By Natalie Anzarouth
RED BANK – The borough’s public school district has reason to celebrate. During a ceremony at Red Bank Middle School Jan. 7, Jared Rumage, the superintendent, announced the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has recognized the district as a “high performing” educational institute and awarded two faculty members with the Exemplary Educator award.
Alyssa May of Red Bank Primary School and Lara Wengiel of Red Bank Middle School were two of only five teachers in Monmouth County to receive the award.
“We’re here today to celebrate who we are, what we do and what we’ve accomplished over the years. And what this school district means to our community,” Rumage said, adding, “We know what makes the difference. It’s the people.”
A round of cheers from the assembled audience greeted the announcement.
“We’re so excited about the Exemplary Educator Award,” said Luigi Laugelli, Red Bank Primary School principal. “You will never find a level of dedication of our staff members anywhere. I have been in other districts, and you will never find that. It’s very special.”
May, a borough kindergarten teacher for eight years, said she felt “surprised” to be acknowledged as an Exemplary Educator. “I love my job and to be recognized for what I care about and what I get so much from, for somebody to recognize my effort just feels really good.”
Wengiel has been with the district since 2004. “It’s truly an honor to be part of this school district,” the fourth-grade teacher said. She credited the school for encouraging collaboration. “Every teacher here plays a role in what goes on in the classroom.”
Additionally, at the assembly, the borough awarded the Educational Support Professional of the Year to Primary School teacher Chelsea Foster; Teacher of The Year to Primary School teacher Jackie Rivera; and Teacher of the Year to Middle School teacher Christina Vlahos.
The district’s high performing certification is based on the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC), the monitoring system the state uses to measure and evaluate its public schools.
According to Michael Yaple, NJDOE director of public information, the NJQSAC evaluates schools roughly every three year in five areas, including instruction and program, fiscal management, governance, personnel and operations. In June 2017, the district scored 100 percent in all categories except instruction and program, where it scored 77 percent. The state’s standards for a “high performing” institution require a school district to score at least 80 percent in each category. When a school district falls below 80 percent in any category, it is required to implement a district improvement plan, Yaple said.
A November 2018 letter to the district from the NJDOE stated that staff from the Monmouth County Office of Education had “conducted an interim review of the district’s progress in the areas of Instruction and Program.” Upon this interim review the district scored 82 percent in the category of instruction and program, a 5-point increase from the initial review in June 2017.
In a press release, Rumage stated, “I am extremely proud to be a part of a school district that has moved the needle so quickly regarding learning outcomes. It is a credit to our school leadership, our dedicated faculty and staff, and our talented students.”
May and Wengiel both stressed that credit for the success of the school goes not only to the faculty, but the parents who support the education of their children at home.
“I think that’s such a positive role (for parents to play),” said Wengiel. “They promote education at home.”
May agreed. “They’re here for a reason. They want their children to be successful. And they’ll do anything they can to make that happen,” she said.
As for her award, May says she’s going to share this with her students. She currently has a gold apple plaque in her classroom from another award she received. “The kids always ask me (what it is) and I say ‘It’s my teacher trophy, for doing my best.’ I teach kindergarten and I’m doing my best. And we’re teaching them to do their best.”
This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.