Mt. Olive Online Publication November 15, 2020
Mt. Olive Online Publication November 15, 2020
By Cheryl Conway
As many would agree, politics is one arena that has taken center stage in America lately and how fitting it is that this year’s theme for Black History Month focuses on the right to vote.
Every year centers on a different them for Black History Month with this year's theme: "African Americans and the Vote," which recognizes the struggle for voting rights among both black men and women throughout American history.
According to chiff.com, “2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) which gave the right of black men to vote following the Civil War. It also marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement.”
Originating in the United States, Black History Month is an annual observance, also known as African-American History Month. It has spread to other countries such as Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of black men and women.
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
February is the chosen month, according to informational sites, to celebrate Black History as it was the birthday month of two individuals that greatly influenced African Americans: Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Since 1976, every American president has proclaimed February as Black History Month.
While Mt. Olive Township has no activities planned, the school district has a multitude of lessons, books, slides, writing assignments, research projects, movies, performances, music, study groups, posters, google slides and poetry in all grades- from the elementary schools, middle school and high school levels.
According to information collected by the Mt. Olive Township School District administration office, under Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki, Black History Month is being celebrated in the following ways:
At Chester M. Stephens Elementary School:
Kindergarten will be reading about Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks and talking about how they are similar and different. The students will be writing about both women. Books to read include: “Rosa Parks” by Cynthia Klingel and Robert B. Noyd; “Rosa Parks Hero of Our Time” by Garnet Nelson Jackson; and “The Story of Ruby Parks,” by Robert Coles.
First grade will be learning about various famous African Americans. They will begin with a google slide presentation describing how Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Jackie Robinson, Maya Angelou and Aretha Franklin changed the world. They cover their talents and contributions to the country, show them real pictures and talk about their lives. They will make a book called "Be the Change." They will also learn about Michael Jordan and create a poster about him; an will research George Washington Carver and create a peanut with facts.
Second grade students are learning about five different famous Black Americans and are writing biographies for each.
Third graders will work in pairs researching influential black heroes and creating a class banner highlighting their achievements/contributions. In addition, students will interpret quotes from several influential black Americans.
Fourth graders will be assigning one famous African American to study and research. The students will complete a graphic organizer about their person to be displayed. They will then prepare a google slide sharing their person's accomplishments and present it to the class, so the students learn about many important people. Finally, they will show the movie "Ruby Bridges" and have the students respond to a prompt of what it would have felt like to be in Ruby's shoes, citing evidence from the movie.
Fifth grade students will be focusing on the importance of equality by participating in discussion groups, creating freedom quilts and reading related texts (e.g. Henry’s Freedom Box) prior to seeing Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad at the Morristown Performing Arts Center on February 18.
Tinc Elementary School:
First grade does a group study on famous people, like Harriett Tubman and Jackie Robinson. They read "Scholastic News" as a group, and they play online games focused on this month. They spend a lot of time on Ruby Bridges, who at age 6 was integral to the Civil Rights movement.
Second through fifth grades all do research projects on a specific person and present to their respective classes. Second grade focuses on what a biography is, while fourth grade highlights the Leaders of the Underground Railroad by using task cards and taking part in simulations. Each grade either creates a poster or Google Slide on their person.
Sandshore Elementary School:
Black History month lessons will be ongoing in the library.
A Bulletin Board of famous African Americans is being displayed in the primary hallway.
Read alouds are being conducted in the classroom featuring Influential African Americans, grade appropriate.
There is also a school wide activity in which teachers will receive a copy of the book 28 Days by Charles R. Smith, Jr. Each day is a short passage describing the life of an influential African American. At the end of the month the students will participate in a reflective activity (flip grid, journaling, multimedia presentation) where they will discuss the person they found to be most influential with reasoning and answering the question "Why do you think this person is considered to be influential?"
Students are provided with a variety of quotes from influential black heroes. Throughout the month they will reflect on three quotes that spoke to them the most. They will respond to the quotes and interpret them to explain how these words of wisdom are reflected in their lives. For the younger grades this can be done in small groups or as a whole class.
Museum walk of various influential African American figures in history is being held. Fifth grade students will choose an individual and research their contributions and importance to African American history. They will then choose a way (essay, oral presentation, flip grid, etc.) to present to the class. Students will then have the opportunity to do a museum walk to learn about other figures.
The Physical Education classes are doing lessons on famous African American athletes.
Mountain View Elementary School
Pre K-first grade students are reading stories about famous African Americans.
Second graders are highlighting Famous African Americans each day through differentiated reading passages and will create a class banner of all they learned.
Third grade is researching a famous African American and writing a report.
Fourth grade created a bulletin board and they are going to choose a person, research and choose a project. These range from posters, speeches and reports. They also read about Ruby Bridges and wrote about what they would tell her about their life now.
Fifth grade is including Black History Month in their Morning Meeting Discussions.
Mount Olive Middle School:
Social Studies classes are recognizing famous black figures who have made major contributions to American Society and have had an impact on a global scale.
Social Studies classes will also focus on the challenges of diversity.
Language Arts - Grade 8 – just finished reading “Rolling Thunder” and will continue following up with activism themes and service projects.
Art classes are making posters of famous black authors, performers, and leaders and pioneers.
Music, instrumental students, will be performing selections written and/or performed by black artists.
Mount Olive High School:
Thursdays, during unit lunch, jazz band will be playing music from multiple black musicians.
Fridays, during unit lunch, members of NHS & NEHS will be reciting poetry and other works from famous black authors.
Social Studies classes are recognizing famous black figures during the entire month.
Working with TV production to produce segments highlighting famous black figures throughout the month.
Morning music will trend the influence of black artists through the decades in all genres including Gospel, Folk, Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop and Dance.
By Cheryl Conway
At the Mt. Olive Township Council meetings this month many issues were raised such as gun control, salary increases, anniversary of women’s suffrage, Seward House grant and electric car charging stations.
Read below to learn more. Meetings are also live streamed so residents who cannot attend can tune in to what is happening in town.
Gun Resolution Hoedown At Townhall
Mt. Olive Township Council has shot down a resolution, for now, that would label the township a 2A Sanctuary City, which would declare itself a safe zone for gun rights.
After an outcry from local residents, who expressed their concerns for and against the idea, township officials decided to not even vote on the resolution that was introduced by Councilman Alex Roman this month. Residents discussed the resolution at the council meetings held Tuesdays, Feb. 4 and Feb. 18.
With gun control laws on the surface, there has been an attempt by certain groups to encourage municipalities to take a stance on the second amendment. Like other jurisdictions in states, counties and municipalities in the United States, Mt. Olive joined in the debate at recent council meetings to discuss whether it should declare itself “a safe zone” for gun rights.
Known as a Second Amendment sanctuary, or gun sanctuary, municipalities have adopted laws or resolutions to prohibit or impede the enforcement of certain gun control measures such as universal gun background checks, assault weapon and high capacity magazine bans and red flag laws.
In an effort to soften the resolution, Roman had taken out the word ‘sanctuary’ and used ‘township.’
“Nothing in the resolution that I had proposed last meeting included the word sanctuary at all and nothing in the body of the resolution would ever be construed by anybody reasonable or otherwise that they would not be required to follow the laws in the state of NJ or the federal government,” said Roman in his defense of the resolution at the Feb. 18 meeting.
According to the resolution proposed by Roman, “the Second Amendment to the Constitution states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not infringed;” as well as “an individual right to keep and bear arms not connected to the service of the militia.” It further states that an estimated 12 million Americans lawfully carry concealed firearms.
“The township of Mt. Olive Council declares to be a Second Amendment/Lawful Gun Owner Township by supporting “the rights of lawful gun owners to lawfully use firearms, defend themselves, their loved ones and other innocents; lawfully hunt and participate in shooting sports; opposes further interference with or abridging of the rights of lawful gun owners; opposes gun control, gun safety legislation or red flag laws, state, federal or local.”
Roman’s resolution was shot down after community members voiced their concerns.
“It would not be coming up for a vote for the township,” Council President Joe Nicastro announced.
