Mt. Olive Online Publication December 28 2020
Mt. Olive Online Publication December 28 2020
By Cheryl Conway
With a seat on the Mt. Olive Board of Education for the past six years, Dr. Antoine Gayles brings experience as an educator and parent, wisdom and innovative ideas to the table.
Although Gayles’ seat expires this December, he is running for a third term in a contested race against six other candidates. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Mt. Olive residents will get to select three individuals to serve a three-year term on the Mt. Olive School District BOE when they go vote during the general election.
If reelected, Gayles of Budd Lake plans to keep serving the district by being fiscally responsible, a visionary leader who will guide with integrity, dignity and transparency, while working to improve the equity and access of courses for all students.
Husband, father, educator are just a few hats Gayles wears daily. Keep reading to learn about his platform, ideas for improvement and solutions to challenges.
Family Man & Volunteer
Gayles, 52, has lived in Budd Lake with his family for the past 22 years.
“My wife Gwendolyn, who is currently a classroom aide at CMS, has served as a room parent at CMS and volunteers at the Flanders United Methodist Church thrift store on Park Place,” he describes. “We have raised five children in Mt. Olive.” Donovan graduated Mt. Olive High School in 2016 and Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania this past Spring; twin daughters Victoria and Caitlin, who just graduated MOHS in 2020, are both attending Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island this Fall; Justin, who will be a MOHS senior this fall; and Stephanie, a fifth grader at CMS.
He has managed to fit in some time for coaching and volunteering as well.
“I have coached both boys’ and girls' recreation basketball and boys’ track,” he says. “My family and I attend Flanders United Methodist Church, where I also volunteer at the thrift shop and deliver the youth ministry.”
Education & Profession
Gayles earned his doctorate in education leadership from Seton Hall University in South Orange; a master’s in management of human services from Brandeis University in Massachusetts; and bachelor’s in political science concentrating in public policy from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
He has worked professionally in sales, finance and education.
“I traveled from Waltham, MA to Jersey City, NJ to take a sales associate job on Wall Street for NatWest Investor Services, NA,” he explains. “After three years in the financial markets industry, I transitioned to working in non-profit organizations in Newark, NJ that supported students in Newark Public Schools and their families. I have spent the past 20 years as an educational leader in suburban and urban communities, serving in the State Dept. of Education, an assistant principal, principal and superintendent of schools. I am also an adjunct professor at Centenary University, teaching graduate level communications and public relations to school leaders.
“My current efforts are directed towards launching my own educational consulting company to provide professional development, coaching and motivational speaking services to school districts, for profit and non-profit organizations,” says Gayles.
Board Experience & Accomplishments
Gayles has served two consecutive terms on the Mt. Olive BOE: 2014-2017; 2017-2020, after being appointed to an unexpired term in August 2014.
“During my two terms on the board I have served two times as vice president, in addition to serving on the Negotiations, Finance, Policy, Curriculum committees, and Curriculum committee chair in 2019. Between 2016-2018 I served on the Morris County School Boards Legislative Committee and as an alternate delegate to the NJ Schools Board Association. I currently serve as the board liaison to the township Recreation Department and Chester M. Stephens Elementary School.
Gayles decided to run for the BOE six years ago to give back to the community that has given him so much and serve as a positive role model to his children.
“Mt. Olive has been a great place to raise our family and educate our children,” says Gayles. “With the support and encouragement of my family and church community, I submitted my application for the Fall 2014 election. When the vacant board position was posted, I submitted my resume for consideration. As an educator, I felt that I could add value to the amazing work that was already taking place on the board. I also wanted to lead by example for my children, who we’ve always encouraged to volunteer and be of service in the community.”
From school facilities, curriculum, tools, resources and programs, Gayles has played a vital role in helping to shape the Mt. Olive School district during his past two terms on the BOE.
“As a member of the board I have worked to improve our facilities, enhance our curriculum to include cultural exchange opportunities abroad,” explains Gayles.
“Over the past six years, we have invested resources to integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math into all of our schools,” he continues. “Our elementary students have access to the latest hands-on learning tools to explore and expand their curiosity for learning, including the M.I.L.L. and its state-of-the-art recording studio. We have increased the number of students taking higher level AP courses, which is key indicator for college readiness and success. As a result, our schools have annually been recognized as high performing across the state and our high school is nationally ranked by “U.S. News and World Report” as one of the best in the country. We have also received a best community for music education award by the National Association of Music Merchants.”
