School focus


Merriam Avenue School in Newton.

By Mandy Coriston
Newton School District Superintendent Dr. G. Kennedy Greene oversees three schools; Merriam Avenue Elementary School, Halsted Middle School, and Newton High School, which includes students from Andover and Green.
Dr. Greene is pleased the progression of the 2018-19 school year and the district's community initiatives, including new curricular and extra-curricular activities.
He notes that the disctrict's motto is "Educate the Whole Child."
"We try to do that beginning with our elementary-schoolers, all the way through high school," he said.
He said it is key to focus on academic, social, and personal growth starting with proactive intervention, peer mentoring, and mindfulness training at the Merriam Avenue School, they are giving the children valuable lessons which go beyond the classroom.
“We work on character coaching and digital citizenship at the elementary level, and we’ve got yoga instruction for even the youngest students," he said.
As for the littlest enrollees within the district, Newton recently received state funding for full day Pre-K, and is making use of the now-defunct Camp Auxilium facilities to accommodate the early learning expansion.
“The Pre-K is now open to all families that live within the Town of Newton,” Greene said, “and it’s fortunate that we were able to take over the space left empty when the camp closed its preschool.”
The Newton School District also received a federal grant to continue its Choose2Connect afterschool program, which it had run for the last five years in conjunction with Project Self-Sufficiency. Students from grades 3-8 can participate in STEM activities, receive academic remediation or enrichment, as well as be provided a healthy afternoon snack and transportation home from either Merriam or Halsted.
“We were lucky to partner with PSS to get this program off the ground,” Dr. Greene said. "But now we have our own funding for it, and it was a smooth transition for us. We just had to make a few tweaks, but we’re now running the whole program ourselves.”
Greene said, there are exciting high school curriculum developments within the business and technology departments.
“We’re beginning to model those classes after our ag department,” Greene said, “We want to be able to add more competitions and hands-on learning, so we’re taking what we know from the award-winning agriculture program and applying it to other areas.”
Greene also said that the business department is adding dual enrollment programs with Centenary College, which will provide students with new opportunities in addition to the district’s existing agreements with Sussex County Community College.
Overall, the superintendent thinks the Newton School District is meeting or exceeding its objectives in regard to both student achievement and administrative goals.
“We don’t anticipate any major concerns as the year moves forward,” Greene said, “We have our budget priorities set, and capital reserves in place. We know we’ll be looking at the improvements and maintenance needed at Halsted, and our other focus is, of course, on school security.”
Greene is also proud of the district’s participation in the Community Schools initiative, a national movement to make schools a central and integrative part of their neighborhoods by not only providing a healthy scholastic environment, but by also being a gathering place and a resource for social services. To that end, Greene would like to remind all Newton School District families that they’ll be holding a Family and Community Connection Night from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 6, at the Merriam Avenue School.
“We want people to come and see what the community has to offer,” Dr. Greene said, “and this event is a perfect way to bring all the resources together in one place.”
The event will feature more than 30 community groups, businesses, and local restaurants, and is free to attend. There will be childcare available and shuttle service from various points around town. For more information and to RSVP, parents can visit www.newtonnj.org and click the News link on the Home tab.
“Everything we have happening,” Dr. Greene said, “from the preschool to the afterschool programs, to the community events: This is what we mean about educating the whole child. I really feel we’re hitting that goal on all levels right now.”
This is the first installment in a three-part series on innovative curricula, community initiatives, and cooperative learning. Districts around the region have marked the 100th day of school and looking towards the last few months of the academic year, administrators and faculty members shared their insights on what’s happening in their classrooms and communities.