Shelly Morningstar of Flanders led the discussion by asking the township attorney for her overview of legal findings in regards to the resolution.
Mt. Olive Township Attorney Susan Sharpe, responded by saying, “It would not have a force of law because that has to be done by ordinance, by municipal ordinance and that was a resolution and a resolution is basically just an opinion or a statement of opinion.”
Morningstar asked, Is there “any liability in passing a resolution that indicated in its writing that our local law enforcement, police department and our township council would not recognize the laws of the state of NJ?”
Sharpe replied, “Since it doesn’t have the effect of law 'no…it should not be construed as endorsing or directing police department or anyone else to ignore their constitutional obligations."
Morningstar was pleased with the board’s decision.
“I want to thank you all for listening to the community, for understanding that we have a constitution that respects all of the bill of rights and amendments, and for most importantly not feeding into opinions one way or the other that could potentially cause distress to the people who live here, confusion about the role of the police and most importantly continues to keep Mt. Olive a place where people want to live, raise a family, open a business and I applaud you all for giving this great consideration and thank you very much,” Morningstar said.
Resolution Not Dead
Displeased with the outcome of his proposed resolution, Roman responded, “I have not abandoned bringing this resolution back up at a future date. I don’t consider it closed by any means and I will continue to work with my fellow council members and the public to bring which I feel is an important resolution back up to the board.”
At the Feb. 4 meeting, Roman addressed the attendees as to his reason for the resolution. “I and many other Americans, council members and residents believe the state of NJ is infringing on our Second Amendment rights. I chose to remove the word sanctuary; labeling it a sanctuary has a connotation that we are endorsing not following the state of N.J. and the federal government. The title did not ring true to the body of the resolution.
“It’s important this governing body pushes back on the state,” said Roman. “Lets the governor and state legislature know law abiding citizens are not the problem and restricting our rights does not make us safer.”
Martin Welzmuller, who has lived in Mt. Olive since he was three, debated why the issue is important to him: “Anytime the government has gotten involved in this state they have infringed on our rights, they have taken away our rights,” he said. They have no problem taking our rights but they have a hell of a time giving the rights back.
The Second Amendment, “It’s a right,” he said. “These rights are not just for me, they are for everyone. By doing this we are still following the laws of NJ. Putting the politicians on notice down in Trenton, that maybe the law abiding citizens have had enough. By doing this we are still fowling the laws of NJ.
“You are voting for the rights to stay the same as how they should be,” said Welzmuller. “You are not taking away the rights. I’m helping to run the Morris County 2A sanctuary program here working on doing this here and other towns on the resolution.”
Erika Clarke said, “We are a really desirable town to live in. We are known for our education, stem and robotics program, parks are beautiful, our sports are huge… if it’s passed you google Mt. Olive and the first thing you are going to see is Second Amendment city. It brings a negative connotation, it just does.
“New Jersey already supports gun ownerships so I don’t know why we need a logo or t-shirt saying that Mt. Olive lets people own guns,” continued Clarke. “We already own guns. No matter what this amendment says there’s going to be some idiot in town who thinks this now means I can carry my gun to Turkey Brook. I don’t want to be at my son’s lacrosse game when that idiot gets mad at somebody.
“This is an extremely polarizing topic and this group was ready to pass it through,” said Clarke. “The town doesn’t even know this is happening. Shame on everybody for not allowing some type of town hall meeting because there are people for it and there are people against it…but no one had the decency to let everybody listen to what all the facts are on either side.
“This is an entryway for other laws to be changed in New Jersey,” said Clarke. “This is unacceptable. I have very good friends on the other side of this and I just do not agree with it all.”
Roman shot back at Clarke saying he “disagrees with her characterization of legal gun owners as being crazy and the fact of owning a gun does not turn you into a criminal. That some crazed person can just carry a gun. Those are called criminals.”
Clarke, agreed and said “Exactly; if someone who is borderline criminal….the word Second Amendment Sanctuary …someone might think that…it’s still negative.”
Roman disagreed and said, “As far as a town hall conversation this is what this is….it wasn’t a resolution to be voted on without discussion. Everyone had two to three weeks notice that this was coming up.”
Clarke shot back, “You know the majority of this town… how many people live in this town how many people are at this meeting.”
Roman replied “That is there choice.”
Irene Sergonis, democrat contender for council this past November, challenged Roman’s thought process in regards to his resolution by reading back his comments at a July 11, 2017 meeting when R. Bonte asked for a resolution supporting the Paris Accord to fight climate change. This is what he said, "I am not a fan of resolutions that are feel good resolutions. I think this governing body should always enact legislation on resolutions that are meant to create an action and something that can be done. I know my opinion is probably not the most popular of opinions, but if all we ever wanted to do was just put out things that feel good, that accomplish nothing for the residents of Mt. Olive, we could be addressing resolutions every time we have a meeting."
Asked Sergonis, “So why aren’t we addressing the problems of Mt. Olive? My friends are leaving because the taxes are too high; my kids can’t afford to live in this town. Why are we looking at the resolutions and spending time on that?”
Roman responded: “This is not a feel good resolution. It is to address a situation that I see, have been seeing for a while coming. Legal gun owners are being told that they are the problem, not the criminals.”
Sergonis agreed that “It is not a feel good resolution. It is a divisive resolution that accomplishes nothing. I think climate change is more of a danger but you wouldn’t do a resolution for that.”
Roman threw it back in her face saying “if had you been elected you would have been more than welcome to introduce a resolution.”
Sergonis replied, “I wouldn’t spend time doing resolutions. I’d spend time doing work. Like Mr. Stewart who works so hard to bring businesses here so we can get our taxes reduced. Like Mrs. Labow who works with our health department to make our health and safety our priority. I wouldn't be putting resolutions forth.”
Morningstar defended Sergonis and said: “Councilman Roman…your comment just now to a member of this community demonstrated political divisiveness when you used the language that you did.
You were elected dually to office, you swore and posted your photo so that everybody can see it either on the bible or the constitution or something January 2 to uphold the constitution of the state and the United States of America and the laws therein.
“The law is the law. This is nothing more than an attempt to create political divisiveness, to change the narrative and I personally think that if you want to go support this personally not on behalf of Mt. Olive Township Council, not as a resolution …you should join the Morris County Second Amendment group and march to Trenton and march to Virginia and wherever else you think your rights are being infringed upon.
“In the meantime there are a majority of us who think keeping our citizens safe and following the law and supporting our law enforcement under the laws that we have and expect our law elected officials to do the same.”
The battle came to a close when Mt. Olive Township Mayor Rob Greenbaum, who does not get a vote on the resolution, shared his opposition to the resolution. “I don’t want to get the town involved in national issues,” he said at the Feb. 4 meeting.
At the Feb. 18 meeting he concluded, “I don’t know that there is anything anybody could do to stop Councilman Roman from reintroducing the resolution; he has a right to do that. Council President Nicastro certainly indicated what the feeling was of the majority of the board that they are not in favor of moving forward with the resolution on behalf of the township.
“My opposition really to the entire resolution was more broad than just the second amendment issue that was put on the table,” said Greenbaum.
“We have worked very hard as a group, as a government, to bring the community together not to separate the community,” the mayor said. “There are many divisive issues, many different types of resolutions that we could discuss and put on the table for adoption whether its second amendment, sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, birth control or any of those issues…which there are very important issues to be addressed, but not by this governing body as a whole.
“My position was no matter how you feel about it individually about any of these issues it’s not appropriate for us as a municipality to adopt a position which is so divisive that it does not represent 99 percent of the community,” Greenbaum said. Autism week, women’s suffrage…those are resolutions to adopt.
“As a governing body I caution all of you as we move forward, your own personal opinions you are free to move forward to say whatever you want to take whatever position you want, but as a body…no matter which side of the issue you are on there are divisive issues that we as a governing body should not be taking a position on behalf of the municipality… all you are doing is you are creating a divisive issue.
“Let’s move forward together; you can take whatever positions you want,” the mayor said. “I urge the council, as these issues come up, you need to be very careful on taking a position on behalf of the entire community. In my opinion it’s not right."
