In an animated Hackensack School Board meeting, the transfer of a beloved kindergarten teacher ignited debates, community concerns about bullying took center stage, and student achievements were celebrated.
The controversy began with the impending transfer of long-time Fairmount School kindergarten teacher, Joyce Wickerstein. Teachers, past students, and community members voiced their disagreement vehemently, championing her extensive contributions and transformative role within the school community. Adriene McKinnon, a teacher and HEO representative, described the decision as contrary to promoting social emotional learning or building positive relationships. Shannon Cox Murphy, a teacher at Fairmount School, lauded Wickerstein’s integral role and massive impact over 25 years.
Similarly, Daniel Jackson, a resident, parent, and Fairmount School teacher, called out the administration’s seemingly random staff transfers. Citing a lack of justification, he called for open dialogue during staff meetings.
The dissatisfaction over Wickerstein’s transfer was echoed throughout the meeting, with various attendees requesting the board to reconsider. Several stressed the necessity of Wickerstein’s stable presence, especially in a time when students need constancy the most.
While the controversial transfer dominated discussions, the meeting was also punctuated by celebrations of the Hackensack students’ achievements and ongoing school projects. High School Principal Jim shared the successes of the “Destination Imagination” teams that attended the world competition in Kansas City, with one team exploring scientific concepts while the other sought to effect change in the school culture.
Additionally, presentations about the Black Student Union’s activities during Black History Month, community volunteers’ contributions, and Hackensack district’s receipt of a school-based mental health grant from the New Jersey Department of Education took place. The grant, worth $292,000, marked a significant investment in the school community’s well-being, with potential for more funding in subsequent years.
Parent outreach initiatives also featured prominently, with Diana Munis, the parent outreach coordinator, detailing efforts to engage parents in school activities and support services. According to Munis, the school collaborated with community organizations to provide support for students in transition or facing hardships, through social and emotional workshops, a homework club, and diversity and inclusion programs.
Meanwhile, concerns about bullying were brought to the forefront, with a parent sharing their child’s personal experiences and urging stronger measures to combat such issues. The subject of curriculum implementation for African American studies also came up, with a community member offering assistance for its efficient deployment.