(Hello: Today I met with many of the parents of our students who attend the RD Wood School. I delivered the following message. I want to thank all of the parents who were able to attend. I enjoyed talking with many of you after the meeting. Again, we will do everything we can to support our students transition.)
I appreciate your taking time to join us for this important announcement regarding the state of the school district’s budget. I have had the pleasure of being the district superintendent for the past 7 years. I grew up in Millville and I love this City. For the past 7 years, the state has cut financial support for our district by approximately 23 million dollars through flat funding. As a result, we have made cuts in order to balance the budget. Each year the fear that we would need to close a school worried all of us. Each year, I fought along with the district staff to put this off just one more year. Today, the reality of our financial situation is coming home.
It is with a heavy heart that I share the district’s decision to close RD Wood Elementary School at the end of this year. As a parent, the first question that I would have is “how will this impact my child”. Let me be absolutely clear, your child will continue to receive an excellent education. We will release updated school assignments for next year where your children will be assigned to one of our other elementary schools. They will receive transportation, and they will continue to flourish. The second question I would have is what happens to the staff of Wood School. We all know how dedicated and caring this staff is. I can tell you many of the teaching staff at Wood School will simply join other schools in the district. They will continue to serve this community as they have for the past 100 years.
The last question I would anticipate, is why Wood School? The answer comes down to a few key reasons. The age and condition of the building, Wood School also has the smallest enrollment due to school choice and other factors. This was a terribly difficult decision for the district and one we hoped we would never have to make. Until the state begins to fund public education again, I am concerned about what next year may bring. The district will be releasing your child’s assignment for the 2017-2018 school year as early as possible. The memories made in this building will last and the traditions of Wood School will endure.
Parents it is ok to be nosey….
Recently, I read an article sharing a warning from Lain Morrison, former professional Rugby player, regarding his experience with a very popular video game, Roblox. In general, I am a big fan of today’s video games. They can help children learn to problem solve as well as develop rich vocabulary. That said, as parents we must be like detectives. Even when our children are less than two feet away on a device we must worry and investigate.
Morrison found indecent messages from strangers on the online version of Roblox directed to his eight year old son. The messages asked personal questions and encourage his son to use his character in and indecent manner. He said: "I just had it in my head that I needed to ask the boys if they were playing on this Roblox game after reading about it online.
"They said they had it so I've said let me have a look at it. From the outlook it looks completely fine, you can go into different rooms and in the first room I wasn't sent anything untoward. "Then I went in this waterslide room with a pool and immediately was propositioned. They said 'hi' so I said 'hi' and they asked if I was a boy or girl and my age so I said I was an eight-year-old boy. "They asked me to follow them to their house, then into the bedroom and asked me to lay down on top of them and then they started with the sexual movements. "They said 'you look cute' and 'you look sexy'. It was just sickening reading all the comments pop up. My kids were completely oblivious as to what the words and stuff meant (www.hulldailymail.co.uk).
As parents, we have the conversations with our children about talking to strangers in the park. We make sure we are careful of where they physically are at all times. What we sometimes forget, is that although they are in our homes sitting at the dining room table on an Ipad they are not free from potential danger. So what should you do as a parent? I do not advocate cutting them off entirely as that is simply not preparing them for the World we live in. Instead, be “nosey”! Ask lots of questions, demand to go on their accounts daily just to fish around and see what pops up. Ask them to teach you their favorite games if you are not savvy. It will be quality time and also offer you the opportunity to safeguard their virtual playground. Just like when you take them to the park, you look around to see that the swing set chains aren’t rusted or there aren’t any strangers lurking around. You have to do the same on their devices. Lastly, create a relationship where your children know they can talk to you about any encounters that make them uncomfortable.
There is no way to ensure that they won’t receive any strange messages while playing games like Roblox, but you can ensure that you know about them. There are a lot of amazing games and experiences for your children, make sure you are aware of their favorites!