Since there is not a majority of council people in favor of moving forward with such a resolution, the mayor said the resolution will not be voted on.
Councilwoman Colleen Labow agreed with the mayor: “While I do appreciate that Alex likes to bring different subjects forward, I absolutely will not be voting in favor of that….don’t like to have the entire community so upset and concerned over something…we have no control over that.
“I’d rather spend my time on things we can actually do something about,” Labow said.
At the Feb. 4 meeting, Nicastro said he had a problem with the headline of the resolution that said “We’re making Mt. Olive a Second Amendment Township. I represent all citizens. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in good fair gun laws. It’s hard for me to involve the town in something.
“In my opinion,” Nicastro said, “I support it. If I had the time I would march but not something I feel comfortable saying we are a Second Amendment Township.”
In his surrender at the end of the meeting, Roman thanked the council for considering the resolution.
“Not to disagree with the mayor, I think it’s important for the governing body to touch in on issues that the state is imposing on townships, and protect rights of the minority and in this case, gun owning minority,” said Roman.
“I will defend any group that I think is being attacked or that a constitutional amendment is being attacked,” he said. “I will not stop. I will definitely not be bringing the resolution back up to see it fail. At least it brought light to the issue of the state constantly imposing new regulations that do not actually affect the safety of the residents of the state and the township.”
Township Officials Approve Own Pay Raise
The mayor and council will be getting higher salaries after the council unanimously approved on final passage Ordinance #3-2020 to amend Ordinance #25-19 which establishes salaries for mayor and council.
No public comments were heard at the meeting despite the debate by residents arguing the matter on the community Facebook page.
According to the ordinance the council is required to adopt the salaries of all employees annually for 2020 retroactive since Jan. 1, 2020.
With the increase, the mayor will receive $20,000; council president $11,000; and council members $10,000.
The last salary increase for these officials was in 2015: The mayor was getting paid $10,500; council president $8,500; and council members $8,000.
“It was not my idea,” says Greenbaum regarding the salary increases. “It’s there ballpark.” The township council votes for salary increases, says Greenbaum. “It’s always been that way.”
Greenbaum did include the figures into the 2020 budget, which is set for public hearing on Tuesday, March 3 at 7 p.m.
He says, in scope of the whole budget, the salary increases “it’s minimum expenditure; it wont affect taxes.”
The funding to pay for the extra salaries does come from the 2020 operating municipal budget, says Andrew Tatarenko, Mt. Olive Township business administrator. He says the total increase between all eight members, that includes mayor and council, is $24,000.
In response to where these monies come from Tatarenko explains: “There is no simple way for me to answer your question. There is nothing being eliminated or reduced to pay for the salary increase.
“An operating budget is made up of very complex line items which can change on an annual basis,” he explains. “The current municipal budget is over $31M (not including school, county, library or open space) which is made up of operating line items which decrease and increase every year depending on operational need. Each line item is evaluated on a yearly basis to ensure the resources are available to maintain services. The amount of revenue the township anticipates from various resources is also a factor (shared services, tax collection, permit fees, etc.) will also dictates the tax rate.
“The utilization of what’s called “fund balance” is another mechanism used to stabilize taxes,” Tatarenko continues. “Fund balance is generated year after year and accumulates from budget revenues in excess of anticipated revenue, excess receipts of delinquent taxes, budget revenues not anticipated and cancelling of appropriation reserves. Throughout the years, Mt. Olive has been fiscally responsible and has accumulated a healthy reserve which gives us the ability to avoid the peaks and valleys of a changing tax rate.
Purple Municipal Building Lights Up Town
Mt. Olive Township officials passed a resolution earlier this month to recognize the 100th anniversary protecting and guaranteeing women’s right to vote in the United States.
“In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment, the Township of Mt. Olive will light the municipal building in purple, one of the colors of the New Jersey Suffrage movement, for the week of February 10,” clarifies Tatarenko.
According to the resolution, on June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment guaranteeing all American women the right to vote. On Feb. 9, 1920, N.J. became the 29th state to ratify the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote.
Electric Charging Stations Coming To MO
Township officials are looking into installing electric charging stations around town.
“We would like to install EV Charging Stations at Turkey Brook Park and for future expansion to other Township owned properties (municipal lot and Flanders Park),” explains Tatarenko.
The plan calls for the installation of two charging stations which can charge four cars at a time.
Purpose of the station is “To encourage the use of electric vehicles which will assist in reducing harmful emissions,” says Tatarenko.
“Councilman Nicastro brought up the idea as a way for Mt. Olive to be more environmentally friendly,” he explains. “It also compliments the Governor’s legislative action to boost plug-in electric vehicles in N.J. He has made available several grant opportunities to offset the cost.
With a significant number of electric cars in the area, Tatarenko says the need for these charging stations is growing.
Officials designated Turkey Brook as a prime location because “Turkey Brook Park is a regional destination,” says Tatarenko. “Last year, over 70,000 people visited the park. It was the best location to reach a maximum amount of people that would benefit from the charging stations.”
Officials are moving fast with the idea.
“We are currently developing bid specifications to find a vendor who will install and maintain the charging stations,” says Tatarenko. “I anticipate charging stations will be available this spring, early summer.”
He says typical range for charging stations is $1-$2 per hour. “Parking would be limited to two to four hours so that others have an opportunity to charge.”
Good news is there would be zero cost to the town, says Tatarenko.
“We are structuring our bid specifications for the vendor to pay for all installation, equipment and maintenance,” he explains. “In return, they are allowed to keep the revenue generated.”
Seward House Receives Grant
The township was awarded $504,675 to continue the preservation of the Seward House located at Turkey Brook Park in Budd Lake. The township plans to match the grant with prior grant awards from the Morris County Historic Preservation Fund.
Council passed a resolution Tuesday, Feb. 4.
“The grant money we are receiving from the N.J. State Historic Trust will be used to complete the structural upgrades and roof, roof drainage and chimney restoration as well as the continuation of the exterior restoration including restoration and repair of the masonry, front porch and trim,” says Tatarenko.
This is a multi-phase capital request as additional resources will be needed to complete the work,” he says. “The goal is to use the Seward House as a community center and serve as the home to the Mount Olive Historical Society.”
By Cheryl Conway
Her messy room triggered a positive idea for one local 10-year-old girl.
Ruby Turner, a fourth grader at Mountain View Elementary School in Flanders, celebrated her tenth birthday on February 15, but instead of birthday gifts this year, she decided to ask for adult sweatshirts to donate to the homeless. As of Tuesday, Feb. 18, she had collected 80 sweatshirts.
Satisfied with all that she has in her life, Turner decided to help others that are not as fortunate.
“Every single week my room is a mess cause there’s so much stuff so I wanted to give to someone stuff that I have,” says Ruby Turner during a telephone interview with “Mt. Olive Online.”
“It was all Ruby’s idea,” says her mom Kelly Turner. “After Christmas she realized all the stuff that she has.”
“I have a lot of sweatshirts and I just wanted to give back,” says Ruby Turner.
Her mom helped by posting her daughter’s idea on Facebook and then making a wish list on Amazon.
Kelly Turner’s Facebook post on February 13 states: “Our rainbow girl hits double-digits this weekend and we are so proud of her. In lieu of gifts, presents or cash, Ruby humbly requests a donation of a sweatshirt (men or woman’s sizes) to be donated to Midnight Run, an outreach organization that supports the homeless living on the streets of Manhattan.”
She had learned about the organization from a post she saw on Facebook from another woman who was collecting jeans, so she asked the woman what else they needed “so Ruby chose sweatshirts,” her mom says.
For her birthday party, Ruby Turner celebrated at Chef It Up in Budd Lake on Sunday, Feb. 16. She had invited 15 friends from her class.
“We had to make cake and decorate them,” says Ruby Turner about the delicious vanilla cakes they made. She chose that theme “because it’s one of my favorite shows.”
Her friends brought sweatshirts instead of gifts so she can donate, and other sweatshirts have been shipped via mail.
“We put a note on Facebook and people that we are friends with mailed us some,” they say.
