All posts by Mark Guterl

An admired educator gone too soon

I didn’t really know Dr. Steven Mayer, but I knew OF him. In  education circles, he was deeply respected and revered by everyone who ever mentioned his name. He was friends with people who I have immense admiration for and talked about, ALWAYS, in the most positive manner. He was a force.

Tragically, Dr. Mayer was killed yesterday while innocently jogging with his dog. The outpouring of love and support for his family and the Robbinsville School District is immense and a testament to the love and esteem that those inside and outside of education had for him.  Hearing all of the testimonials on social media, the web, and through the news just increases the admiration I have for this man.

Dr. Mayer’s influence and impact on the kids from Grover (where he was a Principal in the West-Windsor Plainsboro School District) to the students of Robbinsville cannot be measured, because the true effect of his working with others may not be realized for years. It reminds me of a prayer from Archbishop Oscar Romero, which I often associate with education and helps to clarify this sentiment.

A Future Not Our Own

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.

This is what we are about:                                                                                             We plant seeds that one day will grow.                                                                   We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.                                                                                                                                                       We lay foundations that will need further development.                                 We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.               We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.                                                                                                                                       This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.                                      It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way…                   We may never see the end results……

We are prophets of a future not our own. 

For the past 24 hours, I’ve been thinking about Dr. Mayer, his family and that innocent ritual of jogging, which many of us do, on a daily basis. How can something so embedded into our daily routine become something so tragically inserted into our life story? I have no doubt that the seeds Dr. Mayer planted are already making a difference in the world and the foundations that he lay have inspired thousands of students to become the best they can be. He was an educator, a educational “prophet of a future not his own.”

In this terribly difficult time for his wife, his sons, and all who knew him, I hope there is some comfort in knowing that even those of us who knew OF him greatly admired a man who lived his life to inspire and make a difference…the very best that education has to offer.

 

 

Eastern Regional Championships in Debate coming to Stone Bridge!

The English Speaking Union of the United States is hosting the Eastern Regional Championships at Stone Bridge Middle School on April 16th, and the Stone Bridge Middle School Debate team is ready to argue and debate at the tournament.

The tournament – http://www.esuus.org/esu/programs/middle_school_debate/mspdp_esu_championship/ will include teams from New York, Washington, D.C. and New Jersey. COME, WATCH and LISTEN to the outstanding debate skills of student from the east coast, especially our Stone Bridge Debaters led by Mrs. Burek and Mrs. Hoffman.   IMG_1953

​Join us at SB on April 16th for the Eastern Regional Championships.  You will see some amazing debates.​

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​So excited to be judging at Nationals at SBMS on April 16th. ​

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​No autographs!  Just some amazing debates at the Eastern Regional Championships on April 16th at SB​

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​We hope you can join us at SB on April 16th as we compete in Eastern Regional Championships.

UFRSD Achievement Report

Standardized test scores are a snapshot of data that we look at through a microscope to find pieces of information that will help with future decisions. It is important data that gives us a sampling of how our students are doing compared to their statewide/national peers. Each year, I am asked to share those results and our recommendations with the Board of Education.

On Wed., January 6, the UFRSD Achievement Report was presented to the UFRSD BOE (watch videos here: #1, #2, #3). The Achievement Report confirmed that our kids are getting a quality education and are prepared for college when they graduate. The Report includes: PARCC Scores (1st year); ACT Scores; SAT Scores; AP Scores; NJ ASK Science Scores (4th/8th grade only). The Report also shares with us the areas that may need some extra attention and hard work to make things even better for our students.

The link above will bring you to our report. The first part of the report shares the genesis of PARCC testing in NJ and the results of our students taking the PARCC test for the first time.  The PARCC test was taken by 3rd – 11th grade students in the areas of English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) and Mathematics. Specifically (for math), in high school, students take Algebra I (taken by some of our 8th grade as well), Geometry or Algebra II.

