators said Superintendent Dr. Walter Uszenski quickly requested a plan be put in place to improve the high schools once he arrived in the district this summer.

"Our high schools are our flagships, so to speak, and we need to make them their best," Uszenski said at the meeting Thursday.

The planning stages of the effort will begin this year, as administrators hope to create a "data culture" where committees of teachers and supervisors will be able to pour over data and determine how students are learning, which are in need of improvement and which would benefit from advanced classes. Teachers will also meet in "content area groups" where they will analyze data and determine which curriculum is most effective.

Filippone said the high schools will also begin giving assessment exams to students every four weeks instead of waiting until final exams given twice a year.

"We will look at student progress, teacher progress," he said. "We'll be able to document the effectiveness of our strategy and our schedule."

The curriculum and strategies of the two high schools will also be identical, as will the assessments.

Caldes said administrators would also begin a review of the high schools' block scheduling and consider adjustments. The adjustments will include augmented schedules to allow students to take more honors and advanced placement courses, he said.

"We're looking to add more courses to enhance our offerings, and to do that, we need to look at and modify our current block of courses," said Caldes.

Additionally, teachers will be able to access curriculum mapping and lesson plans online, and track progress.

"Our curriculum, by the time we're done doing this, will be up to par with anybody else in our state," said Caldes.

The data will begin to be collected this year, the principals said, and the committees of teachers and administrators will form as the year goes on, with some aspects of the overall plan potentially being implemented by the end of the school year.

"They have been giving 110 percent into the initiatives," Uszenski said of district teachers. "They know they are going to make our curriculum a lot more rigorous, but they also know it's going to put us into the 21st century."

"I'm excited about the direction we're going in," said board member Len Cuppari, praising the plan. "I applaud Dr. Uszenski and our administration. It will give us information we can react to. I'm enthusiastic."

The district's two high schools recently ranked relatively low in the Sept. 2012 issue of New Jersey Monthly magazine, where the state's public high schools were ranked according to a formula employed by the publication.

Out of 328 high schools statewide, Brick Township High School ranked 261 and Brick Memorial High School ranked 269.

Uszenski, a township resident, said the perception of the township's high schools would improve under the plan.

"The culture of the district is going to change, where we have a common language through the district, pre-K through grade 12," he said. "We are going to turn around the perception about Brick."