“Family members are still donating,” says Kelly Turner, adding that she hopes to get to 100 sweatshirts.
“We actually had no idea” how many sweatshirts would be as their goal, she says. “When we counted them on Saturday we had 60; one person donated eight today,” with several people donating five to eight at a time. “Eight came in one box today.”
Why adult sizes?
Midnight Run does not collect clothing for children, says Kelly Turner, hence why her daughter was collecting adult sizes.
The plan now is to go to New York City to help deliver the donated sweatshirts, the Turners say.
“I think Trinity Church in Hackettstown does runs for Midnight Run and I asked if we could come along if she’s not too young,” says Kelly Turner. If she is too young, then they will just give them the sweatshirts to deliver for them.
This was the first year that Ruby Turner decided to donate to a charity in lieu of birthday gifts, says her mom.
“She really did not get any gifts for her other than from us,” says Kelly Turner. “She was quite adamant about it. We are taking her to get her ears pierced tonight and that is what she was most excited about.”
Perhaps the greatest gift is teaching her children, including Ruby’s 13-year-old brother Jack who donated a bunch of his sweatshirts for Ruby’s cause- to be mindful that there are people out there who are in need of life’s basic necessities.
One year they collected food to donate to the local food pantry, she says, by placing a bin on their front doorstep.
“We give to the food bank; we’re actually always giving clothes to clothing drives,” says Kelly Turner, adding that her mother-in-law Mindy Turner in Randolph, collects items for the Jersey Battered Women’s Association.
Their goal as a family is to participate in one project per year, says the mom.
Why donate to the homeless?
“It was the connection I made,” says Kelly Turner, through Facebook and the church, as well as what her daughter has seen when they visit New York City.
“We visit New York a lot,” says Kelly Turner, to eat dinner or attend plays. “She sees people on the street; that people don’t have homes. She doesn’t see as much of that here.”
Seeing homeless people on the streets makes Ruby Turner feel “sad,” the birthday girl says. “There’s a bunch of people who have so much and don’t know where to spend it and they [homeless people] are just living on the streets.”
Like the sweatshirts that will hopefully provide warmth to the homeless, their kind donation warmed Turners’ hearts.
“It opened our eyes that it’s good to give back,” says Kelly Turner. “We are average middle Americans; we really have a lot” and other people do not.
“It makes me feel really happy,” says Ruby Turner, a member of the Girl Scouts, singer in the show choir and lacrosse player. “I just like giving.”
To donate a new or gently worn sweatshirt email firstname.lastname@example.org; or order through Amazon on Ruby Turner’s wish list page:
By Cheryl Conway
The following is a wrap-up of issues raised at the last Mt. Olive Township Board of Education meeting held Monday, Feb. 10.
Concerned Bus Drivers
Several bus drivers employed by the Mt. Olive School District attended the last Mt. Olive BOE meeting to raise their concern regarding safety, discipline and communication breakdown.
Rob Sherman, husband of one of the bus drivers, was asked to be spokesperson by some transportation members to raise their issues at the board meeting.
The “core of the issue is child safety,” said Sherman. “They are grateful for their job,” he says of the bus drivers, however, maintains there is a “systematic failure for providing safe transportation for some of the students they transfer.”
When one African American bus driver was called a racial slur earlier this school year the student was placed on a different run with no mention of any other disciplinary action, Sherman said. The driver said she felt like “this was a slap” in her face,” he said.
Another bus driver who is Spanish was called a “a b..ch,” and “they [students] continue to ride the school bus.”
Sherman suggested that students be reprimanded by having to serve detention if they misbehave on the bus.
“They [the bus drivers] are asking for your help,” said Sherman. One bus driver, who happens to be Sherman’s wife, resigned “after being under distress,” he said. She had worked for transportation for 11 years, but “rather than looking into it,” and after having to wait two and a half months to meet with administration to discuss the incident and being allotted just 30 minutes, she resigned, he said.
“Two-and-a- half months went by, not one person said we care what you feel, what you think,” said Sherman.
His wife, along with the other drivers, have been told that they need to fill out a form whenever an issue arises on their bus route, he said.
“No one knew the existence of the form until the meeting last week,” he said.
When it comes to the safety of the kids, the bus driver is liable. They are driving “25 pounds rolling steel glass machines. They are being left liable of what is happening on the bus,” if a bus gets wrecked, if a child gets hurt.
“They are asking for help to make the bus a safe place for the children,” said Sherman. “If you have one, two, three who can’t meet the code of conduct, if they are putting other children, bus driver in danger…why are they waiting for someone to get hurt? Why were they not given the form?”
Continued Sherman, “If you can’t put students’ safety first; if you can’t give them the support from the top down, someone’s going to get hurt. The form is great; no one has a copy of the form; no one knows it exists.”
Said Sherman, “My wife has been out of employment for two-and-a half months; she would love to do her job” but asking the bus driver to take the liability of the kids without the support from the administration is too much.
“No one wants to put their neck on the line,” said Sherman. “Why can’t one of them come up here? They’re grateful, they are thankful,” but they “don’t feel they can safely transfer the kids.
Disciplining the kids “shouldn’t be any difference on the school bus,” said Sherman. Students on the bus should get the same punishment as those kids in the classroom who misbehave.
BOE President Anthony Giordano responded to Sherman and the bus drivers at the meeting and said, “We do respect you,” and suggested that they get the form to file so that any complaint “can be properly investigated.”
BOE Member Liz Ouimet thanked the bus drivers for the great job that they do, especially for transporting her four children to and from school.
“It’s documentation,” she said regarding their issue. “Get the forms in.”
BOE Member Anthony Strillacci spoke about when he was board president in 1998 and had a similar complaint about an incident on the bus. So the next day, he rode the bus, took the misbehaved kids off the bus and told their parents.
“We will look into it because we want everyone to be safe,” said Strillacci. “The superintendent has your interests at heart.”
BOE Member Dr. Antoine Gayles said “my daughter still rides the bus today. I rely on the skill of the bus driver to get my 10-year old to school.” He suggested that if there is an incident, the bus driver should call security or police.
“You pull over,” said Gayles. “Distracted driving is dangerous driving. If your safety is in danger, you call police, in my opinion. Looking through a manual, not the first thing to do. I just gave my non legal-opinion.”
The school board attorney disagreed and said bus drivers need to follow the manual on how to deal with situations.
Mt. Olive Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki responded by saying bus drivers can get the form from the district Business Administrator Gail Libby. The form needs to go to administration once filed and then to the school principals for action.
“I rely on administration who are educators with masters’ degrees and certifications” when it comes to student code of conduct, Zywicki said on a telephone interview after the meeting.
While he reserved comment regarding the personnel issue, Zywicki said bus drivers have procedures they are supposed to follow in the district. They attend multiple days of safety training, such as with N.J. police, and they are all certified, licensed and trained annually.
Full Day Kindergarten
The issue of full day kindergarten was raised again as the board steps closer toward making it a reality.
One woman spoke up during public comments and said she supports full-day kindergarten as it provides more consistency for the kids, a chance to build relationships with their friends as well as more time for activities like art and music.
Another woman, who works as a realtor, said homebuyers would choose a town such as Long Valley to reside rather than Mt. Olive since there is no full-day kindergarten here.
How to expense full-day kindergarten in Mt. Olive continues to be the burning questions.
BOE Member William Robinson said “I have a problem with full-day kindergarten because of the cost.
“We have a loss” in revenue, he said, adding that he wants “to know how much more it’s going to cost us?” Providing full-day kindergarten will affect other things such as too many students in a class, the need to hire more teachers.
“Teachers told us they don’t want 25 kids in a class,” said Robinson. It is a problem “if it causes us to lose programs or intervention. When our kids leave here they are doing a very good job; they are ready,” when they get out there whether in college or professions.
“I understand more playing time, more music,” said Robinson, “I just don’t want to screw up on what happens afterwards. This is a very big issue for us. I’d like it to be very specific report. I’ve been fighting this for 20 years because I want it to be paid for.
