BOE discusses 8th period, honors students and departing members at final 2020 meeting

Additionally, Superintendent P. Erik Gundersen said that information would come Dec. 15 regarding any switches to fully remote learning due to a snowstorm forecast for midweek. 

While+Board+members+were+able+to+attend+tonight%27s+meeting+in+person%2C+six+out+of+eight+attended+virtually+from+home.

Jared Mitovich

While Board members were able to attend tonight’s meeting in person, six out of eight attended virtually from home.

At its final meeting of the year on Monday night, the Pascack Valley Regional Board of Education discussed the permanent addition of an eighth class period, honored two high-achieving students, and bid farewell to four members leaving the Board in 2021. Additionally, Superintendent P. Erik Gundersen said that information would come Dec. 15 regarding any switches to fully remote learning due to a snowstorm forecast for midweek.

Students recognized for earning Dwight D. Eisenhower Award

At the beginning of the meeting, Pascack Hills senior Charles Goertz and Pascack Valley senior Sean Cuffe were recognized for earning the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award during their junior year. The award is given by the West Point Society of New Jersey to students who exhibit “exceptional performance and potential in the areas of academics, athletics, community service, good citizenship, and leadership.”

Stephen Kalish, who represented the Society at the Board meeting, highlighted Goertz’s hope of attending the Air Force Academy next year after graduating from high school. Goertz is a teaching assistant in AP Physics class, a double varsity athlete, and a state qualifier for DECA. He is also a member of the National Honor Society and an editor for the Trailblazer.

“Sean and Charles, we thank you for not just how well you’ve represented yourselves, but also your school and student body. We thank you for your desire to serve our nation,” said Gundersen.

Departing Board members honored

Four Board members who are leaving in 2021 were also formally recognized. Two of the members, Kenneth Ralph of Hillsdale and Brian Hallowell of Montvale, did not seek reelection in November. The other two members, David Steinberg of Woodcliff Lake and Arnold Scher of Hillsdale, lost their reelection bids. The new members joining the Board in 2021 are Kristin Martin and Gini Varghese of Hillsdale, Michael Weaver of Montvale, and Dr. Kelly Blundy of Woodcliff Lake.

Gundersen thanked each departing member for their service to the Board. Among the two members who represent the Hills community, Gundersen highlighted Hallowell’s chairmanship of the Building and Grounds Committee and Steinberg’s work to secure more funding for counseling services.

The past seven years have probably been the most challenging times in school history by far.”

— David Steinberg, departing Board member

Steinberg said he was “always trying to do what’s best for our students in a fiscally responsible manner.” Providing the pandemic and school safety concerns as examples, he argued that “the past seven years have probably been the most challenging times in school history by far.”

“I hope we can speak nicely with each other,” Steinberg added. “I was really surprised about social media events over the past six to eight months, I think we can do a better job of talking with each other even though we may not agree with everything. “

‘We are not going back to what the schedule was last year’

After the Board voted to approve agenda items in Policy, Education, Human Resources, and Finance, member James Stankus updated the Board on developments within the Curriculum and Technology Committee.

Overall, many departments are reevaluating their mission statements or updating their curricular standards. According to Stankus, many of these changes are to align with state guidance, K-8 school districts in the community, or student and parent feedback. Check out the graphic below for the most notable curricular changes discussed.

The committee meeting, which was attended by students, parents, faculty, and supervisors, included a discussion of changes to the district schedule. Stankus said that there was positive feedback among students and parents regarding the addition of an eighth period to the schedule. He said an eight period would mean more flexibility and course offerings for students, while also giving them the opportunity for a study hall so as to not strictly “increase the workload.”

Gundersen said this discussion was ongoing as the district continues to adapt to the health guidance that has led to the current scenario: a hybrid schedule where around half of the student body attends school in the morning every other day.

“We are not going back to what the schedule was last year anytime soon,” Gundersen said, referring to the schedule in place before the pandemic. According to Gundersen, this is mainly because of limits on large gatherings –– such as the whole school having the same lunch period or Pascack Period –– but also because of additional opportunities being discussed.

“We’re going to take the merits of the old schedule and the opportunity that we have, which is to provide students with an additional course offering so that students who are committed to band and choir don’t have to choose between [that] and an elective they really want to take,” Gundersen said, adding that this eight period could also include an opportunity for “another art course, remediations,” or “something for freshmen as a transitionary experience.”

We all need to modify our behaviors to make sure we are able to keep schools open.”

— P. Erik Gundersen, Superintendent of Schools

Overall, Gundersen said that, either way, the district has to create a new schedule with the likely, gradual relaxation of restrictions in 2021. He expressed hope that in 2021, “we will be back to something a little bit more normal than where we are now.”

For now, though, Gundersen emphasized that –– besides any winter weather –– school staying open will depend on “students continuing to be careful when outside of school… and our staff members doing the same thing. We all need to modify our behaviors to make sure we are able to keep schools open.”

Graphics designed by Jared Mitovich.