Fair Lawn School Board Recognizes Dedication amid Controversy, Sets Ambitious Educational Goals

In a recent Fair Lawn School Board meeting, a riveting discussion on educator Janine Hayek’s recognition took center stage. Amid controversy and Facebook furor due to an article Hayek assigned years prior concerning Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, fervent supporters and board members rose to her defense, emphasizing her invaluable contributions to the district and significant role in civic participation by registering high school students to vote. One board member shared, “I am eager to recognize Miss Hayek…so that the community and the school community can join in the recognition.”

The session didn’t stop at individual accolades. Ambitious district goals for the upcoming academic year were on the table. A notable focus was the enhancement of Career and Technical Education (CTE). With broad interest, from students to staff and the board, the plan seeks to expand career path discussions starting as early as the eighth grade, aiming for a more seamless transition through high school. A notable quote underscored the shared sentiment: “Career and Technical education is definitely one that we can see is important across all groups.”

Concerns arose when discussing the curriculum, particularly regarding the clarity of media arts courses. Some board members challenged the need for “data-informed decision making” as a goal, viewing it more as an inherent practice. Yet, the intention behind highlighting it aimed to underscore its significance and secure dedicated resources. Julie Mahan, a board member, emphasized the need to support “bubble kids,” those in the mid-learning spectrum, stressing, “at the end of the day those kids need the support just as much as every other child.”

Impressive academic achievements were also spotlighted. The NJ GPA results showcased that 86.8% of Fair Lawn’s 11th graders were “graduation ready” in English language arts, outpacing the state average. The board praised educational interventions in place, such as academic level courses in ELA and the use of Learning Ally. Still, there were appeals for more technical courses, emphasizing the real-world applications of languages like Java and Python.

Support for multilingual learners (MLs) also dominated the agenda. A challenge presented itself when some high school students lagged in English proficiency, mainly due to their recent arrival in the U.S. with little English foundation. The district’s response was robust, offering expansive resources like the sheltered instruction observation protocol (SIOP) and additional training for teachers interacting with multilingual students. One board member lauded, “I’m really impressed with the efforts of the Lord teachers and Ministry… it’s outstanding.”

Tensions emerged surrounding the gifted and talented audit, with concerns about the timing of releasing the audit’s findings to the public. Some board members feared this approach might impede the public’s ability to generate questions, with one member encountering technical difficulties accessing session information.

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