“We’re getting a lot more kids, will be a larger kindergarten, will need more teachers,” said Robinson adding that the recent demographic study showed growth after five years. “It’s no different than what we had last 20 years.”
Giordano responded to Robinson saying that when the budget committee has it, they will look at the numbers.
“Just wait for the report to trust the information,” said Giordano.
As his assessment of the district when he first came on board, Zywicki recognized full-day kindergarten as one of its needs.
“When I came into the district, I assessed our elementary program and our needs,” said Zywicki. Those included the need to teach world language at the elementary level, which is now being offered, as well as provide an inclusive special education environment and full-day kindergarten.
He said he is “trying to fill those needs. Our students will benefit with full-day kindergarten, as well as our community.”
The district has the space without having to add another building or even add onto a building, says Zywicki.
Mt. Olive is the only district in Morris County that does not offer full-day kindergarten, Zywicki confirmed.
Zywicki briefed board members Monday night, Feb. 10, about the most recent NJSLA scores in math and language arts for each grade level.
In his student performance update, he summed up that scores between PARCC and NJSLA are vastly different.
“There are a lot of validity issues,” he says when looking at the data that came in September that examined scores from 2019 and compared them to 2018 scores. “You can’t compare PARCC to NJSLA.”
While they are both “standardized tests, they are “very different.” Zywicki notes that the NJSLA is a “more difficult test.”
The ELA scores for fourth graders received an 80.7 percent, which is the highest in the county, while math scores came in at 50 percent in the elementary grades. Considering that the state average in math yields 40 percent of the students passing, Mt. Olive is still ahead of the pact, he says.
Last year, a new math program was introduced at the elementary level called Envisions, which provides a lot of online resources, says Zywicki.
“It’s been an adjustment for our teachers,” he says. Middle school students continued to struggle with math.
The district remains proactive in trying to improve student test scores. When there was a major decline in writing scores, it introduced more writers’ workshops, he says.
Test scores, such as NJSLA, is a “general thumbnail of progress” that school leaders use to gage students’ performance, notes Zywicki. There is a “lot of data that we use.”
The district uses Response To Intervention Success, Mt. Olive Success Academy and even offers remediation in the classroom as tools to improve students’ performance.
“We’ve made steady progress,” comments BOE Member Dr. Antoine Gayles. Looking at the past five years, “one year of data is nothing to ring an alarm bell. Test scores are not the end all be all,” and education leaders can look at curriculum, personnel and finance to make adjustments.
BOE To Get New Laptops
Students are not the only ones getting new devices to use during the school year. Board members have been using the same laptops for the past six years and are due for new ones.
The school district had purchased Macbook Pro laptops for BOE members back in June 2014 in order to implement BoardDocs paperless meeting platform. Since these laptops reach end of “their estimated useful lives of five years and were fully depreciated on June 30, 2019,” according to an action item on the BOE agenda, the board approved the purchase of these “end-of-life laptops” for $1 to board members.
The BOE authorized the purchase of new replacement laptops at the last meeting.
Zywicki said board members may use existing Chromebooks that are on the cart in the BOE office as their replacement devices.
Diversity Of Hiring
Gayles raised the issue of diversity of hiring again at the last BOE meeting. His concern is that the ethnic background of the current teachers within the Mt. Olive School district does not match up with the ethnicity of the students.
Zywicki agreed and said he plans to provide a full report at the next BOE meeting set for Monday, March 9.
When he came on board as superintendent, Zywicki said he noticed that “our teaching staff does not reflect our student population.” There is a “lack of diversity that we have. It’s a complete disconnect” from the community.
He admitted he was quite “frankly shocked” at the lack of diversity of the teaching staff within the Mt. Olive schools, so he shared his concern with the BOE in January 2019.
Zywicki “wants more diverse qualified candidates for hire,” he said. Instead of paper resumes and cover letters, Zywicki is implementing candidates to apply online using methods such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin in order to “get the best candidates possible” to “recruit the most diverse high-trained work force.”
The district can use Linkedin and social media in their hiring practices.
“We were recruiting just by taking out a classified ad in the Star Ledger,” he said. Now, he said, the district “is caught up with the times.”
There will also be a greater effort of on campus recruiting as well as an upcoming job fair hosted within the district “to cast a wider net to recruit our teaches,” said Zywicki.
Gayles said he is “happy we are looking at diversity. The role we have for kids of color, as it grows” so does the need to look at staffing. He said it is important “if our kids are brown or black, that they have role models.”
Motion Tabled For Professional Development
The BOE did not approve the professional development programs deemed appropriate by Zywicki at the last BOE meeting. The motion was tabled for further discussion.
BOE Member William Robinson questioned the $30k in spending to cover the cost for the annual professional development opportunities offered to the district.
“I just think this is overkill,” said Robinson especially when “the same people go every year.” Cost to attend is $2,300 per person. I’d like to see it tabled until the next board meeting.
BOE Member John Petrie also voted to table the action.
Giordano disagreed with Robinson saying “these conferences are for leadership. I’m so in favor of this. We’ve been doing the same thing for the past 10 years.”
He suggests the board considers NJSA leadership conferences instead since “it’s a lot cheaper.”
Looking at those who attend these programs year after year, it was revealed that 14 of the same people return to the same conference.
Job Shadow Day
The groundhog did not see his shadow this year, signs for an earlier spring….but high school students can find their shadow on Job Shadow day set to be held on March 24.
Sign-ups opened on Tuesday, Feb. 18, for businesses and students to participate. Call MOHS at 973-927-2208 for more information.
BOE Member Liz Ouimet thanked a 1978 graduate for giving back to the school district by donating to the district’s Rock and Roll Academy and Jazz Band. The board accepted the donation from Scott Gannon who provided an Epiphone Les Paul Custom Guitar worth $400; and ESP ec1000 Les Paul Guitar worth $400; a Marshall 50-watt amp worth $300 and a Berringer 100-watt amp worth $300.
BOE President Anthony Giordano recognized Ouimet for her role as board president for the past three years and presented her with a gift.
“It is thankless,” said Giordano, when it comes to the volunteers elected to serve on the school board, especially those who serve as its president. “I’m here to say ‘thank-you on behalf of the board.’”
By Cheryl Conway
Jumping in just one month ago, the new athletic director at Mt. Olive High School is settling in his role as an active team player.
Mark Grilo, 42, of Long Valley is the new athletic director replacing David Falleni after 13 years who got promoted to vice principal at MOHS. Grilo started on Jan. 24 after being hired by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki and approved by the Mt. Olive Board of Education on Nov. 25, 2019.
Out of 40 candidates, Grilo was hired after a six-phase interview process involving administrators, coaches, parents and students, explains Zywicki. Based on his background as having master’s degrees in business administration and education, player and coaching resume, capability in managing a large populated parade- The Portugal Day celebration in the U.S.- and communication abilities, Zywicki says Grilo was his leading candidate for the spot.
“He’s a guy who can a handle large scale events,” says Zywicki, and he possesses “tremendous communication skills,” both essential abilities to have as an effective athletic director.
Coming from a sports background from his upbringing and passion, Grilo knew the vacancy for AD in Mt. Olive would be an ideal position for him to fill.
“I have a very diverse background in sports,” says Grilo. “We’ve always been a very enthusiastic sports’ family. It’s something I grew up with and love.”
Grilo’s father, Fernando Grilo, played for a semi-professional soccer team in Portugal, and also played and coached in the United States.
His brother played baseball and soccer in high school. Grilo played soccer, ran track and cross country and played lacrosse in high school at Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange.
During his collegiate years at Drew University in Madison, where he earned his bachelor’s in political science in 1999, Grilo was a four-year starter of the lacrosse team, and captain for two years, yielding two ECAC Championships in 1998- 1999.
He then went on to Wesley College in Dover, Del., for a master’s in business administration and sports management in 2003. While at Wesley, Grilo served as the head lacrosse coach and director of Intramural Athletics and Athletic Department Game Day supervisor 2003-2004; and was the assistant lacrosse coach 2001-2002.
