Education Commissioner Visits Local School

New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet poses for a photo at the "Be the 'I' in Kind" bulletin board with the Memorial Elementary School PAWS Patrol. (Photo provided by Memorial Elementary School)

  HOWELL – New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet couldn’t have received a warmer reception than the one he got during his visit to the Memorial Elementary School.

  While school spirit days are usually on Fridays at the school, students and staff dressed in red, white and blue and put on their Bulldog gear for his visit.

  Repollet came to Memorial School as part of a school spirit contest organized by the Department of Education. “During his visit, Dr. Repollet got the chance to see what I am privileged to see every day- that our students and staff are kind, thoughtful and creative. It was an honor to open our doors and share with Dr. Repollet and his staff the amazing work taking place at Memorial and Howell Township,” Principal Ray Gredder said.

  The Commissioner took part in a student led roundtable discussion with Memorial School’s 5th grade PAWS Patrol – a group of students who help give advice, complete special projects and serve as a branch of student voice within the school.

  The group and the Commissioner discussed topics that ranged from school safety to inclusionary practices and school equity.

  Following that activity, Repollet took part in an engineering design lesson in the school’s Bulldog Think Tank – a STEAM lab in the media center funded by a $10,000 grant from OceanFirst Bank.

  During his visit Repollet joined students as they designed, created and engineered new inventions after reading “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires. The lesson was co-taught by Media Specialist Jennifer Stenard and Technology teacher Skye Donzelli and highlighted the school’s commitment to inclusion.

  The lesson involved students from a multiply disabled classroom joining students from a general education setting to team up and create together. Memorial hosts the district’s Autistic, Cognitively Impaired and Multiply Disabled programs.

  Repollet was kept busy as his next part of the tour included a visit to a 4th grade classroom where teacher Sonia Rivera and school guidance counselor Samantha Murillo co-taught a lesson on joy and gratitude.

New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet is greeted by students of Memorial Elementary School who are part of the school’s PAWS Patrol during his recent visit to the school district. (Photo provided by Memorial Elementary School)

  The lesson was a part of the school’s and district’s commitment to social and emotional learning and also highlighted the school’s commitment to bring counselors, coaches and relevant specialists into general education classrooms as educators and co-teachers.

  Following a photo opportunity at the “Be the “I” in Kind” bulletin board, the commissioner was surprised in the hallway by a group of students who performed a school spirit song. The song, led by music teacher Mary Jo Smith was written as a collaboration by Instructional Coach Erin Lowman, Vice Principal Chrissy Remo and Smith with input from students, and used the song “Sing” by Pentatonix as its base.

  The group changed the lyrics to illustrate school values such as being kind, working hard and having fun.

  Joining in the visit were Howell Superintendent Joseph Isola, Assistant Superintendent Bruce Preston, Director of Pupil Services Dorothea Fernandez, Director of Innovation and Technology Claire Engle and Howell Township Board of Education Vice President Al Miller.

  “It was great to be able to highlight some of the fine work being done at Memorial and across the district and we are always glad to have the support of our central administration and Board of Education,” stated Gredder. “As for our students, their discussions with the Commissioner highlighted the need to give students a voice in their education. They inspire me every day and I am honored to serve them. I was thrilled that the Commissioner gave them a platform to discuss issues they feel strongly about. I am also extremely grateful for our amazing staff- they always seem to find new ways to inspire me.”

Guidance Counselor Samantha Murillo and New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet take part in a lesson on joy and gratitude in Sonia Rivera’s 4th grade class. (Photo provided by Memorial Elementary School)

  Memorial Elementary is made up of students from grades 3 through 5, which earlier in the year hosted a “We Care” Pep Rally. The pep rally was in line with the school and district’s commitment to social and emotional learning and was the brainchild of Vice Principal Chrissy Remo.

  During that program, students dressed in school colors, teachers amped up the crowd and Buddy the Bulldog joined the pep rally, all with the message “You are cared for. Take care of each other and together we can make Memorial an amazing school!” The contest was posted by the Department of Education on its Twitter feed under the hashtag #NewJerseySchoolSpirit.

  The school was chosen on October 2, in a live drawing on the department’s Twitter feed. Vice Principal Chrissy Remo said “one of our school goals is to support each other socially and emotionally. Our school spirit is real and the pep rally spoke to the care we have for every member of our school. We were honored to have had the opportunity to have the Commissioner visit.”