Mt. Olive Online Publication February 5, 2020

Mt. Olive Online
Mt. Olive Online

Students Experience Success As Kidsville Returns To CMS

By Cheryl Conway

Second graders at Chester M. Stephens Elementary School in Budd Lake have been hanging out in their community this month for a hands-on experience into the real world.

A favorite program held years ago, Kidsville has returned to CMS for the entire month of May. Every afternoon from 12:50 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., 110 students are living in a mock town with assigned jobs and responsibilities.

The community comes to life for these students who get to experience different jobs like working at a bank, delivering mail, singing and writing songs, reporting on news stories and teaching others.

“It has been exciting opening the doors to our Kidsville Community again,” says Ann M. Scotland, longtime second grade teacher at CMS who was instrumental in bringing the program back to the elementary school.

“Second grade teachers thought that Kidsville would be a great exploration for this time of the year,” says Scotland, adding that it has been about 12 years since the program was offered at CMS. “We all wanted to see how it would play out with new energy and a few tweaks here and there. We liked the name Kidsville… so we kept it.”

Scotland first learned about the program back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“My past colleagues had this community set up,” says Scotland. “I loved the idea of it. When I left that school and came to CMS some of my co-workers and I kept it going. Then it stopped for a while. It has changed some since that time, but the core idea is the same.”

Kidsville had basically been replaced by the CMS Kindness Tour, she explains.

“Over the past 11 years, the Kindness Tour took place during the month of May,” says Scotland. “That experience takes a lot of preparation and time. To fit both Kidsville and the Kindness Tour in would be difficult. This year the Kindness Tour was early April, so we were able to have room for this type of exploration.”

Kidsville is a mock community that the students participate in, providing each an opportunity to work at different jobs.

The businesses include a bank; post office in which the mail delivery goes throughout the entire school; general store/factory; architects; newspaper reporters; photographers; recording studio; car-wash; teachers; and land/grounds keeping.

“They have this job for a week and must fulfill the role of this specific duty,” explains Scotland. “Each week they get a $2 paycheck. They go to the “bank” to get their check. The boys and girls endorse their check, place an account number on it, cash it and the money goes in their bank envelope. Before leaving the bank, they have to pay $0.25 in taxes. The remainder of their money is placed in the Kidsville Volt. Their earnings are placed on a Kidsville Debit Card (each child has one) and they use that debit card to shop each Friday afternoon. The following week they have a new job assignment. By the end of the community exploration, they will have worked four jobs each.”

The program is a good fit for second graders, especially at the end of the school year.

“Each grade needs its own personality and something for the children to look forward to,” explains Scotland. “Every team of teachers within our building has special experiences for their students to explore and enjoy. This just happens to be second graders this year.”

The program is a great benefit to the students as it provides them with real life-like experiences.

“The Kidsville teachers actually plan a lesson and go to teach younger peers,” says Scotland. “Songwriters use their story telling in lyrics and actually sing to an audience. Architects plan out form and function, create a blueprint and develop their structures. Mail carriers have the joy of connecting one CMS member to another by sorting and delivering mail throughout our building. Reporters create stories, go on interviews and create a newspaper for our community to enjoy.  Each job has its own personality and skills to be used.”

Good Team Equals Positive Results

“I work with very dedicated, talented teachers,” says Scotland. “When we blend all that we can do together it is powerful. It is so much fun listening to the children chatter about all that they are accomplishing in “their town.” All the little personalities taking ownership in this created community makes it a very special place to be.”

When asked what she likes about the program, Scotland says “Everything! I like the collaboration that is needed from the students. The enthusiasm and engagement from all the boys and girls. The learning that is taking place using every bit of our skills that we have exposed them to. There is math, writing, reading, planning, the arts, budgeting, technology, customer service, problem solving, and the gratification of hard work.

“It is hands on and exciting for them,” she continues. “Yes, it is a little noisier than a typical lesson and an outsider looking in might feel the extra energy, but it is healthy movement, and everybody has a part. The community belongs to all of us. It is a perfect celebration of skills to end the year with.”

The program also brings the community in as parent volunteers are invited to come in to help run the school program.

“Each week we have about seven parents that come in during the Kidsville time slot,” says Scotland. “Second grade parents were invited to join us for this experience. Some parents came in for a day or two to assist with a specific job, others come for a specific week and there are others that will be coming for the entire four weeks. It was totally up to them and what they could do. Parents that couldn’t come into the school have donated supplies and materials to assist us. They have been very generous.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” she says. “It is great for the children to see teachers and parents working together.”


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MOHS Girls’ Varsity B-Ball Coach Aims For Higher Victories

By Cheryl Conway

Summer will be in session soon enough and no finer time to hit the scene and sharpen those basketball skills.

