Educators Praised As COVID Restrictions Eased

Jackson Superintendent Nicole Pormilli speaks to members of the Board of Education and the public about graduation ceremonies going back to normal. (Photo By Bob Vosseller)

  JACKSON – The struggle for teachers to instruct students – and students to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic – was noted during a recent Board of Education meeting.

  During the session, Superintendent Nicole Pormilli provided an update, based on the most recent reports by Governor Phil Murphy, concerning State Health Department guidelines which will now allow for graduation ceremonies to have a normal outside crowd capacity when they are held in mid-June.

  Relaxed conditions for proms and gatherings will also allow for a more enjoyable experience for those attending and coordinating those events as well.

  “Congratulations again,” Pormilli said to the students and many teachers who received awards during the evening. “As we all know, the last 14 months have been like no other in the history of modern education. The emotions, the passion, the fear, the unknown, the change, the dedication and the commitment – there are simply not enough ways to commend our educators and staff who navigated this course. Our educators have had to manage all of it.”

  She noted that educators “had their own emotions and worries and their own stresses and challenges while ensuring our students felt safe and cared for while they were growing and learning. Just as we and the teachers would get into a groove, guidelines or data would change and require us to pivot to a new method, a new practice and a new mindset.”

  Pormilli said the district worked to maintain a steady course for its students “whether it be virtual or in person, teachers found ways to move students forward in their learning. I continue to use the words ‘educators and staff’ because this year more than ever, every person in this district worked together to do what was in the best interest of students.”

  She noted that was why this year’s teacher recognition award was changed to reflect “not one teacher or educator but many.” Assistant Superintendent Robert Rotante worked with the school district’s Educational Advisory Committee to create a broader recognition program.

  “This was definitely a year like no other. It would be impossible to recognize only one or two people in each building. The overwhelming sentiment was that we needed to recognize many buildings and quite honestly we could have recognized just about everyone in our district,” Rotante said.

  He said 10 categories were established to highlight the attributes that were needed to have a successful school year. These words were written on a display, linked with the teachers who received awards. “Words like collaboration, inspiration, care, concern, optimism, challenges and positive attitude. These words truly embody what our staff displayed every single day since the beginning of the school year.”

  Teachers and staff were chosen by their colleagues who best expressed those qualities during the school year. “All those winners were recognized at the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week during the beginning of May. They were given accolades within their own buildings. Every one of the winners that were announced have really stepped up since September and we as a district could not be prouder for what everyone has accomplished,” Rotante said.

  Pormilli also recognized the district’s administrative members including supervisors, directors, principals, assistant principals, the central office team “and also the team that works behind me in the administration building. Their commitment and leadership to this district has been outstanding.”

  “Our students have been amazingly resilient and have made many accomplishments this year so kudos to all. Lots of great things have been happening in our schools as restrictions have been lifted.” Pormilli noted there were no longer any restrictions for outside graduation ceremonies that allowed for “us to go back to our original graduation plan and I know the high schools are excited for this and tickets will now be increased to what they normally are.”

  The Superintendent added, “students will get to graduate together and have their parents join them and their family members. Promotion ceremonies will have the same thing. They will be able to increase if we are outdoors. Indoor restrictions are still limited. We have moved the date to June 17 for the high school and June 15 for middle schools. We do have a rain date, obviously the high school will be June 18 and the middle schools will be June 16. Hopefully, among those dates we will be able to get everything done outdoors.”

  “We are trying to offer more in person activities and events for our students including proms and plays. I think through this time with our community we have gained unity in working together,” Pormilli said.