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Speak Up Summit Issues Statement in Support of Full-Day Kindergarten

Speak Up Summit endorses addition of Full-Day Kindergarten in the school district, stating that there exists enough data to support that FDK would be beneficial to students of Summit.

Editor's note: The following statement was submitted to Summit Patch by Speak Up Summit and written by Speak Up Summit President Melanie S. Wilson.

Speak Up Summit is a community advocacy group designed to promote excellence in Summit public schools.  Two parts of our mission statement are to provide independent oversight of the schools, the board of education and the superintendent’s office to ensure that our schools are providing the best educational experience possible, and to speak up on those issues affecting our children’s ability to receive an excellent public school education.

To that end, Speak Up Summit is endorsing the addition of Full-Day Kindergarten in our district.  We have a responsibility to our students, and based on the facts that have been presented, from an educational perspective, there exists enough data to support that FDK would be beneficial to the students of Summit.  FDK sets our students up for a lifetime of academic learning. 

Even though the proposal would increase our taxes, the quality of our public schools is what continually draws people to Summit.  Investment in our children’s futures will reap benefits for the long term educational and fiscal health of our town.  On the flip side, a growing number of similarly rated schools (called I and J districts) are adding FDK, so we need to develop programs that allow us to stay competitive with our fellow schools.  FDK, as part of an aggressive five-year program, which looks at facilities/space enrollment needs, curriculum changes and personnel, is critical to maintain our excellence.

We are disheartened by the haste in which Common Council has discounted FDK as an option.  Council and the Mayor were publicly unsupportive of the FDK option even before the BOE held its community forum last week.  We are respectful of the necessity to consider the additional burden on our taxpayers; however, FDK is a prospect that will better our community.  Many parents are now paying to enroll their children in a full-day program… they know the benefits.  It is the most at-risk kids that are not being included in longer curriculum-based programs.  For several cycles now, the BOE, after many community-wide sessions with key district communicators and stakeholders, has identified focus areas that point to closing the minority achievement gap.  A FDK program is one of the keys to closing the gap. 

FDK and continued facilities upgrades should be part of our Bigger Plan.  Council argues that 65-70 percent of Summit’s families don’t have children in the public schools and therefore it is more fiscally responsible for them to consider the needs of this majority of constituents.  Speak Up Summit urges the BOE and the administration to remain diligent in its pursuance of FDK.  The onus is on you to prove continually — both to the community and to Council — that the benefits are there for everyone in the Summit community, whether or not they have children currently using the public schools.  And Speak Up Summit urges Council and Mayor to be open minded and consider what will truly be most beneficial for all of Summit in the long term.    

