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Students Learn 'Life Skills' at High School

Student Support Services continue to offer a unique approach to the school's special needs population.


It was a typical morning for the breakfast club in the Life Skills Center room at the West Orange High School on Tuesday morning. 

At about 8:30 a.m., student Christelle Charles, 20, walked into the small kitchen located in the Life Skills Center with orders for coffee and food for teachers in the school. Others helped prepare a plate of food, and Charles picked it up and prepared to deliver the plate. The order was for Assistant Principal Louis Della Pia. 

“Today is busy,” said Charles with a smile on her way out, adding that teachers can drink a lot of coffee in the morning. 

The breakfast club is just one part of the Department of Student Support Services’ program for students aged 18-21. Throughout the morning periods, the club serves as a kind of diner with the students taking menu orders from teachers and bringing them the food.

Jodie Goldstein, transition coordinator for student support serviecs, said the program is geared toward offering special needs students real-world experience. 

The program, said Goldstein, “provides kids with prevocational training skills that they can take with them from high school into the real world. ... These are hard working kids and many of them will develop careers from the experiences that they are gaining in the 18-to-21-year old program.”

The nascent program has grown leaps and bounds since it began only four years ago, said Director of Student Support Services Constance Salimbeno. The number of students in the program has jumped from only a handful when it started to about 25 this year. The program also attracts students from outside of the district.  

“We do offer something unique here; something that has been designed and developed for our students,” said Salimbeno. “We have students from districts who feel our program is ... valuable, and don’t offer what we offer.” 

The Life Skills Center offers students a variety of different programs throughout the day. After the breakfast club closes, students can prepare and serve food in the high school cafeteria or work in the clerical office. 

The special needs students also run the school store, the Mountaineer Shop, which opened last year. Opening around lunch time, special needs students act as cashiers while other students browse Mountaineer clothing line of sweatshirts and coffee mugs in the shop. 

Students in the program are also bused throughout the town to do work in local businesses, including The Grand Wilshire Hotel and the Courtyard by Marriott. 

"These students are ... typically going to be working in their community,” said Goldstein, “and this gives them an opportunity to navigate their community, and make contacts, and have resources so when they graduate they have opportunities to work.” 

Charles said after working in the breakfast club in the morning, she usually prepares and serves food in the school's cafeteria. In the past, she has worked as a lunch aide in Pleasantdale Elementary School, too. 

“I like talking to kids, talking to teachers,” said Charles. “They love me over there.” 

Department of Student Support Services is currently looking for businesses interested in offering placement opportunities for special needs students. For more information, call Jodie Goldstein at (973) 669-5301, ext. 31578, or send an email to jgoldstein@woboe.org or CSalimbeno@woboe.org