Following our PARCC scores, we also shared our ACT scores, SAT scores, AP scores and our NJ ASK Science scores for 4th and 8th grade. Below are some quick bullets from the data that highlights some of the information we have received.

  • ELA continues to be a strength; outperforming the State and PARCC participants from across the country. NOTE: With this being the first year of PARCC data, we don’t have comparative scores from the year before for each student.
  • Math scores are less consistent than our ELA scores. Although some are very good (many grade levels scoring above the State and PARCC participants), scores tend to fluctuate throughout the district. A great emphasis on math (see recommendations in the Achievement Report) instruction will be a focus for us. NOTE: With this being the first year of PARCC data, we don’t have comparative scores from the year before for each student.
  • NJ ASK Science scores are above the State and District Factor Group (DFG) in 4th grade and well above the State and DFG for 8th grade.
  • SAT Scores are higher than the State and Nation.
  • ACT Scores are higher than the State and Nation.
  • AP Exams produced fantastic scores, including 68% of all students taking the test scoring a 4 or a 5 on their exams. 88% scored a 3 or better.

As we do with all scores, we are happy about scores that reaffirm our efforts, and we become even more dedicated to support those areas that may need some extra attention.

I always tell people that a district is not defined by their test scores – good or bad. Districts are defined by (just to name a few)…

  • …the day in and day out education that our kids have inside their classrooms.
  • …the rigor, relevance and positive relationships our students experience during school.
  • …the talent of our teachers and students that blend together to make it special for everyone.
  • …the motivation we all have to get better each and every day.

We continue to look for ways to improve the  educational experience for our kids and to challenge ourselves and our students to be the best at what we do.

We should be receiving another round of PARCC test scores soon  (end of January) that may give us even more detailed data. We’ll share when we get them.

 

Understanding Our Digital Footprint

Understanding our digital footprint and sharing apps that all parents should know about was the focus of a recent conversation with parents at Stone Bridge Middle School; a topic of the utmost importance for our kids and our parents. Our presentation – 1:1 Parent Night Presentation – focused on identifying some things that parents should be aware of when relating to their kids’ devices.

As we continue to develop as a country technologically, the more we need to prepare our kids. I am in awe of technology; and, myself, an enormous fan and user of it. I am a firm believer that kids need to have a model of what good use looks like. Whether it is a Facebook page, Twitter post or Instagram account, we need to model what good digital citizenship is for our kids.

In our district, we use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Periscope and other social media tools to celebrate our kids and share various messages. Another benefit is modeling what appropriate and valued social media use looks like. I hope that our kids can understand the power that they hold in their hands – a power that can do many great things, but also one that can be hurtful and harmful.

In the late winter, we hope to have another in our series of conversations with parents. Come and join us when the date is announced!

Congratulations FFA!

The Allentown FFA participated in the National FFA Convention and Expo October 27-October 31 in Louisville, Kentucky. We are pleased to announce the following results!

Milk Quality and Products CDE Team- placed Bronze as a team- members were required to evaluate various dairy products, including cheese and milk samples, as well as perform and evaluate laboratory results for a dairy operation.
Matthew Gold- Silver Individual 
Madison Lofgren- Silver Individual
Joanna Ricci- Silver Individual 
Meredith Dauphars- Bronze Individual 
 
Marketing Plan CDE Team- placed Bronze as a team- members were required to develop a marketing plan for a local business and then present their findings in a written and oral presentation.
Jeremy Posluszny
Aluxus Brown
 
Hall of States- the team developed a display to showcase New Jersey, including agricultural commodities and other highlights of the state. They presented their display in the Hall of States at the National FFA Career Expo.
 