“I really fell in love with coaching,” says Grilo who tells how the role fell into his hands during an unfortunate time. While serving as an assistant lacrosse coach at Wesley College, the head lacrosse coach, Dave Reynolds, had a fatal accident at the age of 24 while surfing at Ocean City on Easter Sunday 2002.
Grilo took over as head coach during this tragic time. The devastating loss of their coach forced the team to band together with a mission to play in the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (PAC) championship game that year under Grilo’s leadership, he explains.
Despite that “We lost the championship game,” says Grilo, the team would have never made it to play in the championship game if it were not for the tragedy that gave them such an enormous purpose. “A close friend of mine passed away but we still had a goal to achieve.”
This impactful event steered Grilo toward athletics and coaching.
“I just really realized my love of coaching and really guiding young men achieving a common goal,” he says. From the experience, he learned the importance of team-work and overcoming adversity.
Besides coaching and playing multiple sports, Grilo has worked as an educator. He spent 16 years as a business teacher at Morris Hills and Morris Knolls high schools. While there, he was the assistant boys’ and girls’ lacrosse coach since 2014; assistant girls soccer coach 2007-2014; head boys’ lacrosse coach 2005-2012.
Grilo went on to get his master’s in educational leadership in 2018 from Montclair State University.
When he learned about the opening for an athletic director, Grilo knew the opportunity would be a perfect fit for him to combine his experience in education, athlete and 17 years of coaching.
He applied in October 2019 and started January 24.
“I’ve always respected Mt. Olive as a community,” says Grilo who has lived nearby the past 16 years with his wife Amy Grilo who works as a physical education teacher at Morris Knolls High School, and their two children, five-year old daughter Nina, and two-year old son Milo.
“It’s a great place to live and work. I wanted to be a part of it and I wanted to be a Marauder. It’s a great community with great people. I was very excited to be accepted.”
With great respect for the Mt. Olive sports program, Grilo says he is “fortunate to have Dave Falleni here” to advise as a resource while he gets used to his new role. He realizes his challenge is “my inexperience with my position.”
He says his goals are “to serve our coaches and community to the best of my ability; to make Mt. Olive athletics the great institution that it is. I’m just continuing that tradition.”
So far, he says, “it’s going great. The community is great, students are awesome. I’m very excited to be able to work here in this great community.”
Senior Molly Conway signs her Commitment Letter to play Division 1 women’s soccer at Radford University, in Radford, Va. At a special signing ceremony held Thursday, Feb. 6, at Mt. Olive High School, Conway is congratulated by many friends, coaches and family. Pictured, from back left, is Athletic Director Mark Grilo; Todd Conway, Molly’s dad; MOHS Girls’ Varsity Head Soccer Coach Sarah Colbath; Cheryl Conway, Molly’s mom; Assistant Varsity Girls’ Soccer Coach Leigh Yonoso (Conklin); front left, sophomore Eli Conway, Molly’s brother; Molly Conway; 8th grader Devin Conway, Molly’s youngest brother. Molly Conway keeps pace with two of her older brothers, MOHS alumni, Jonah and Skylar Conway, who currently play Division 1 Men's Soccer at Marist College.
Nico Negron signing a National Letter of Intent to play D1 football in the fall at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. He is joined by his brother, sister and mother at his signing held at Mt. Olive High School on Thursday, Feb. 6.
Jenna Gorospe signs her agreement to run track at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. Track Coach Vanessa Benfatti, back left, joins Gorospe’s family at MOHS for signing day.
Liam Gill and Jon Wiedow commit to play lacrosse at the collegiate level. Gill plans to attend Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Va.; and Wiedow plans to attend Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Senior athletes Lindsay Walter, Yani Kalas and Anthony Spera commit earlier this school year to compete at the collegiate level in the fall. Walter plans to play softball at Binghamton University in Vetal, N.Y.; Kalas, lacrosse at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark; and Spera, wrestling at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C.
Seniors Kaylen Summer and Brittany Wilder commit in November 2019 to compete in college for women’s lacrosse and acro-tumbling, respectively. Summer will be attending Pace University in New York, N.Y., and Wilder to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.
Senior athletes Shannon Meisel, Mikaela Timmermans and Kelly Bonante committed to play their sport at the collegiate level back in Dec. 2019. Meisel intends to play lacrosse at University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa.; Timmermans commits to playing soccer at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.; and Bonante plans to play soccer at King’s College in Wilkes Barre, Pa.
Mt. Olive High School freshman, Luis M. Jimenez, was recently ranked 6th in the nation among high school freshmen for throwing a 9 lb. ball in shotput.
For those with a passion for wrestling, what a way to win on Valentine’s Day!
Mt. Olive High School Wrestling Coach Sean Smyth celebrates 300th career win with his team after defeating Fair Lawn for North 1 Group 4 sectional title on Friday, Feb. 14. Held at MOHS, the Marauders beat Fair Lawn 54-18 in the NJSIAA / Rothman Orthopaedics North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 wrestling tournament championship match.
Two days later, on Sunday, Feb. 16, they lost 40-19 against undefeated North Hunterdon in the state final.
Photo courtesy: MO's Athletic Dept's Twitter Page.
Income Tax Assistance
NORWESCAP will once again offer free income tax assistance to senior citizens, disabled, and income eligible New Jersey residents at Mt. Olive Public Library.
Tax assistance is offered every Thursday through April 9 from 10 a.m.-3:15 p.m.
There will also be appointments available on the following Saturdays: March 7; and March 28 from 9:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m.
Tax assistance is offered by appointment only! Appointments this year will NOT be made through the library! To make an appointment, call NORWESCAP at: (973) 784-4900 Ext. 3502 or visit website at: https://tinyurl.com/VITAMtOlive.
The library will still provide access to tax forms and instructions, reference materials to help demystify the tax filing process, and online access for e-filing.
NORWESCAP is a private, non-profit corporation established to serve the low-income population of northwest New Jersey. The agency employs about 300 persons, both full and part time, dedicated to housing development, energy conservation, childcare, Head Start, volunteerism, and much more. Community Action remains an important local resource for families with NORWESCAP and other agencies across the state demonstrating their cost- effective service delivery method which creates thriving communities.
College Seminar Set
The Mt. Olive Public Library plans to host a “Get an Edge for College ….and Learn How to Pay for It” on Wednesday, March 4, at 6 p.m.-7 p.m. in the Gathering Room.
Join Paul Kelly, a private guidance counselor from College Edge Counseling Services, for this free seminar.
Registration requested. Call 973-691-8686, ext. 106 or go to www.mopl.org to register.
Italy Returns To Mt Olive Library
Join in at the Gathering Room on Thursday, March 5, from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. for Italian Movie Night 13, featuring the movie “Ieri, Oggi, Domani” (“Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”) presented by Domenico Tancredi.
“Ieri, Oggi, Domani” is a 1964 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. It is a three-story comedy by Vittorio De Sica, starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in all three stories. In Italian with English subtitles.
Registration requested. Call 973-691-8686 ext. 106 or go to www.mopl.org to register.
“Tastefully British” Fish & Chips Dinner Is Coming
Join in at the First Presbyterian Church’s Chapel in Hackettstown on Friday, April 24, from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Tickets are $16 for adults; $9 for children under 12.
Advanced ticket purchase is required! For tickets call Ellen @ 908-637-6236.
Waterloo Road In Netcong-Mt.Olive To Close Starting Monday
Work is set to start Monday morning, Feb. 24, on the replacement of the bi-county Waterloo Road bridge, which spans Netcong and Mount Olive in Morris County and connects with Stanhope in Sussex County.
The bridge replacement will require closure of Waterloo Road, with a 2.5-mile detour installed for the estimated nine-month project. The detour will utilize Continental Drive, Route 46, Ledgewood Avenue, Main Street, and Kelly Place.
Replacement is needed because the bridge is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.
The superstructure is in poor condition due to severe rust and there has been some loss of the bottom cord of the truss as well as in the floor beams and interior stringers.
Currently, the bridge has a posted four-ton weight limit.
The contractor on the $2.3 million bid project is Marbro Inc. of Long Branch. This project is state funded.