Clare Silvestri Krakoviak September 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
My son, Thomas, really enjoys this program, as you can see from the smile on his face in the above photo. Many thanks to Jodie Goldstein and all those at WOHS who make it happen!
john anthony prignano September 26, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Do the teachers pay for their food ?
john anthony prignano September 26, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Are the students paid for their work ?
Clare Silvestri Krakoviak September 26, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Yes, the teachers pay for their food. The students who work the breakfast club don't get paid. But it's a valuable vocational learning experience for these special needs young people.
john anthony prignano September 26, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Clare Thanks for the prompt response. Clare, do you think that you could ask Ms.Goldstrein and Ms. Salimbeno if they could charge just a little more for the food and drinks? The money would be used to compensate the students. Is tipping allowed? Grammar school teachers accept gifts from their students.
john anthony prignano September 27, 2012 at 06:32 PM
The public schools are indoctrinating ALL children to embrace the New Order - working for the State for nothing, e.g. not being paid to prepare and bring breakfasts to people who earn over $100 an hour. Dick Codey advocates for unpaid community service as a requirement for H.S. graduation; " In the age of Internet,children often hide behind computers, video games and television, taking part in faceless interactions that fail to expose them to real human circumstances and needs. By making community service part of the high school experience,we can teach students that life is much bigger than the individual and that each of us has the ability to impact lives." The people running the breakfast club make over $100 an hour. They want the children to find joy in helping others enjoy affluent life- styles and comfortable retirements.Dick Codey advocated for a Character Curriculum. Star Ledger July 25, 2012 ; " Codey and his partners were forced from their building for non - payment of rent, leaving a trail of bills that are still being untangled." "Records filed in Essex County shows the company still owes the Internal Revenue Service nearly $50k in back taxes.". The mission of the public schools is {ostensiblely} to prepare students for the " High - tech. hyper - competitive 21st century global economy". Their true mission is; Teaching people to live off the crumbs they leave, and to find happiness in working primarily to enrich their employees.
john anthony prignano September 28, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Clare Ms. Salimbeno started in West Orange in 1993. Her salary and longevity pay are over $130,000 a year. Mr.Dellapia started in 1993. His salary and longevity pay are close to $130,000 a year . Ms. Goldstein started in 2004. Her yearly salary is approximately $95,000 a year. Their salaries and benefits are paid by the West Orange taxpayers, a large number of whom are the student's parents. Do you think these people and their co - workers would be willing to pay $1 more for breakfast so the children could be compensated with MONEY, in addition to the valuable vocational learning experience they're receiving? Doesn't "a valuable vocational learning experience", by definition, mean the children are developing or improving their MARKETABLE, as in COMPENSATED WITH DOLLARS, SKILLS ? One Dollar a day, and the students get paid ...... doable?
john anthony prignano September 28, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Quite, quite often ,when our schools taxes go up, we are told it's the daily equivalent of a cup of coffee. Clare, paying a dollar a day more for breakfast is the equivalent of the cost of an INEXPENSIVE cup of coffee. What's the problem with giving back just a small amount of the parent's school taxes to their children for services rendered?
Ann Aly Ahmed October 02, 2012 at 12:15 PM
John,Instead of being concerned with the quality of education students were receiving in a real world setting, (money skills, social skills, marketing, food preparation etc), he referred to something that was simply not true. If he is going to be a voice for the students and their families, have the facts....Students are paid $5.00 per week as a stipend which usually begins the first week in October. Also John, while many staff would likely pay $2.00 for a cup of coffee, would they be repeat customers? As with any real world business, we want ours to grow, so students can continue to learn in a real world setting. Starbucks doesnt set their prices based on the highest or lowest salaries in the community......and neither does the breakfast club. We want to make it accessible to everyone. And by the way, you should really check your facts on to when people started in district and how much they make. You are off with those facts/statements also.
john anthony prignano October 07, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Read what Clare Silvestri Krakoviak wrote me,and then please take her to task for willfully disseminating false information .She has a child in a program that she is deeply involved in,but she wrote the students don't get paid.You say they get a $5 weekly stipend,starting in October.Either way,it stinks.The usually reliable source I use posted incorrect data for 2011, so I went back to 2010 ;Ms. Goldstein started in 2004 and her salary in 2010 was $93,556. Ms. Salimbeno had 14 years service in 2010,and her salary was $105,334. Mr. Della Pia had 11 years of service,and his salary was $113,531.The length of an average WOHS day is 6 hours,28 minutes.That's a total of 1170 hours. Even with the downsized figures I've provided,{ thanks for the head's up} combine their salaries with their benefit package,and it's WAY more than $100 an hour for every hour they're CONTRACTED to work.And those compensation figures DON'T include coaching and mentoring stipends, longevity pay, private - sector jobs,etc.That "we come early and stay late, we go above and beyond" crap doesn't fly with me.WOHS provides 90 to 100 FEWER instructional hours than the State average, and it provides the hourly equivalent of THIRTY DAYS less instructional time than Montclair.I predicted that if you raised the price of the breakfasts $1,the teachers would bolt.These are free- market realities,as practiced by { often tenured } employees of a less than mediocre,taxpayer funded monopoly. Welcome to The New Order..
john anthony prignano October 07, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Ann Aly Ahmed The State average teacher's salary is $63,651. In West Orange, the average teacher's salary is $82,392. I looked at dozens of as affluent or more affluent school districts, and not one of them paid their teachers as much as West Orange pays it's teachers. In fact, most were not even close. The State average administrator's salary is $119,491 for 19 years of service. The average administrator's salary in West Orange is $131,716 for 13 years. And West Orange's benefits package is likely second to none. At the high school, there is an 18.4% failure rate on the HSPA. The State average is 17.8%.. Over the past three years,teacher compensation in New Jersey rose an average of 7%..In West Orange it rose 14%. .West Orange High School provides the hourly equivalent of 14 days less instructional time than the State average, and it provides the hourly equivalent of 30 days less instructional time than Montclair High. West Orange spends 21k+ per pupil, Montclair spends17k+ per pupil.West Orange High School is not in the top 100 high schools in New Jersey Monthly's annual rankings,and it went down more this year. Ann,you say that Michelle Casalino is passionate and dedicated and committed to providing every child with a great education. I would certainly hope she is..Can you offer any hard evidence that's she's been an effective school board member?
john anthony prignano October 09, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Ann, Clare, Teachers accept inappropriate "gifts " from their students and students' families all the time. If these "gifts" were given to a police officer or a building inspector, they would be called bribes. Are teachers and administrators permitted to tip the Breakfast Club servers and delivery people? If they're not, why not? If they are allowed to tip, does anyone actually do it?
john anthony prignano October 10, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Ann Where did the erroneous salary and length of service numbers I posted come from ? This quote is from the site I use: " The salaries are the best estimate provided by the reporting agency to the State" Ann, who's the reporting agency? Per pupil spending in West Orange went from 15k to 21k ,with no change in spending.Clare wrote that the Breakfast Club doesn't get paid, then you wrote that they receive a 5$ weekly stipend. The School Report Card I would receive when my children were students included teacher attendance figures. But several types of absences were not counted, so the numbers presented were not accurate. Perhaps one day those numbers will be higher with no change in the number of absences. And so it goes......


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