Renee Stillwell
Mary McDermott
Morgan LoSacco 
 
National Chapter- the Allentown FFA was recognized on the national stage for being ranked as a 3-Star, Gold Chapter. This distinction is given to approximately 250 of the 7655 Chapters nationwide.
American FFA Degree- this is the highest degree awarded to members. This degree is awarded to members who have met eligibility requirements, including post-secondary activities, develop of a solid supervised agricultural experience, and was an active member of their local chapter.
Grayson Asprocolas (2014)
James Asprocolas (2013)
Jenna Pinhas (2014)
For information about the convention, visit https://www.ffa.org/events/conventionandexpo/highlights. The members represented Allentown High School very well! Thank you for your support throughout the year which enables our chapter to continue our success!

 

Finding the JOY!

As we begin the 2015-2016 school year, we are more than ecstatic about the potential that this school year brings to UFRSD. Our goal is to make this the best year ever in our district.

At our opening staff gathering for the entire district,  I spoke about the need for JOY in our classrooms. The overall message was based on a TED talk by Dean Shareski. We have so many things going on in education today that are measured, data focused,  and standardized, but what we mustn’t forget is the power of JOY in our classrooms. Doug Lemov in Teach Like a Champion refers to it as the “J-Factor.” Joyful classrooms help to facilitate harder working and higher achieving students. Teachers have the ability to bring JOY to our kids every day. As an example, look at what Robin Williams character does in Patch Adams:

As teachers, we will do whatever we can to share and pass on JOY to our kids with the very firm belief that JOY in classrooms only improves learning.

As we continue to talk about how we are improving our academic choices, the plan for expanding our 1:1 initiative, our focus on assessments and the strong desire to do whatever we can to support our students, we will remind ourselves of our goal to bring JOY to our kids throughout the year.

Looking forward to week 2 on Tuesday.

 

Good Luck Class of 2015

The student whispered, “You are the best Principal I could ever have.” An emotional moment for Mrs. Embley as she gave a good-bye hug to one remarkable senior. A moment, one of many moments, that truly demonstrates the love and care that exists within UFRSD.

As we venture into the summer months, these last few weeks of school are always (and have always been) a very emotional time for many. Teachers and administrators want to speak to as many students as possible to let them know that there will always be a place for our kids in the UFRSD…whenever they need us. Additionally, students are beginning to realize that middle school and high school don’t last forever.

I’m in awe seeing students that graduated from 8th grade four short years ago getting scholarships, sharing college acceptances, getting drafted by the Phillies and receiving academic awards. Notre Dame, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, The Naval Academy, TCNJ, Richmond…..wow! I can’t believe they are already heading to college.

The reality is…we love our students. We are so proud of them, and we are immensely amazed at their accomplishments. As graduations get closer and closer, I hope they know how much they mean to us and how hopeful we are that they will continue to check in with us over the next few years. Most importantly, we expect them to be  successful AND happy.

Best of luck, Class of 2015. Carpe Diem.

 

 

UFRSD 1:1 Chromebook Pilot – Providing a new tool for learning –

It is with GREAT excitement that we share information about a new pilot initiative coming to 7th and 8th grade next year! All 7th and 8th grade students in the 2015-2016 school year will be getting a Chromebook. A Chromebook (laptop-type device with Chrome OS – Google Apps for Education)  is another tool for learning that students will be using inside of the classroom and at home – anytime, anywhere learning. Chromebooks offer many different opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate, create and provide immediate feedback.

On Wednesday,  JUNE 3rd at 7:00 p.m. in the Stone Bridge Middle School Auditorium, we will be hosting our 1 to 1 Night for next year’s 7th and 8th grade parents and students  (parents and students currently in 6th and 7th grade) . We are excited to share an abundance of information during this evening.

The agenda for the night includes:

  • What is a Chromebook?
  • What is the benefit of a 1:1 initiative?
  • Why Google?
  • What experience do we already have with Chromebooks?
  • What have/has our teachers / district done / will do to prepare?
  • As a parent, what is my role in a 1:1 initiative?
  • Will their be insurance on the Chromebook?
  • How and when will students be trained?
  • When will the Chromebooks be given to our students?
  • Questions from parents and/or students?

We hope to see you on June 3rd!