Diane Gallo February 02, 2013 at 03:31 PM
There is always a balance between income (taxes) and spending, but cutting spending when it comes to schools and education is not the way to move a community forward. If Summit is truly looking to close the achievement gap, all-day Kindergarten is certainly one way to go. Yes, those of means can send their children to private all-day programs, but those without those means cannot and so enter school a level behind the others. In some cases, it is almost impossible for them to catch up. Where is "thorough and efficient" in this circumstance? We owe it to all our children to provide them with the best education regardless of income.
MsSummit February 02, 2013 at 03:38 PM
What excellence? I would like to know what rubric you are using to classify this district as excellent? Number of National Merit Scholars? Pales in comparison to many neighboring districts. But, beyond that, seriously, our kids have been getting shortchanged by this district and the lackluster leadership and deficient academic programming as set forth by our overpaid and underperforming school administration. Speak up Summit has long been a mouthpiece for the administration. What exactly is your purpose? This group adds nothing to the community other than covering up the deficiencies in our administration and using the timeworn scare tactics of "loss of property values" to try to gain support for their self serving, sycophantic rantings. Try changing your name to Shut up Summit...
jeff goldstein February 02, 2013 at 04:29 PM
It is not surprising that Speak Up Summit which is a lobbying group that was originally formed to oppose Summit voters from being able to vote on BOE members and school budgets wants to spend more on Summit Schools by implementing FDK. It is time for Summit voters to be able to vote for school budgets and for who should serve on the BOE. Out of the over 500 school districts in NJ, Summit is one of only about 20 that doesn't trust the voters with school elections. It is clear from comments on SummitPatch and elsewhere that the superintendent and his mouth piece the BOE haven't been able to convince the majority of Summit residents of the need for FDK. Lets make Summit High School more competitive academically before we start worrying about FDK.
Marion Knott February 02, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Today's kdg. is not anything like it used to be. When my husband's LI district was the only one in the county that had FDK it included playtime and rest time. Some academic-even then the kids learned to "read." By third grade the kids compared in all districts were on the same level. Today's kdg. is purely academic and the kids who aren't ready are usually retained. My grandchildren in two L.I. districts have a wider curriculum than Summit. They both offer programs that insure that their education is top notch. They are both close to a university and participate in many science programs. I don't see that in Summit H.S. I love visiting my daughter in Summit since it is a beautiful town with a great mall. I think that the administration needs to examine its priorities and look to improving their secondary education.
Harry Olsen February 02, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Only with tuition with subsidies for those who cannot afford to pay..Similar to pre school's current process. No more new tax increases- we already spend enough on what have been excellent schools.
JR February 05, 2013 at 04:16 PM
I've heard everything from "I want to keep my kids home as long as possible I don't want to let them go" or that full day kindergarten will promote obesity and health issues. I'm stumped on that one.... Parents can always pack a nutritious lunch. Increase in taxes is always a concern but honestly from a strategic standpoint building extra space is an investment in the future and infrastructure and it is so important to think ahead versus react in an emergency... And rates are as low as they will ever get. The time to borrow through a municipal bond is now. Otherwise we lose the opportunity to lock in rates this low. Also think from a teacher's perspective half day K creates a very ineffective environment for them. Instead of managing one class and all the paperwork and care for say 20 Kindergarten students they instead have AM and PM upwards of 40 children. To give adequate attention to each child is extremely difficult. And it's so important to get children who need intervention or extra help the services they need and identify their needs as early as possible. This is not easy when managing 40 children. From a parent's standpoint you want your Kindergartener to have ample time with their teachers and each student deserves that one on one time. Studies also suggest early intervention can be a cost savings in the long run. There is no downside to full day Kindergarten but plenty of benefits. I hope this gets the support and momentum it deserves.
Below Overlook February 05, 2013 at 05:04 PM
"Council argues that 65-70 percent of Summit’s families don’t have children in the public schools and therefore it is more fiscally responsible for them to consider the needs of this majority of constituents. " The council should be more worried that only a quarter of the town's population has kids and not worried about serving those who don't. The so called "fiscal responsibility" that they feel obligated to fulfill will leave them with managing a town that has a steadily declining population and rising costs <-- means those remaining pay a higher proportion of costs out of their own incomes. Note, taxes don't decline they only rise. Make it for useful and productive purposes such as education that ensures a dynamic and diverse population for the town; a policy that has greater longevity than one that focuses only on its current base of consituents. FDK.......All the way......what else do i have to say
Below Overlook February 05, 2013 at 05:17 PM
FDK is a way to make Summit HS more competitive academically. A board of elected officials is no answer to the problem as the current selection process based on merits and capabilities will likely rival a public election based on those who can better afford running campaigns. In the town I grew up in, much cronyism came from the election of board members who appeared to care little about the educational attainment of the school district and more about the advancement of their private interests and enterprises
MsSummit February 05, 2013 at 07:02 PM
This is a note to "Below Overlook"--I don't quite follow your logic on how instituting FDK will make Summit High School more academically competititve--that is quite a leap and is in no way supported by any research that I am aware of--how exactly will the extra 3 or so hours in my 5 year old's life translate into a higher quality high school curriculum and improvements in HS facitlities and, in some instances, teaching? Just not following. My children had FDK, as did many of their peers...only to find themselves in what is now a subpar HS (Summit)--no o.ffense to many of the excellent teachers and principal who are there, but you can only do so much with what the administration hands you and what you are "empowered" to develop. Do smarter kids make a better HS? No, but they sure do a lot to cover up the deficiencies in a school district that has long ridden on the coattails of a socioeconomically enriched base who fill in the gaps in their childrens' programming with expensive tutors, art/music/dance lessons, sport clinics and the like. Am I opposed to FDK? Only is so much as the district, and the district's mouthpiece "Speak up Summit" use FDK for their own agenda, and continue to ignore the deficiencies that they are setting the kindergarteners, FD or not, to enter into later in their Summit School District life.
Below Overlook February 05, 2013 at 09:18 PM
To MsSummit. I am uncertain as to how you are not able to locate any research that supports with evidence that early education is beneficiary for an individual's welfare and society's as a whole. FDK wouldn't just make better kindergarterners, nor just better first graders, but the benefits persist throughout a persons lifetime currently measured up to early adulthood as numerous studies show. Refer to the following link. http://familyimpactseminars.org/doc.asp?d=fia_nlarticle_v1i2.pdf Granted FDK won't fix administrative nor fiscal issues within a given high school, but improved performances at earlier levels reduce the need for spending on special education programs and "catch up" programs that a high school may be burdened with and instead be better utilized on special topics classes. For a terrible analogy...better tires don't give a car a better engine, but certainly could reduce its wear n tear. Your kids being in FDK and not improving the HS is not statistically supportive of the argument. Instead consider the % of students who have taken FDK and consider that possibly it would be a better performing HS had that % been higher. A better educated populace demands greater challenges and educational attainment from their institutions. In addition, it also spurs greater competition between peers providing further motivation to achieve more. These perhaps sound like idealist generalizations but they are recurrent themes throughout society.
MsSummit February 05, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Below Overlook, your link is hilarious. Not only does it not reference FDK, but it also refers to the impact of early childhood education using an inner cIty school...specifically Chicago to show lower drop out rates, higher graduation rates, and lower incidences of juvenile crime and arrests. Wasn't aware that Summit had these issues/challenges. Regardless, please read my previous post...the problems facing our kids relate to a weak administration pushing a subpar curriculum on our kids, and no amount of FDK is going to fix that. And, as for cronyism, you are kidding yourself if you don't think some of that stuff goes on under the current appointment system. Nothing is perfect, but I am glad to see that the Mayor and City Council are questioning how money is being spent, and looking out for the best interest of all their constituents. The onus is on the administration to now put forth a more compelling case for FDK. Or perhaps they can share your link and scare City Council into thinking that without FDK the city of Summit is at risk of being overrun by gangs and teenage hoodlums.
Below Overlook February 06, 2013 at 02:45 PM
There's a tool you can use called Google where you can enter "Full Day Kindergarten" into the search window to find numerous links such as the following. http://www.strategiesforchildren.org/eea/6research_summaries/07_FDK_Factsheet.pdf. A little effort goes a long way. The earlier link was to show that early education intervention can work anywhere with dramatic effect. Socioeconomic differences do not invalidate the positive results, perhaps variable multipliers as to the effect. Note, there isn't a drastic difference between early education and full day kindergarten (the curriculums are nearly identical, please prove otherwise) so all these studies, regardless of technicalities, do apply and show that generally more time in school reaps greater rewards in the short and long run. I don't suppose you'd argue against that.

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