David Gentile, Superintendent of Schools
Governor Chris Christie’s Speech On The Fairness Formula As Prepared For Delivery
Hillsborough, New Jersey
June 21, 2016
I would like to thank Governor Christie for his recent recognition of our District’s achievement in surpassing the State’s graduation requirement during his school funding speech. A compliment from the Governor is truly an honor, and our community appreciates it. With flat funding for the six years I have served as the District’s superintendent, we have made difficult decisions in every budget season. We have cut, on average, three million dollars annually. Each year, our class sizes increase, we are forced to cut programs and we must find creative ways to do more with less. Many of our students come to us burdened with the problems that living in poverty engenders. Unsafe neighborhoods, unpredictable homes, hunger, physical and mental health issues are obstacles to their learning. Their parents are consumed with the challenge of survival and struggle just to provide them with the basic necessities. There may not be time or energy for read-alouds and homework help. Our schools have become safe havens for our families. We have adopted the vision to be “World Class” and our staff accepts nothing short of that for our students. Their efforts are paying off with higher graduation rates and other positive outcomes. Some results are not apparent if you only look at the data - the smiling faces of our students, a hug given in appreciation for the teacher who went above and beyond for a child, the bonds that develop between staff and families. We are not a rich community, but we are a proud community. Governor, before you make any decision to further reduce our funding, please consider your own words, “there are exceptions.” Millville is on the right track, but we can’t continue to make progress with flat or reduced funding. Thank you for recognizing our District!
David N. Gentile, Ed. D.
There is an ongoing discussion regarding summer assignments for our advanced placement students. The conversation recently was refueled during our most recent board of education meeting (9/21/15) where several parents, students, and staff members made comments during the "public comment" section of the board meeting. The comments varied, but several themes were consistent among speakers: a) the amount and b)the value of the summer assignments took center stage. All who spoke seemed to agree that summer assignments are a necessary piece of the advanced placement students' education; the discussion varied around how much work is appropriate and that each assignment must have value.
To review, last year many parents and students spoke at a board meeting expressing similar concerns. The board at that time asked me to look into the concerns. A committee was formed and meetings were held to review the summer assignment workload. Some changes were made.
The "public comment" section of the board meeting (9/21/15) indicates that while some changes were made last year, many in attendance would like to see more. Following the most recent board meeting, I met with the high school administration and district assistant superintendent for curriculum & instruction in an effort to continue the review and monitoring of our advanced placement program, specifically the summer assignments. I had the opportunity to meet with the various department chairs during their recent meeting. At that meeting, I instructed them to meet with their departments and review their summer assignments. I asked them to be able to answer two questions:
1. Is the work load too much? (*consider students who take multiple AP classes)
2. Does the work hold educational value? (and be able to explain why)
Once the department chairs and departments have completed their review I will meet with them and report back.
*I want to thank all of those who expressed their opinions during the meeting. This board truly values your input and works to maintain an open line of communication with our community.
Kids these days...are awesome! There are so many amazing happenings in the Millville Public Schools but one recently stood out to me. During my schedule review with my dedicated assistant we reviewed the week to come. I noticed a meeting set for September 17th at 2:45 pm with Mr. Kyle Permuy (@varninja on Twitter). Not recognizing the name, I inquired as to what the meeting's purpose was. My assistant stated that a Millville Public School senior respectfully came in to set up a meeting with me to discuss an idea. I was immediately excited.
He arrived 15 minutes early, (Coach Surace, my former football coach always said, if you are early you are on time, if you are on time you are late, and if you are late you are forgotten). His showing up early was only one of the many things that impressed me about Kyle. At 2:45 we sat down in my conference room and I asked him "what can I do for you?". He leaped into a well prepared and organized presentation about an event he would like to hold in Millville next May. (May 7th, 2016* tentative). The event essentially will bring high schoolers (9-12) from across South Jersey to spend a day coding their way to solving a problem, any problem of their choice. Kyle explained that this is called a 'hackathon' and there is lots out there if you are like me and plan to Google it after reading this. His excitement around a passion of his was simply contagious. I found myself smiling from ear to ear. Together, he and I spent nearly an hour brainstorming how best to make this event a success. We talked about how he could share his love for coding with our younger students by being a guest teacher...so many possibilities simply because this young man was brave enough to take a risk and ask his superintendent for a meeting.
So the next time you hear, or read, about all that is wrong with #MPSWC or kids today, think about @varninja aka Kyle. Kids these days...are awesome!