Open gym, beginning June 11, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., will be offered at Mt. Olive High School for girls entering grades 9 - 12 for the 2019 - 2020 school year. Sessions will be held every Tuesday and Thursday.

“This will be a time when players can work with the coaches on specific skills to improve their individual game and a time to play "pick-up" games for fun,” says Scott Watkins, coach of the MOHS Girls’ Varsity Basketball team.

Finishing up his first year as the girls’ new basketball coach, Watkins of Flanders looks forward to growing the program.

“We hope to continue what we started last year,” says Watkins. Although three of the 12 recent varsity players will be graduating, Watkins is optimistic with nine players projected to return for its next basketball season.

“This will be the first summer working with the girls,” says Watkins, whose goal for the program is “to keep improving.”

Watkins has also been involved with the girls’ travel basketball program, which can work as an advantage as a “feeder program” into the girls’ high school basketball teams.

“We try to do things during the season to involve the younger kids,” and will do so in the summer too, says Watkins who works as a physical education health teacher in the Verona School district.

Girls in fourth through eighth grade are invited to sign up for a summer camp at MOHS from July 22-25, being offered by the MOHS Girls’ Basketball Booster Club.

Watkins says working more with the younger girls, including those on the freshman and junior varsity teams, can only benefit the program and their skills.

“They’ll have four years under their belt starting as a freshman,” says Watkins.

For the 2018/2019 season, the MOHS girls’ varsity basketball team finished with 11 wins and 11 losses during the regular season and lost in the state game against Livingston.

“We finished in the middle of the pack,” says Watkins. Instead, he “would like to be in the top two or three teams and to make the state tournament again.”

His goal is “to be a 500 team,” which means to win at least half of the season’s games, he explains. His plan is to “set a higher bar for ourselves for next season. I’d like to increase our wins,” to possibly 15 wins.

History of Coaching

Winning seems to be in Watkins' favor when it comes to coaching basketball.

Before heading up the program at MOHS, Watkins was the girls’ head coach at Caldwell High School from 2002 to 2009, winning 92 games.

His career goal for girls’ basketball was to capture 100 victories and after the MOHS season, he surpassed that goal.

Prior to that he was the boys’ assistant basketball coach at Whippany Park High School for one year; was the assistant boys’ basketball coach at North College Hill High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1996 to 1998 and the assistant coach from 1998 to 2000 at Finneytown High School also in Cincinnati.

When he wasn’t coaching other players, he was coaching his own kids.

He started coaching his son Jordan in 2009 through the Florham Park Recreation Basketball program, coaching him from first grade through fourth grade. When they moved to Mt. Olive, he continued to coach him in fifth, sixth and eighth grades.

Jordan Watkins played as the starting point guard for the MOHS Boys’ Varsity Basketball team this past season, he proudly shares.

Watkins also coached his daughter, Demetria, when she played fifth grade travel basketball for Mt. Olive. 

Living in Flanders since 2013 with his wife Christina and their two kids, Watkins jumped at the opportunity to coach the girls at MOHS.

As a former player, Watkins has always carried with him his passion for the game.

He had played the sport from fifth grade through his freshman year in high school, then switched gears focusing on music. But his love for the game came calling when he watched his university team practice and “it got me back into it,” he says, and decided to work at a summer basketball camp in Cincinnati.

“Basketball is a late calling for me, after school,” says Watkins. “I love the sport. I love the chess match with other coaches, being able to change and do things. I love teaching them the game,” and more intricate things, like “timing and setting screens, when to cut, how to cut.”

As a physical education teacher, Watkins enjoys all sports but he points to basketball as his favorite.

“It’s one of those sports you can come play by yourself,” says Watkins. “All you need is a ball and a hoop. It’s an amazing sport to pick up. It’s a global sport nationally and internationally.  It’s easy to pick up; it’s easy to enjoy; that’s why I like it.”

Any female high school student is welcome to come out for the open gym indoor practices to prepare for the next season, which runs from late November through February.   

For more information about the summer camp program and indoor practices, email Watkins at

Local Library News


Wellness Program Featured

Reconnect with nature and the universe when Mt. Olive Public Library hosts “Energy Bagua” on Saturday, June 8, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Gathering Room.

Come join in for this 90 minute session to learn a wellness practice that balances the Yin and Yang energy in the body and communicates with the energy from nature and the universe. Limited to 30 adults ages 12 and up.

Registration requested. Call 973-691-8686 ext. 106 or go to to register.







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CCM Holds 50th Commencement With 1.4k Graduates


County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph presented diplomas to the Class of 2019 on Friday, May 24, at Mennen Sports Arena during its historic 50th Commencement, with nearly 500 graduates participating in the 50th Anniversary ceremony.