Waterloo Road bridge, or county bridge number 1401-038, is a single span steel truss originally built in 1894. It carries about 1,100 vehicles per day. Currently, it is 18-feet wide and 43-feet long and carries two lanes of traffic –one in each direction.
There is a steel open-grid sidewalk on the north fascia of the bridge, with an ornamental pedestrian railing.
The project will require careful removal and storage of the existing trusses and pedestrian railing, followed by the removal of the remaining bridge.
The new structure then will be installed – pre-stressed concrete box beams supported on stone faced concrete abutments and wing walls, with a concrete deck, curbs, and bridge railings -- and approach roadway work also will be done.
To maintain some of the historic character of the original bridge, the original trusses will be restored and re-installed. The new 37-foot wide by 40-foot long span also will get a new and wider and new ornamental pedestrian rail on the south side of the bridge.
Advance warning signs about the project have been installed on roads near the bridge to warn motorists about the closure and pending detour.
Now entering its seventh year of operation, the Community Garden at South Branch Preserve has plots available for the 2020 season, which runs from April 1 through November 30.
“The camaraderie and friendships among the gardeners has been amazing, and the gardeners donated over 350 lbs. of excess produce in 2019,” said Barbara McCloskey, garden manager and Membership & Outreach manager for the Land Conservancy.
The annual membership rate for Mt. Olive Township residents and/or members of The Land Conservancy is $35 per 10’ x10’ plot and $45 for non- residents. There is a one-time irrigation fee of $30 for each plot.
The Community Garden is located at the intersection of Wolfe Road and Route 46 West. It is part of South Branch Preserve, which totals over 200 acres in this location. Preserved by The Land Conservancy and its partners (including Mt. Olive Township) this land was purchased to protect the headwaters of the South Branch of the Raritan River, a drinking water supply source for over 1.5 million New Jersey residents.
The garden is surrounded by fencing, to keep out deer and rodents, including rabbits and groundhogs. A shed is located onsite, which houses some gardening supplies. Gardeners are encouraged to bring their own gardening tools. Water is provided by The Land Conservancy by individual spigots and hoses throughout the garden. Only organic gardening practices are allowed at the Preserve.
Founded in 1981, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey is a member supported, non-profit land trust dedicated to preserving and protecting vital natural lands and water resources throughout the State. The Land Conservancy has preserved over 27,000 acres of land and helped towns secure $235 million in county, state, and federal grants for their land conservation projects.
Accredited by the National Land Trust Accreditation Commission in 2009, and reaccredited in 2015, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has worked with 100 municipalities in 13 counties and is recognized for meeting the highest quality standards for protecting open space, upholding the public trust, and ensuring that their conservation efforts are permanent.
For more information about the work of The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, visit www.tlc-nj.org or call (973) 541-1010.
The Morris County Heritage Commission is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a calendar of special programming to highlight many aspects of Morris County's history.
Anniversary programs for 2020 will include a wide variety of topics that celebrate and acknowledge Morris County’s rich history. The topics were selected from featured articles published in the Commission’s newsletter “The Heritage Review,” previously known as the “County Circular,” since the first issue in 1977.
Original newsletters from the 1970s through 2019 are available online at https://mchc.morriscountynj.gov/.
"We thank the Heritage Commission for 50 great years of educating us on the important role Morris County played in our nation's history, from its founding and formative years, through the Civil War and World Wars I and II, to the present day,'' said Morris County Freeholder Director Deborah Smith.
"The staff and all volunteer members of the Heritage Commission over the past half century are to be congratulated for their outstanding efforts in calling attention to our great history,'' Smith added.
To help commemorate this year-long anniversary, the Heritage Commission created a specially designed 50th- anniversary logo which features the Morris County Courthouse. The courthouse was selected because Heritage Commission offices were located there in the early 1970s and historic records and documents were housed there in the 19th century.
The color gold represents 50th anniversaries. Aubergine is the color associated with wisdom, dignity, devotion, and humanitarianism and is used on the Commission's web page and Facebook page and newsletter banner.
Currently scheduled 50th anniversary programs, all held at the Morris County Library, include:
The Founding of MCHC- Am/ Rev/Bicentennial, presented by MCHC Staff Jude Pfister from Morristown NHP on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Picatinny Arsenal History and Archaeology with Jason Huggan and Jeff Ranu, Picatinny/ARDEC, on April 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Civil War in New Jersey with Dr. David Martin, N.J. Civil War Association, May 13, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Historic Preservation with Janet Foster, Architectural historian, June 4, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
How to Make Sure You are Researching the Correct Family, Susan Simon of the Morris Area Genealogy Society, July 16, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Technology Firsts in Morris County with Paul Israel, director of the Edison Papers at Rutgers, Sept. 26, noon to 4 p.m.
Also, a presentation on Women's Suffrage is under development for later this year.
In addition to anniversary programming, the Commission will:
Co-sponsor the 2020 Local History Symposium with the Canal Society of New Jersey at the Morris County Cultural Center in Mendham Township on April 25; present a Grant Writing Basics workshop on Aug. 19 at the Morris County Library in Hanover Township; Participate in the annual Morristown Fall Festival in late September.
The Morris County Heritage Commission, which was created in 1970, is charged with maintaining the County Archives, publishing a newsletter and brochures relating to Morris County history, placing and maintaining historical site markers, and curating public programs, workshops and small exhibits.
Since its inception, on behalf of the Board of Freeholders, the Heritage Commission also has facilitated the understanding and preservation of Morris County’s diverse heritage by administering the county re-grant program, with funding provided by the New Jersey Historical Commission for nonprofit organizations.
History organizations, such as historical societies, museums, and historic preservation societies are eligible to apply for general operating support or project grants between $1,000 and $7,000. Fraternal, veterans’, education, youth and ethnic organizations can apply for project grants ranging from$500 to $5,000.
Members of the Heritage Commission staff are professional historians and archivists and offer guidance and assistance to nonprofit organizations on archival and history subjects.
Stay tuned to the Heritage Commission's website and Facebook page for program announcements and updates.
CCM President Selected For New Presidents Fellowship Program
Dr. Anthony J. Iacono, president of County College of Morris in Randolph, has been selected by the Aspen Institute to join the 2020-21 inaugural class of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship, a new initiative designed to support community college presidents in the early years of their tenure to accelerate transformational change on behalf of students.
Iacono is one of 25 Aspen Fellows selected from more than 100 applicants nationwide for this opportunity, which is fully funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and run by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. The leaders, all of whom are in their first five years as a college president, will engage in a seven-month fellowship beginning in June 2020.
“We are delighted that Dr. Iacono is being recognized by such a prestigious organization for the outstanding work he has been doing at CCM to ensure the success of our students and to provide the pathways for individuals to reach their dreams and build a better for life for themselves, their families and communities,” said Thomas Pepe, chair of the college’s Board of Trustees.
The fellows were selected for their commitment to student success and equity, willingness to take risks to improve outcomes, understanding of the importance of community partnerships, and ability to lead change.
“We know more than ever before about how community colleges can improve outcomes for students, both in and after college,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “And the urgency for them to do so only increases – especially for students of color and low-income students. These fellows have shown they are fully, urgently committed to excellence and equity, and we look forward to working alongside them.”
Nearly 80 percent of community college presidents nationwide plan to retire in the next decade. Through this fellowship and its other leadership programs, Aspen is committed to helping to replace those exiting the presidency with an exceptionally capable and highly diverse talent pool. According to the American Council on Education, only 36 percent of community college presidents are female, and 20 percent are people of color. The incoming class of Aspen fellows is 48 percent female, and 40 percent are people of color. Their institutions span 15 states and vary widely, from a rural college with fewer than 2,000 students to a statewide system that educates more than 150,000.
The program for new presidents is an addition to the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, which has been serving aspiring presidents since 2016. Of the nearly 160 fellows who have taken part in the Rising Presidents Fellowship, 41 are now community college presidents, serving more than 500,000 students.
“By preparing students and workers for in-demand jobs and meeting the training needs of businesses, community colleges are critical institutions for their regions’ prosperity and development,” said Jennie Sparandara, head of workforce initiatives, JPMorgan Chase. “JPMorgan Chase is proud to partner with the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program to build the next generation of diverse community college leaders.”
