Saddle Brook School Board Outlines New Initiatives Amid Rising ELL Enrollment

In a recent Saddle Brook School Board meeting, Superintendent Toni Violetti unveiled a series of new initiatives and changes for the upcoming academic year, most notably addressing the rising English Language Learner (ELL) population and the importance of social and emotional learning.

Ms. Nicole De Bonanas, the newly appointed director of curriculum instruction, presented on “Access for ELLs,” an English proficiency assessment for grades B through 12. The number of students taking the test has increased from 45 in 2022 to 72 in 2023, underscoring a growing ELL presence in the district. To address this, the district has introduced “Finger-tipper profiles” to provide teachers with individualized reports on ELL students. Additionally, adaptive technology, specifically headphones translating classroom instructions into various languages in real-time, has been invested in to help students overcome language barriers.

Furthermore, the district aims to foster a sense of community for ELL families by organizing events like multicultural nights and family game nights.

Superintendent Violetti also announced changes to the election voting location, moving it from the middle school/high school to the new municipal complex. This change facilitates the use of the school for professional development on election day and wraps up the school semester a day earlier.

Violetti emphasized the district’s focus on students’ well-being alongside academic achievement. He highlighted an initiative that seeks to connect with students on a deeper level, teaching them values of responsibility and respect.

In terms of infrastructure, the board discussed various projects undertaken across the district, such as painting in several schools, HVAC installations, fencing replacements, and locker repairs. However, challenges arose like pipe breaks in libraries, which tapped into insurance funds for repairs.

Security enhancements also took center stage. Over the past eight to nine years, efforts have been made to increase school security, including the creation of designated sections to manage visitors and bolster school entrances.

In terms of student performance, the board noted a significant “pandemic bounce back.” The district’s achievement rate jumped from 49% in 2022 to 76.5% in 2023. Moreover, a positive trend emerged with female students consistently outperforming their male counterparts in various tests.

The board also delved into curriculum development, with a special mention of an aviation program. This initiative offers students the opportunity to obtain a drone or pilot’s license before graduating high school.

Public comments raised concerns about the district’s performance and financial priorities. Some questioned the need for ceiling repairs, especially when they had been replaced just a few years prior. Others expressed concerns about residents losing their homes and the financial direction of the board.

The meeting concluded with reminders about the upcoming Board of Ed meetings on September 18th and 20th.

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