The Class of 2019 includes approximately 1,400 students, many of who are transferring to top four-year institutions in New Jersey and across the nation to earn their bachelor’s degrees. The graduates received their diplomas in one of four degrees: Associate in Arts, Associate in Fine Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science. The graduates consisted of those who completed their studies between August 2018 and May 2019, and those who will complete their studies this coming August.

Dr. Trish O’Keefe, president of Morristown Medical Center (MMC), served as the keynote speaker. 

“The day I started at MMC as a bedside nurse, if someone had told me I would become president, I would not have believed it, but it only proves that hard work, committing to your goals one step at a time, dedication, and very long hours pay off,” said O’Keefe. “I know life will present each one of you with a series of opportunities - one step at a time. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself – commit to your journey.”

Also providing remarks was Douglas Cabana, director of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

“Today, as we look back at CCM at 50, this special day is a beginning for you of many special days as you move through life, whether you choose to continue your education, begin a career, become an entrepreneur, explore new territories, or try your hand at other new experiences,” said Cabana.

During his remarks, CCM President Anthony J. Iacono spoke to the graduates about courage as he highlighted several students who completed their studies despite life’s challenges and obstacles.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of your goals and uncompromising of your values,” Iacono told the graduates. “Never stop learning and remember that success is not simply about doing things right but, more importantly, success requires the courage to do the right things. 



"Your success is not for you alone – it is yours to help others through knowledge, skills, compassion and courage. Build a life, not a career.”

Trustee Chair Paul Licitra noted, “The awarding of your degree or certificate today is the result of your determination to live a life of meaning and contribution.”  Standing with college tradition, the CCM Peace Prize was awarded at commencement. Nora Anton, of Randolph, was presented with the prize for the tile mosaic she created commemorating the "Survivor Tree" found at Ground Zero. The faculty mentor for her project was Professor Dorothy Salinas, Department of Biology and Chemistry. The creator of the winning entry each year receives a $1,000 award, provided by the CCM Foundation.

This is the 18th year the college has awarded its Peace Prize, which was administered this year by Professor Laura Driver from the Department of English and Philosophy.

Included among the colleges and universities members from the Class of 2019 will be attending next are Columbia University, Cornell University, Drew University, John J. College of Criminal Justice, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology,  Rutgers University, and other top schools across New Jersey and the nation. 

Along with numerous 50th Anniversary celebrations, the Class of 2019 saw many significant accomplishments at the college during their educational journey. PayScale, three years in a row, has rated the college number one in New Jersey based on the earnings of CCM graduates. Professor Venancio “Venny” Fuentes, chair of the Department of Engineering Technologies and Engineering Science, was selected as the sole recipient of the 2018 Northeast Faculty Award from the Association of Community College Trustees. The college received a Best Practice Award from the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey and a Business Achievement Award from Randolph Township. Additionally, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges presented CCM Trustee Joseph Weisberg with its Trustee Leadership Award.

CCM Photo Club Honors High School Photographers In Annual Contest


Photo: Second Place photo by Jack Cudia of Roxbury High School. 

The Photo Club at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph is proud to announce the winners of its seventh annual photography contest for New Jersey high school students. The competition’s sponsor, Millburn Camera ASAP Photo, awarded gift certificates to the top three winners. 

Winning first place with a $300 gift certificate was Liam Devees, who did not report what high school he is attending. Jack Cudia and Julia Trevorrow of Roxbury High School won second and third place, earning them $150 and $75 gift certificates respectively.

Receiving Honorable Mentions this year were Avianna Miler from Whippany Park High School, Kaitlin Kleiner from Hunterdon Central High School, Naomi Boyd from Chatham High School, Suxin Liang from Morris Catholic High School, and Samantha Osborne, Tanya Amballa, Michell Rivas, and Simao Silvestre from Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

Amballa also won the Popularity Award for her photo which received the most likes on the competition’s Facebook page.

The contest was open to all New Jersey high school students. This year’s theme, “Roots,” invited students to explore the meaning of cultural identification. More than 500 submissions from dozens of high schools around the state explored the concept that people can no longer be labeled as one thing or another. Photographers submitted photos that showed the beauty and complexity of their cultural identity.

The winners were announced at an exhibition and reception held at the CCM Art and Gallery earlier this month. Fifty-one photographs were selected for display, representing Roxbury High School, Whippany Park High School, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Chatham High School, Morris Catholic High School, Morris Knolls High School and Bridgewater-Raritan High School. Photo Club members judged the work and selected the winners.

“Members of the CCM Photo Club were delighted with the quality of submitted images,” said Hrvoje Slovenc, assistant professor of photography, who oversees the contest. “Selecting the finalists and ultimately the winners was a difficult, but rewarding, task.”




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