Gayles continues to list his accomplishments while on serving on the BOE.
“I ushered in NJIT’s Real World Connections, a computer science program, aligned to the Governor’s Computer Science for All framework, that currently includes 75 Mt. Olive High School and MOMS students who have the opportunity to create and innovate in the areas of Intro to Robotics, Android App Development, CSI Digital Crime, Web Development and many more learning tracks, while learning project management, leadership, presentation and communication skills,” says Gayles.
“In 2019 we signed a historic college credit dual-enrollment partnership with the County College of Morris, Titan Express, where Mt. Olive high school students can earn college credits towards an associate’s degree and engage teachers in content specific professional development in a post-secondary setting,” he continues.
“In 2017, I introduced the district to Future Ready Schools,” adds Gayles. “In 2018, the board approved the letter of intent and in 2019 we achieved Future Ready Schools Bronze certification, that focuses on providing every student with access to a personalized, student-centered learning environment.”
Goals Met While On BOE
During his two terms, the BOE has implemented several S.T.E.A.M. initiatives including the fields of Biomedical Sciences, Engineering and Robotics, says Gayles.
“We implemented a School of Rock and invested in technology upgrades for the performing arts programs” at MOMS and MOHS.
“I was instrumental in the implementation of the Mt. Olive High School Capstone Diploma Program by hosting several MOHS administrators in my former school district to visit our Project Lead the Way Engineering program as a possible model for MOHS,” he adds.
The list continues: “In 2015-16, as a member of the policy committee we reviewed the existing board policy manual, by section, to ensure that all policies were up-to-date, then posted to the district’s website under a user-friendly search engine,” says Gayles. “We also investigated, and ultimately recommended having the district bear the cost of student AP Exams.
“In 2016 we introduced a referendum to develop a full day kindergarten program,” says Gayles. “Although we were unsuccessful and the referendum was defeated, I am proud to say that we are now able to offer full day kindergarten beginning in the 2020 school year.”
Why A Third Term?
Faced with unprecedented times as the pandemic brought on by COVID 19 continues, school districts and BOE’s face new challenges. Gayles’ experience, expertise and wisdom can open the door to some innovative ideas to overcoming these obstacles.
“My leadership experience and educational expertise has contributed to the last six years of our district’s success,” says Gayles, who is running independently to reclaim his seat, pointing out that his name will appear at line 7 on the ballot.
“I am running for re-election to continue forging a path of what comes next for the school district, faculty, staff and students,” he says. “To be a visionary leader, inspired by the aspirations of so many, parents and children like my own, who look to us to provide a safe, nurturing learning environment, where they can explore, experiment, fail, discover, learn and succeed. I am motivated when I see our students excel in academics, athletics, music, art and drama; when I see them use their strong leadership skills to become change agents for a better Mt. Olive school community.”
Gayle’s Election Platform
“First and foremost is to be mindful of the taxpayer’s dollar,” says Gayles. “As we continue to expand curriculum offerings, upgrade our facilities and look towards the future for Mt. Olive Schools, fiscal responsibility is a requisite.
“Second, we are faced with an unprecedented pandemic that has resulted in school closures,” continues Gayles. “Consistency is critical to navigate the balance between safely opening and virtual instruction. This requires a knowledgeable educator who can balance the health, social emotional and educational needs/concerns of parents, staff and students.
“I am a visionary leader looking for creative ways to enhance experiential learning opportunities that are inclusive of all students,” says Gayles.
“As a representative of the community, a promise to continue to lead with integrity, dignity and transparency.
“Solidifying the implementation of full day kindergarten and improve the equity and access of higher-level courses for all students, including ELL, students of color and twice gifted students,” he adds.
There are several improvements Gayles would like to see within the Mt. Olive School District.
“I would like to see new administrator and teacher appointments that reflect the growing diversity within the community; the board develop more avenues to connect with members of the public; a school-to-careers paid cooperative program for high school students, that includes mentoring and internships upon graduation.”
Gayles says “Our most immediate challenge is effectively meeting the educational and social-emotional needs of students, and concerns of parents and staff during the pandemic. Of critical importance is re-establishing our schools as safe teaching and learning environments; and systematically assessing the level of learning loss as a result of virtual learning.
