New rotating schedule, planning for superintendent selection discussed at in-person BOE retreat

The Board of Education discussed reopening schools, the new schedule, and the process of selecting a permanent superintendent at their retreat.


On Aug. 4 at 9 a.m., the Pascack Valley Regional High School District Board of Education had their retreat in the media center at Pascack Hills. It was fully in-person and open to the public to attend, but there was no opportunity for comments. 

Presentations were given about reopening schools, the new schedule, summer programs, department plans for the school year, and wellness. The BOE also discussed the process of selecting a permanent superintendent. 

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Barry Bachenheimer told the BOE how both schools will be preparing to reopen. Every student will be attending school for a full day in-person. 

“It has been a bulk of our summer work so far,” he said. 

The Restart and Reopening Committee will be having a meeting next week to discuss more details. Bachenhemier emphasized that guidelines both schools follow are in accordance with Governor Phil Murphy’s mandates and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. 

As of the retreat date, Bachenhemier stated that all students and staff members must wear masks regardless of vaccination status. If someone is in close contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19, those that are not vaccinated must quarantine (regardless if they are asymptomatic), but those that are vaccinated and asymptomatic are not required to. 

Interim Superintendent Dr. Daniel Fishbein will be sending out a letter later this month with final details of reopening plans. 

Pascack Valley Principal John Puccio and Hills Assistant Principal Charleen Schwartzman explained to the BOE how the new eight-period schedule will work for the upcoming school year. 

There will be four classes in the morning and afternoon of each school day, and each day of the week has its own specific rotation. If there is a short week (such as prior to Thanksgiving break), students and staff will follow the Monday schedule. This rotation consists of meeting all eight periods in ascending order. 

At both schools, there will be a unit lunch. All students and staff will be eating simultaneously in locations such as classrooms, cafeterias, and gymnasiums.  

“[Unit lunch] offers a lot of things; clubs can meet, classes can meet, [students] can eat lunch with their friends, and they can meet with teachers,” Schwartzman explained. 

Regarding concerns with the Covid-19, Fishbein said that students “will be spread out through the building for lunch and people [will] be policing [distancing].” 

The BOE also discussed the process for selecting a permanent superintendent for the district. 

“There’s a lot that goes into it,” Fishbein said. 

BOE members conversed about interviewing consulting firms to help select the permanent superintendent. They plan on choosing five to seven to interview during the fall and selecting one to help in hiring a permanent superintendent. 

“You have to find a match that works for everyone…it’s important that there is a unanimous consensus,” Fishbein said in regards to finding a consulting firm for the BOE. 

He predicts that interviews with candidates for superintendent will occur in January after the “new BOE” is elected. This refers to the members that are elected in the upcoming BOE election in December. 

Bachenheimer and Director of Special Services Eva Merk presented information to the BOE from summer programs that have been occurring in the district. They shared statistics on how many students and parents signed up for these programs:

SAT Camp: 190 students 

College Essay Camp: 111 students

Canvas Camp: 89 students, 35 parents

Learning Acceleration: 79 students (48 math, 31 ELA)

Extended School Year (ESY): 33 students 

They also discussed Learning Acceleration and Extended School Year (ESY). Both of these programs helped students who felt they needed extra support, with the former specifically offering extra help in mathematics and English. Bachemheimer said that “mostly rising seniors, some juniors,” are scheduled to take the SAT camp. It is being held during the last two weeks of August at Hills from Aug. 16-19 and Aug. 23-26. 

Other items presented to the BOE include wellness and departmental metrics. These presentations focused on virtual wellness events offered to the district during the pandemic and district supervisors’ curriculum plans for each subject. The BOE also engaged in ethics training at the retreat, where they learned about the roles and regulations of being BOE members and how to work together as a group. 

Towards the end of the retreat, the BOE reflected on past goals and set future goals. Some of the topics surrounding these goals include mascot rebranding, contacting alumni, and equity and inclusivity. 

School rebranding for each respective mascot will continue throughout the year. Each school’s Mascot Committee will help in rebranding under the moderate plan, which was recommended by previous superintendent Dr. Erik Gundersen. 

Director of Technology Paul Zeller told the BOE about a “living yearbook” to help alumni connect. It will allow alumni to connect with each other in fields of interest, and is being launched in winter. 

Dr. Mark Russo, Supervisor of Mathematics and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, shared “student data about certain outcomes and experiences.” He said that the committee plans on continuing to send the yearly climate survey to both schools, collaborating with others in the community, and allowing students to lead and speak. 

In response to this data, BOE member Michael Weaver mentioned that he was able to tour both schools and noticed areas that he felt could be improved upon. He expressed concerns about both auditoriums and the girls’ locker room at Hills, and wants to “look at the budget to see what [the BOE] can do.”

BOE Vice President Joseph Blundo agreed, and wants to make sure that each student has equal access. 

“This is about ensuring that every student has an equal opportunity,” he said.

Fishbein concluded the retreat by planning to further discuss each agenda item in future BOE meetings.