The West Orange Board of Education granted tenure to Athletic Director Ron Bligh, and the move was met by a standing ovation by an auditorium filled nearly to capacity at Monday night's meeting.
In other business, the board heard Harassment Intimidation Bullying (HIB) and literacy reports and recognized four winners of an essay contest about the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Once he was granted tenure, Bligh stepped up to the microphone and said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Questions had swirled recently about the athletic director's future in West Orange. Doubts over Bligh’s eligibility for tenure were put to rest Monday night, as several members of the audience talked about his strengths as a member of the district.
West Orange resident Adam Kraemer, said he was pleased with the board’s final decision, but was not happy with the politics of its process. He said, “Mr. Bligh is universally loved throughout this town. He has instituted a policy of having high academic standards for his athletes.”
John Blanton, the father of a West Orange High School track runner and football player, also gave his support for Bligh’s leadership, despite any issues that may have involved him in the past. “We’ve had our share of differences, but at the end of the day, we’ve come to a great understanding,” said Blanton.
Blanton also noted his appreciation for Bligh’s focus on bringing a policy similar to that of the NCAA’s Academic Skills Achievement Program (ASAP) to West Orange schools, “Bligh recognizes that it’s students, then athletes."
Following the announcement of Bligh’s approval for tenure, the Board directed its attention to an HIB, or Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS), presentation.
The report, which included incidents having occurred from September through December 2011, cited a total of 54 violent crimes for a total enrollment of 6,914 students. Of the incidents reported, 38 cases were violent, three involving vandalism, one involving weapons and 12 involving banned or illegal substances.
To decrease the number of crimes on school grounds, the district made plans to put the following initiatives into action: implementation of technology, increase in access to conflict resolutions, professional development for teachers, student mentoring programs, professional learning community, a student handbook, monitoring by guidance, and an increase of parent communication.
The second and final presentation of the evening was a model for literacy instruction, led by Donna Rando, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and Terry Granato, Supervisor of Federal/State Programs. The two introduced a comprehensive, three-block framework they said was designed to inspire literacy with an emphasis on level-based learning and growth.
The three blocks, which consist of language and word study, a reader’s workshop and writer’s workshop, will be used with full classes, small groups and inividual instruction. The proposal would increase the allotted time for reading and writing by 45 minutes, three times per week.
According to Rando and Granato, the teachers will received training from Lesley University, as well as continued on-site coaching and support. Teachers will be required to incorporate reading and writing instruction into lessons on other academic subjects, such as science and social studies.
The Board recognized the achievements of four students who were winners in the third annual Essex County Bar Associations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Essay Contest. The contest was open to all Essex county public school students in grades 3-12.
The topic for this year’s essay was as follows: What would you do if you saw a person making fun of a student with disabilities, and what would you do to make sure that students with disabilities are treated the same as students who do not have disabilities.
Bassir Baxter, grade 12, received second place for the high school level; Asad Raza, grade 10, received third place for the high school level; Gabby Florendo, grade 5 at Pleasantdale School, received second place; and Christina Julio-Malabre, grade 4 at Gregory School, received an honorable mention.
Possible approval for the new literacy model, as well as other matters, will be addressed at the next BOE meeting on June 4 at 6 p.m. at Liberty Middle School.