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Does Summit Need Full-Day Kindgergarten?

Superintendent says focus meetings are forum to discuss rejection of pilot program.

Schools Superintendent Nathan Parker says that is one strategy to narrow the achievement gap in schools. But, the City of Summit has never had a full-day kindergarten program. 

Plans for a proposed 2012 program were on the table and parents were surveyed to gauge interest earlier this year. This week Parker issued a letter about cancelled plans for a full-day, tuition-based kindergarten pilot program that was shot down by a special committee. explained that the planned $7,500 to $9,000 program would have serviced only a limited number of students at a higher cost than was acceptable for the community. "People were concerned about the level of cost," said Parker regarding the finances necessary to cover buildings and teacher costs.

Part of the call for an all-day education program was in response to the 60 percent of Summit kindergartners who attend a program offered , a statistic Parker pointed to in an earlier statement.

Currently, the provide half-day programs, one in the morning from 8:30 a.m. to 11:22 a.m. and another from 12:22 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

 In his letter this week, Parker says that “a new committee will instead begin to assess the feasibility of implementing a program for less or no tuition.” He welcomed feedback from parents at the next pair of school focus area meetings to set district priorities for 2012 to 2015. “The board of education is always looking for feedback on their options,” he told Patch. 

The next focus meeting is tonight, Dec. 1 from 7:30p.m. to 9:30p.m. in the Summit High School library. The final meeting for parents to voice their concerns about full-day kindergarten during this focus phase is next Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Primary Center at Jefferson. 

