Funding To Provide Model Classroom, Energy Savings

A PowerPoint Presentation reveals energy cost savings that the Jackson School District has seen and which recently earned each of its ten schools a Sustainable Jersey for Schools award. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

JACKSON – Board members recently recognized district staff responsible for two OceanFirst Foundation grants the district received and noted recent awards for its energy savings program.

The board joined Superintendent Dr. Stephen Genco and other staff in expressing thanks for the district’s receipt of two Model Classroom Grants from the Foundation.

This year’s OceanFirst Foundation Grant program chose only 25 schools out of 144 applicants for the award. Each of the winning applicants submitted a proposal that outlined their inventive vision, creativity and desire to craft a model classroom for learning.

Those applicants that did not receive a major award received a $500 gift certificate, making the foundation’s total contribution for the 2018 program $309,500.

“We are beyond thrilled that two of our schools here in Jackson were chosen to receive this grant,” Board member Sharon Dey said.

Foundation representative Nina Anuario presented the grant award, noting that Jackson had a long history of educational excellence. “You have been a winner before. You can’t get these special things done without the money you need. You did a great job and we are happy to help this community. You had great grant writers,” Anuario said.

“It will be put to very good use,” Dey told Anuario.

District staff were also recognized during the evening for their work in drafting the grant proposals.

The Howard C. Johnson and Switlik elementary schools both received the grants. Dey said that Johnson serves 478 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, of which 31 percent have special needs.

“With their grant, the school will create a space to lead social and emotional learning with the aid of a school therapy dog, maintain their accountability through Yale University research, and to promote their community service to a global audience,” Dey said.

She added that the star of the school’s “Learning Unleashed” Model Classroom is a dog with Ivy League credentials. The school has reimagined what was once an office and adjacent space in the school’s library to expand the footprint of the classroom and to make it the hub of their school.

A PowerPoint Presentation reveals energy cost savings that the Jackson School District has seen and which recently earned each of its ten schools a Sustainable Jersey for Schools award. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

The designated space will be used periodically to ensure that the therapy dog is well-rested and ready when it is time to perform instructional duties. Students will come together in the newly created environment for lessons on social emotional learning through interaction the school’s therapy dog according to the school district.

Johnson Elementary School teachers Carrie Hogan, Melissa O’Keefe and their principal, Michael Raymond were recognized during the session.

Switlik Elementary School’s grant proposal cited a growing need for elementary teachers across the country to take an active role in learning how to incorporate student data into their planning and instruction to support personalized learning platforms.

The school’s model classroom will allow for the creation of an innovative, personalized learning platform in a third grade inclusive classroom where traditional resources, highly adaptive assistive technologies, and multisensory materials will complement personalized instruction to general and special education students, according to the district.

This student-led classroom will expose students to centers, where research, goal setting, community service, and student celebration events are at the forefront of the skill set needed to be successful. The grant will specifically provide for the purchase of Chromebooks, tablets and other technology.

Switlik Principal Kathy McKiernan, Assistant Principal Renee Pagano-Hein and teacher Danielle Parella were recognized for their work during the meeting.

The district also received good news concerning its ongoing energy savings program. Board members took part in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools awards, which recognized each of the district’s schools for earning at least bronze level certification.

The Elms Elementary School received a silver level certification which is one of only 14 silver level certifications issued in New Jersey.

Jackson Liberty High School received the 2018 Sustainability Champion Award. It was chosen from among all the state’s high schools.

Elms Principal Michael Burgos and Jackson Liberty High School Principal Geoffrey Brignola were both present during an award ceremony held in October where the district was presented 10 plaques for its schools. The two principals received special recognition for their school’s achievements.

District Energy Conservation representative John Blair noted during the board meeting that the recognition “also belongs to the students, staff, administrators and coordinators of the efforts that earned us this distinction.”

A PowerPoint Presentation reveals energy cost savings that the Jackson School District has seen and which recently earned each of its ten schools a Sustainable Jersey for Schools award. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Blair said that the district’s earning these recognitions takes a constant commitment to education, preservation and responsible behavior. “This can only be done by creating a district-wide culture of preservation and sustainability.

“We save money and reduce our carbon footprint. There is a public side that everyone sees which starts off with staff simply shutting off lights and computers at night,” he said.

Blair added that the behind the scenes efforts include analysis of district utility bills. The district has brought in $145,000 since 2017 according to a PowerPoint presentation that Blair showed during the meeting.

Six energy firms that the district works with are “willing to come out as speakers to our schools.” Blair added that $1,512,546 in spending had been cut from the district’s budget thanks to recent energy preservation efforts.