Mrgrumpass September 21, 2012 at 01:54 PM
JD The falling of the students can’t be blamed completely on the teachers (and there certainly are some looser) parents are also part of the equation; if you cultivate a pineapple when it is in trusted to others it dissent become a rose it still is a pineapple. MOM and DAD must be actively participating in their child’s education, check homework, check parent portal, get help for their child as needed, they can’t be dropped off at the school house door and forgotten many parents should have never been allowed to be parents and many teachers should have been in other professions!
DennyD September 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM
HUH?
JD September 21, 2012 at 04:12 PM
mrgrumpass, I agree... but also disagree.... sure parents need to be involved... but there are teachers that need the boot... and you can't get out of that class!!
Sal Petoia September 21, 2012 at 04:29 PM
The educational process is an extremely complicated one because of so many variables. Curriculum, teachers' ability to teach that curriculum, the students' home life (do they have supportive parents or a decent learning environment?), too many distractions (seems like so many kids live on their i-phones, i-pads, etc. and are out of touch with the "real" world), and lastly, the students themselves represent a multiplicity of learning abilities, i.e. some kids are just smarter than others. I believe many kids have been pampered so much that they have limited appreciation for learning and preparing for future employment. While the technological age is supposed to make learning easier, it is also providing for too many distractions that conflict with learning. It is unrealistic to expect that all students will be "honor students", but it is reasonable that the educational system sets high standards not only for the students, but for the educators as well. Hopefully the new approach will do just that.
Chief Wahoo September 21, 2012 at 05:29 PM
HA HA HA HA !!!!!!!
Chief Wahoo September 21, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Bricktucky never fails to come through with making me laugh !!!.....each comment by these clowns, if funnier than the one before.......they dont believe this, just making themselves look busy and keep those property checks coming on time suckers !
Art Sholty September 21, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Good comments Sal. Not every student is bright and exceptional for higher learning. This country of ours also is in desperate need for WORKERS becase someone needs to build the schools etc for learning. Both you and I went to a high school that gave a good example of this. I graduated with a fellow student who was probably not as smart as the average kids and I thought that this persopn would flunk out and get a job paying minimum wages but no, he was the building contractor who built the new high school after you graduated. I agree with everything you wrote but this country needs workers too. Trade schools are also vital for learning. I took the GI benefits and graduated as a GOVERNMENT LICENSED AIRCRAFT MECHANIC but at the time of graduation, nothing was open and I turned down a job at IDLEWILD in NYC. (now JFK) I didn't want to go back to Brooklyn so I became a Professional Firefighter here in Jersey and loved my job for 27 years.
Joseph Woolston Brick September 21, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Wow I guess I should commend you for being so honest. Maybe since you were such a burn out, that your perception of your teachers and classes were through blood shot eyes. Maybe that teacher in interior design recognized that fact and kept you doing what you were capable of doing, Oh look, flowers pretty, pretty!
Hollowman September 21, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Sarcasm is the last refuge of the imaginatively bankrupt. Do you honestly believe you or your comments are witty, constructive, or in anyway needed? Anytime I read a comment of yours I can't help but to roll my eyes. People may have any varying degree of opinions. All of which may disagree with your own. But your assumptions and moronic little quips show a complete lack of maturity and an inability to actually discuss anything out of your realm of understanding, acceptance, or comfort.
Sal Petoia September 21, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Art: You are so right. The system has put so much emphasis on getting a college education that the trades are looked upon by many with disdain. My father was a tool and die maker…. a blue collar machinist… but he and my mother put my sister and me through college, and through their personal sacrifice, managed to buy a small summer place at the shore. They, and we as a family, weren't wealthy, but we had some good things. People in the trades will always be needed to build and fix things, and many do pretty well financially, while others with college degrees are scrounging for a job. Our educational system should be looking at the full spectrum of work for future high school graduates and train the kids according to their desires and ability. Like you, I believe our high school did just that.
Joseph Woolston Brick September 21, 2012 at 07:09 PM
People are so quick to blame teachers! I want to try an experiment, close your eyes, go back in time to a class in Brick or Memorial that you took, look around that class, now look at the kids around you where are they today? OK here's my point. Back in the day after taking the same class with the same kids for at least two months, you knew who was going to go further in life and who was going to pump gas at Hess for the rest of theirs. There was also another class of student and that was, the kids that already knew what they were going to do, their fathers were plumbers or owned construction companies or their own businesses and these kids were going into that asap after graduation. No need for college and they knew this, they didn't need to know when Washington crossed the Delaware, just the tax rates to do business in PA. I didn't have one bad teacher in Brick High, But I did have classmates that couldn't give a rats ass about learning anything and their parents didn't care either, and you know what, those kids and their parents are the ones that complain about the teachers and the school system the most, To those parents I say, they're teachers, not miracles workers!
lifelonginbrick September 21, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Hi Joe, having read some of your other comments in the Patch I realize that your response to me was the nearest you can come to wit, thats okay. My point was that someone like me (a partier who only showed up for tests) should not have been able to have a 97 GPA in an advanced english class. It was a clear indicator to how low the educational standards were. We also had a remedial math teacher who could not do fractions. Weirdly my classmates in the advanced english class were all what no doubt someone like you would assume to be the 'good' kids. They didn't party, they actually went to pep rallys...and they cheated at every chance they got. The teacher would often wander out of the classroom during tests and when he did those 'good' students would scramble through the books and compare answers. I would look at them astonished that they needed to cheat to pass what were not very challenging tests. The interior design 'teacher' - really I think she answered phones in the main office - had the whole class making lame paper flowers not just me. It's 2012 and Brick High is only ranked 261 out of 328 so I guess everyone must be smoking the chronic right?