JPMorgan Chase is funding the Aspen Presidential Fellowship as part of New Skills at Work, a five-year, $350 million investment to support community colleges and other pathways to great careers and economic mobility.
As a Presidential Fellow, Iacono will attend two residential seminars led by Aspen faculty and other leading community college professionals, analyze CCM’s student outcomes, devise plans to tackle student success challenges and take part in networking and other learning opportunities.
Iacono became CCM’s third president in 2016. A community college graduate, he is a strong believer in the power of community colleges to transform lives. Under his leadership, CCM has developed an academic success center, a food pantry, a childcare assistance program and other support services to assist students in meeting their goal of obtaining a college education. He also has focused on expanding the number of partnerships with community organizations to provide as many people as possible with pathways to realize their dreams for a better future. As he likes to note, “Every individual deserves a great education regardless of the circumstances of their birth.” Included among those efforts, CCM has launched Dover College Promise to provide middle and high school students in Dover, NJ, a predominately Hispanic community, with free after-school support services, mentoring and a pathway to attend college. Should they elect to attend CCM, those students will have their tuition fully funded under that program.
Also during his tenure as president, CCM has redesigned its vocational and technical education training programs to better prepare individuals interested in careers in such fields as advanced manufacturing and engineering. Supporting that effort, CCM is constructing a 31,500-square-foot Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering that is schedule to open this fall. Last year, CCM also received a $4 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to lead a consortium of New Jersey community colleges in designing a network of apprenticeship programs in advanced manufacturing.
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices and leadership strategies that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit highered.aspeninstitute.org and follow us on Twitter at @AspenHigherEd.
Centenary Unveiled New Baseball Complex Home Opener
The calendar may still say winter, but Centenary University’s baseball team isn’t waiting to open its spring season. The Cyclones was set to host its first-ever home baseball game on Friday, Feb. 21, at Our Diamond of Dreams, the University’s new baseball complex, located on the Hackettstown campus.
The home opener was a doubleheader vs. Lehman College, with games scheduled at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The event featured musical entertainment, refreshments and lots of Cyclone spirit.
Diamond of Dreams is a state-of-the-art complex located at the southeast corner of the Centenary University campus. At a field dedication last fall, Steve Somers ’19 HA, who with his wife, Sharon, was lead donor for the new complex, threw out the first pitch at the field. The Cyclones also played a friendly game against Centenary baseball alumni to christen the field.
Centenary Co-hosts Night To Shine Prom
Centenary University in Hackettstown partnered with St. Luke Special Needs Ministry to host its second annual Night to Shine sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation on Friday, Feb. 7. Held in the David and Carol Lackland Center, the free event offered an unforgettable prom experience for teens and adults with special needs, ages 14 and up.
At Night to Shine held on Centenary’s campus, every guest received a red-carpet welcome, complete with a friendly crowd and paparazzi. Once inside, the royal treatment for guests included stations for hair, makeup, and shoe shining, limousine rides, corsages and boutonnieres, a catered dinner, dancing, professional photos, and a respite room for parents and caretakers. Staffing the event were Centenary University students and representatives from St. Luke Special Needs Ministry. Based at St. Luke Parish in Long Valley, the ministry provides an inclusive spiritual, social, and educational environment for children and adults with special needs and their families.
Hackettstown police officers served as special guests, recreating last year’s big Night to Shine moment with their performance of The Village People’s “YMCA” at the request of attendees. Police officers also posed with attendees throughout the evening.
Rachel Danitz, community engagement coordinator at Centenary University, noted that the event promotes inclusion and fosters community pride.
“We were so proud to again host this special night on our campus,” Danitz explained. “It was a chance for our community to join together and create awareness for those with special needs, as well as making these remarkable members of our community feel special. It truly was a night to remember.”
Now in its sixth year, Night to Shine is a worldwide movement that changes the narrative on how people with special needs are viewed. Events are held simultaneously on one night each February. This year, 721 host organizations and 215,000 volunteers—including Centenary University students—in 50 states and 24 countries celebrated 115,000 honored guests with special needs.
Student Coach Inspires Centenary’s Men’s B-Ball Team
Centenary University freshman Kyle O’Brien of Hopatcong knows a lot about defying the odds. It all began at age 8, when he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
Doctors predicted that the sports-loving kid would: Die three months after diagnosis; spend his life in a wheelchair; need special education classes; give up the sports he loved.
O’Brien’s response: a resounding, “No way!” With fierce determination, he fought back. His parents, Jen and Pat O’Brien, searched the country for the right doctor. As a youth, he endured grueling chemotherapy and radiation, as well as multiple surgeries to treat the non-malignant tumor in his brainstem. The treatments left him weak, affecting his reflexes and making him unable to walk. O’Brien pressed on, attending school in a wheelchair, but dragging himself onto the family’s treadmill in the evening to build his strength. Eventually, he would spend three hours on the treadmill each night.
Throughout O’Brien’s treatments, his mother insisted that he continue going to school, although his elementary school offered to send a home tutor. The kid who doctors predicted would suffer from severe memory loss instead became an honor student.
Thankfully, the tumor stabilized, and O’Brien grew stronger. A glaring problem remained: He missed sports. By then a teenager, O’Brien channeled his passion into coaching, attending coaching camps and learning all he could before stepping up to help coach the Hopatcong High School basketball and baseball teams for four years.
Today, O’Brien’s tumor has remained stable for nine years. He is a freshman at Centenary University in Hackettstown, where he helps to coach the university’s men’s basketball team. His job: Breakdown of films and special situations. After spending a full day in classes—where he maintains a perfect 4.0 average—and the team’s practice, O’Brien goes home to settle into homework and several hours of analyzing film. He’s generally finished at about 1:30 a.m., grabbing a few hours’ sleep before starting the next day at 6 a.m. Kyle’s dedication to academics and coaching is a key part of his determination to keep the tumor at bay.
While O’Brien’s position is unpaid, Assistant Coach Paul Jones is quick to point out that this is no sympathy position.
“We really consider him a part of the staff,” said Jones, who met the O’Brien family when coaching younger brother, Jason. “Kyle is really good at diving into special situations. When another team is running a play, Kyle calls it. He’s been lights out for us with that.”
At first, players may have found it odd to be coached by a freshman. That has quickly faded.
“The respect they give me is unbelievable,” O’Brien explained.
When things get tough on the court, Kyle delivers an important message: Never give up.
He tells players, “You can have a bad day and not score. You can get hurt and be out a week. It’s not the end of the world. I can never play again, but I didn’t sit and feel sorry for myself. I found another way to pursue the career I love.”
Someday, O’Brien would like to coach on the college level, or become a college athletic director. A Centenary business major with a concentration in sports and entertainment management, he is hoping to launch his career by becoming a graduate assistant at a Division I university.
At the beginning of the season, Centenary’s coaching staff dubbed O’Brien “Kobe,” after NBA legend Kobe Bryant. That moniker has taken on extra special meaning with the recent death of Bryant.
“Kyle is our hero,” Jones explained. “He’s the engine that gets us going. Every day, we look at him and say, ‘If he can do it, why can’t we?’”
Lecturer Challenges Perceptions About Disabilities
Renowned authority on access and design for the disabled Dr. Amanda Kraus, recently presented “Everyday Ableism: Challenging What We Think We Know about Disability” in the latest installment of Centenary University’s Gates-Ferry Distinguished Visiting Lecture series in Hackettstown.
A well-known speaker in the United States and abroad, Kraus identified stereotypes that contribute to ableist policy, practice, and attitudes to move toward practical strategies that create more inclusive and welcoming spaces, processes and experiences. The Tucson, Ariz., resident is assistant vice president for campus life and executive director for disability resources and housing & residential life at the University of Arizona. Outside of work, Kraus is an avid wheelchair tennis player. As past president of the United States Tennis Association Southern Arizona District Board, she works to grow opportunities for disabled players and increase the national visibility of wheelchair tennis.
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