Melissa Cavallone December 02, 2011 at 12:16 AM
The poll questions are very poor and one-sided. My answer would be "none of the above" for this admittedly unscientific poll. There is no choice for the people that are all for full day kindergarten. There is no way of stating that most of our kids have already been in preschool for 3 years so a full day isn't such a stretch. You can argue back that I don't live in Summit, but I do live in Chatham where we also have 1/2 day kindergarten.
hazel December 02, 2011 at 03:08 AM
well, i was a resident of piscataway, nj and my daughter went to kindergarten for free and whole day. if they can afford why summit cant.... we just moved to summit and i can see that my daughter is so prepared to be in first grade.
summitdude December 02, 2011 at 10:40 AM
umm...do you want to pay the increase in my property tax bill? because I can't afford to. Piscataway can probably afford it because they send less money than us down that rat hole known as county government. They are in Morris County. The summit bd of education has been a bunch of spending attics for ten years, doubling the school budget in record time. Free all day kindergarden is a major expense at a time when cities face caps, layoffs, and weak tax revenues. Give me a few more years of fiscal restraint on the bd of education and major reforms in Trenton and then we'll talk.
Eileen Z. Wolter December 02, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Summitdude - are you participating in / advocating for any of these reforms in Trenton? Or just taking a passive, anonymous, online stance as your community struggles to be inclusive, keep current and grow into the future?
summitmom1 December 03, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Why is it pompous to throw questions back to summitdude.. he holds himself out as more "in the know" than everyone else.. let him answer the questions.. How is Summit going to maintain its reputation for top notch schools when it cannot provide full day kindergarten for all its residents. All the testing results show that the longer you stay in Summit schools, the better you do. That tells me, we need more focus on the middle and elementary schools. The Primary Centers and pre-k were an important first step. Full day kindergarten is the appropriate next step. Clearly, the county is a problem, but Summit is smart and resourceful. We've elected a new council who's mandate is to fix it. Let's see what happens. But don't be hypocritical.. you and summitdude sound like all those people who were happy to support the boe when they had children in the public school system... but once their kids are out there is no longer a need to have forward thinking schools.
ressummit December 03, 2011 at 03:45 PM
summitmom - are you participating in / advocating for any of these reforms in Trenton? Or just taking a passive, anonymous, online stance as your community struggles to be inclusive, keep current and grow into the future?
summitmom1 December 03, 2011 at 03:52 PM
lol. taking an anonymous online stance, yes. passive, no. I attend and participate in as many local conversations as possible. Having said that, I didn't make the comments that Summitdude made... we've elected the people we believe can make those changes for us.. I hope they get the job done for us.
Camilo H. Smith (Editor) December 03, 2011 at 04:37 PM
This is great discussion, but let's keep the barbs at bay. Thanks, all.
Eileen Z. Wolter December 03, 2011 at 05:15 PM
I think one of the best points made at the Community Planning Meeting the other night (and this is perhaps something it would be nice if all those of the aging cohort known as Baby Boomers should consider) is that even though they may not get direct services in terms of school back from their dollars, the better the school the better their real estate investment holds up, they still can be a vibrant part of the community in a real sense in terms of getting involved in the schools. It amazes me that people have no problem supporting athletics in terms of the Boosters and football game attendance as alumnus or community members but when it comes to actually supporting education and the infrastructure surrounding it they seem to turn a blind eye.
summitdude December 03, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Yes of course I am advocating for reforms - we need them. Not only as a taxpayer but as someone who has seen the value in a pubic education. In the same time span that our school budget doubled we saw the quality of education in Summit drop as measured by independent third parties (see NJ monthly for example). This is simple math. Has there been any accountability? Has any superintendent been ever asked this question in a public forum? Anyone fired? Anyone voted out of office? Let me give you an example of how the Summit schools can improve-enabled by reforms from Trenton. I had two children have the same teacher in Summit High School. Both shared similar complaints and both my children had very different learning styles. I asked around and noticed that other parents had similar complaints. I also learned that these complaints were brought to the attention of supervisors but yet my kids never saw any real change in this educator. My point here is that if (and when) budget cuts strike it is not this teacher who has their job on the line. It's the 25 year old new teacher who has lots of energy, new prospective, and good ideas. This older teacher is protected from accountability and our children suffer. I didn't say all day kindergarten wasn't a good idea. Just tell me how to pay for it.
Anthony Della Rosa December 03, 2011 at 10:04 PM
as an educator I cannot tell you how much better it is for the child to attend full day kindergarten. It helps the transition to first grade and increases their learning ability. It might be a long day but they can handle it better it kindergarten a opposed to fighting it in first grade. If you can't afford the taxes maybe what the money is being spent on in Trenton and in Summit needs to be examined
Anthony Della Rosa December 03, 2011 at 10:05 PM
oh yeah and doesn't anyone wonder about the money we are spending on Dr. Parker's salary 220k???? Cap at 175?
Anthony Della Rosa December 03, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Summitdude I couldnt disagree more. Why didnt you question Dr. Parker. Be an advocate for your kids email, telephone and stay on top of the people teaching your kids. I am a 43 year old teacher with over 10 years experience and I think I can do the job better than a kid out of school who hasnt a clue about classroom management
Eileen Z. Wolter December 03, 2011 at 10:38 PM
Summitdude, its a shame you didn't push harder to have that teacher removed (or perhaps helped in some way to be better?) Reforms from Trenton will have little affect on that. I know "blame the union....blah, but who let the union get so powerful? Who refuses to negotiate respectfully with the union? Trenton! Perhaps under different regimes but still the same. Matters of schools are, in my opinion, best dealt with on the community level by involved parents who need to fearlessly advocate for their children. It's our job after all. And another reason, charter schools and vouchers will not solve the problems their proponents claim. I assume you'll find me righteous - or some other pejorative - but I consider myself committed and fully engaged in making my children's education and community as good as they can possibly be and showing my kids by example that standing up for what one thinks is right and (and not anonymously) is the best way to walk through this life.
summitmom1 December 03, 2011 at 10:46 PM
I would argue that the decision to rehire a teacher needs to be made each year with an evaluation of the prior year as well as their historical results. It needs to be a meritocracy... then the good teachers shouldn't worry.. presumably they should get rehired every year. I don't think a teacher should be guaranteed their job simply because they held the same job for x number of years prior. Likewise, if they deserve it, they should have it forever... these are the teachers who can adapt to the changes required by the children/environment, etc. The question is the measurement. How do we measure a teacher's success each year? I'm curious why parents never get to be a part of the evaluation process. Of course, there will always be some outliers in the process, but I'm sure there would also be a nice core of accurate, telling evaluations.. similar to what summitdude alluded to above. In the meantime, totally agree, Anthony.. every child should be in kindergarten for a full day. Many children these days are in pre-k for virtually a full day, why should kindergarten be fewer hours.
Anthony Della Rosa December 03, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Summitmom how do you propose we measure performance? I teach a subject that doesnt get tested. Plus if I have a bad crop of kids with unsupportive parents or special ed, then I lose my JOB???
summitmom1 December 03, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Anthony, I have no idea how to measure performance.. that's why I asked the question. Unfortunately, its somewhat rhetorical... if measuring teacher performance were easy, those measurements would already be in place. Even if you taught a subject that got tested, those results aren't always reflective of teacher performance. However, guaranteeing someone a job simply because they had it in the prior year isn't the way to go either. Nor is simply firing the last one in b/c they didn't have the job the prior year. My point is, I do agree that reform is needed.
summitdude December 04, 2011 at 01:03 AM
Why are being being so combative? We are on the same team: better schools. I pushed quite hard for the teacher to be held accountable for what I thought was poor performance. I encourage you to read up on some of the proposals in Trenton because they will affect Summit big time. Didn't the property tax cap affect us? No one is disputing the fact that all day kindergarten would be a good thing. I am asking how (with a 2% annual tax cap and many other potential cost increases) you plan to pay for it. My point is we need more than just generalities but a specific X,Y, Z approach for the financing. We cut X by X, we will charge Y, and we will do Z for cheaper. The cap is law. Property tax bills for years have forced Summit families to move out of town after their kids graduate and our sense of community suffers as a result. And this is way off my point, but charter schools would help Summit. Should we have a charter school in Summit? NO. Should Summit money go to build them? NO. But better schools in urban areas will clamp down on the "escape rate" that brings some students into Summit. I don't have a number, but there is no doubt non-Summit residents use our schools. They train in or use a relative's address. If they had better schools to go to where they are from, less would be forced to come here. I agree in community rule, so let's empower Cory Booker to implement his charter school plans. Only Trenton can change that.
T Durden December 05, 2011 at 11:11 PM
do we have access to the school systems' detailed budget? i would like to see the breakout of "school administration expenses". it's been evident that larger school systems have disproportionally increased the administrative areas (bureaucracy) of their budget and infrastucture over the past 20 yrs ... summit seems to be tracking that way as well. allocating resources to admin doesn't improve outcomes...

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