Lori Morrison September 21, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I graduated from Brick High in 1981, and you are correct about the english teacher. Things have improved, but they do still have a long way to go with certain programs.
Comfortably Numb September 21, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I graduated in the late 90's and my senior year I had an English teacher that was retiring at the end of that year. We did barely anything. I remember watching a few movies and doing some book reports and listening to her tell her travel stories. My history teacher that same year was leaving to go back to college at the end of the year. We didn't do anything in there either.
2much2say September 22, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Life long in Brick Dont listen to half of the people that I'm calling out a bunch of people that just complain & pass judgement. My view, as follows, first you have to be interested in what is happening in class, which means teachers have to step up to the plate instead of reading people magazine while classmates do as told., two, kids need to eat breakfast it's so important, three, parents need to pay attention to their tweens. It's extremely sad to hear a second grader say "school was sooo boring today" Teachers are slaking off, as everyone has so many personal problems worrying about money and not the children learning.
2much2say September 22, 2012 at 02:30 AM
I forgot to say I have Teachers in my family and they are completly dedicated and make learning creative. They have the passion, and are extremely proud whn their students do great work! I give "great teachers" a ton if credit!
pullupyourbigpants September 22, 2012 at 03:46 PM
The education for your children is up to them & what they put into it. It does not matter the building, Or what the teachers are doing,Be accountable A huge problem with whats going on, is people what to find excuses for failure instead of reasons for success.. They need to sit all Freshman down & let them watch the speech from Curtis Martin, had every excuse to fail, BUT Choose NOT to ... OK Brick HS may not be as nice as the HS on the other side of town, SO what you still have it easy, Go to Paterson, Newark Jersey City, etc... Then cry me a river about how hard ya got it.
Vince Latchford September 22, 2012 at 04:16 PM
A couple of years ago the Los Angeles Times newspaper did an investigative report on actual teacher performance. (Google it.) California required an objective test of what students knew about some basic subjects. The newspaper looked at several grades over several years and they focused on how much the kids actual knowledge of their subjects advanced from year to year. The results were remarkable. Certain teachers advanced their students one year's worth of knowledge EVERY year. "Good" schools, "Bad" schools and in beteween, Good teachers are always good and bad teachers are always bad. Talk about parents, lunches, school supplies may be important, but if a teacher can't teach, all that other stuff doesn't matter. I like teachers and unions, but I like kids more and practical, objective testing seems to be an absolutely essential tool for school academic improvement and, after all, isn't that why we have a school system?
Slippery Slope September 22, 2012 at 06:02 PM
You know why they call it "High" school, don't you? Smoke the choom
Lori Morrison September 22, 2012 at 08:58 PM
The students need to be accountable, but a teacher also needs to be accountable. High School students now have 80 minute classes with block scheduling and the teachers need to interact and work with the kids. It is a teachers job to give the students the tools they need to learn.
Jerseygurl999 September 23, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I went to Brick High in the 80s and totally disagree. I'm surprised you admitted you were a burnout and partied because you lost all of your credibility blaming the teachers. I did not see this large drop out rate that you are referring to. I only had a Brick High school education and now earn well over thirty dollars an hour. You are making this sound much more dramatic than it really was but I guess that is what pot does to you.
Springteshya DeGeorge September 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM
I graduated from memorial in '02 and while there definitely was one teacher I remember who was horribly inappropriate and needed to be removed (I really hope he no longer works there), I had some wonderful teachers who worked hard and cared about their students. Mrs. Gunther, Mr. Zinno, Mr. Demalik, Mr. Caravella, just to name a few, are teachers I can say truly made a difference in my education and I appreciate them to this day. I'm a real estate agent now and I hate to admit I have clients that would love to live in Brick IF only the schools were better, so something does need time be done.
Springteshya DeGeorge September 23, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Need to be done*
J.JONES September 23, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Hey DeGeorge Be honest the problem with people not wanting to move in to BRICK IS THE CRIME THAT HAS GOTTEN MUCH WORSE OVER THE PAST YEARS AND MAYBE THE SCHOOLS ..If they stop and or at least go after more of the trash living or hiding in or complexes we will get worse and who know what the outcome will be .
4real September 23, 2012 at 02:39 PM
its not just Brick that crime has gone up;... Its the " change" that people voted for, they got it... "desperate times=desprate measures"
Lori Morrison September 23, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Jersey girl, When I went to Brick High we were still on split sessions until my senior year when Memorial first opened. The seniors stayed at Brick, and the rest went to Memorial. Scheduling on many classes was limited to seniors only because of the volume of students. We had 6 classes a day at 35 minutes per class with an average of 30 plus students. Freshman attended the afternoon shift so the classes were smaller but the course choices were even more limited that the upperclassmen. Many students reached a point where they just stopped going to school and signed themselves out when they turned 18. Back then the quality of education was not good. I wished we had some of the current courses available back then. Then you needed 100 credits to graduate and when I started my senior year I had 95 credits To lifelonginbick, I lucked out and was placed in Mr. Warnick's art class instead of Interior design. I wanted to take another half year english class but it was limited to seniors only.
Springteshya DeGeorge September 24, 2012 at 10:43 AM
I'm being honest when I say my clients' biggest issue is Brick's schools. Crime has gone up in most areas, whether it's robberies or financial scams...
Reality September 24, 2012 at 10:54 AM
And the NJ Monthly Magazine rankings will certainly not help attract the more affluent, college-educated buyers to purchase in Brick.
betterdays September 24, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Brick schools definitely need to improve in many ways, no doubt about that. But take any ranking done by a magazine with a grain of salt. Trust me, I've been involved with them on the inside (not this one, but other pubs).
Reality September 24, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Go on the NJ Department of Education website, and compare Brick's SAT scores, # of students taking AP classes, NJ ASK scores, etc. You'll see why we continue to rank so poorly. (And why DeGeorge's clients' comments and reasons for not purchasing in Brick are indeed valid.)

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