“Second is planning for potential student population growth which may require building a new school building, in order to maintain acceptable class sizes for optimal learning, relieve overcrowding in CMS and to redistrict students in Sandshore and CMS,” he adds.
Ideas To Tackle Problems
“School closures due to COVID-19 has brought our district to a screeching halt, with rippling consequences for families throughout our community,” says Gayles. As most would agree, “Opening schools has become a contentious topic of monumental proportions in Mt. Olive. A recent survey revealed that 66% of Mt. Olive parents surveyed selected a return to in-person learning. Gauging stakeholder perceptions via surveys or conducting focus groups via Google Meet, before undertaking any planning process, would have been a good first step to getting valuable feedback to guide that process. “Including all voices, even those who may disagree, is invaluable to developing a comprehensive solution that addresses the safety concerns school personnel and the expectations of community stakeholders,” explains Gayles.
Growth in the community and the ability to serve all students also needs to be tackled sooner than later, he suggests.
“In planning for future growth, we have received a demographic study in January 2020,” he says. “The study predicts low birth rate over the next 5 years, but projects an additional 406 new students from new developments in Mt. Olive. We have to think about new school construction today, as a necessity for tomorrow.”
Suggestions On New Programs/Technologies/Courses
“Now that we have installed the M.I.L.L., with its state-of -the-art recording studio, wireless devices, the LED screen to enhance theatrical performances and presentations and now adding Anatomage virtual reality dissection tables to augment our biomedical sciences program, what comes next?” Gayles says. “My answer begins with the question - why should students have to physically sit at a desk, in a building as a requisite to earning high school course credit?” asks Gayles. “Our world has been reshaped, flattened by technological advancements that connect communities around the world,” he explains. “I would like Mt. Olive Schools to become the first school district to use our technology to develop independent study opportunities, based on the students’ interests, that redefine the traditional seat time requirement to earn high school credit towards graduation; and effectively implement the flipped classroom instructional model to maximize student exposure at home and instructional time on task in the classroom.”
When it comes to curriculum, Gayles has been vocal in seeking a curriculum that provides a more in depth look at African American studies.
“I am excited about the two new courses scheduled for this fall – Holocaust Studies and the district’s first African American Studies class,” he says. “Curriculum for the courses are currently under development and the teachers who will be teaching the African American Studies class are currently engaged in professional development with the Amistad Commission. I did provide some suggestions that would provide more depth to the African American Studies course, so I’m waiting to see how they are embedded into the course description, learning goals and outcomes.”
Joys Of Serving on the BOE
“Being on the Board of Education requires long hours reading, preparing and understanding the intricate operation of the school district in order to make informed decisions,” explains Gayles. Despite the commitment, Gayles has enjoyed his time on the board.
“I enjoy watching our elementary scientists and entrepreneurs explain their experiments at school science fairs and their products at TREPS, interacting with students as they create, problem-solve and find solutions to complex problems at Johnson & Johnson, NJIT or a robotics competition; being transported to Broadway-like performances by our middle and high school drama students; the electricity of athletic competition or being uplifted by holiday concerts; attending Honor Society and Bi-Literacy induction ceremonies to see so many students achieve such high academic honors; to work in partnership with our strong parent organizations or recognizing the amazing faculty and staff whose dedication is evident by their continuous drive for self-improvement and passion for our students’ and districts’ success. “Seeing the result of careful planning and responsible decision-making - a thriving school community, is what I enjoy the most about my service to Mt. Olive schools.”
What Does Gayles Like About MOSD?
“Where do I begin?” says Gayles. “My children have had tremendous support from their administrators, teachers, aides and counselors, which greatly contributed to their success as K-12 students. We are an innovative, forward-thinking community with supportive township officials and parents. Our schools offer activities of interest for just about every student to express themselves, explore their passions and pursue their aspirations, in safe, nurturing environments.
“The town has achieved steady growth in our population over the past 22 years, that has contributed to our growing diversity,” he adds. “A part of what comes next for Mt. Olive schools is to create an environment that not only tolerates that diversity, but celebrates the unique cultural mosaic that exists here.”
What Skills Does Gayles Bring to the Mt. Olive BOE?
Educator, critical thinker, parent and advocate are the key still points brought on by Gayles.
“As an educator, familiarity with how schools operate,” is one skill, says Gayles. “While we don’t directly run the schools, my educational background has been helpful to my fellow Board members.
“As a critical thinker, I have spent hours going through student performance data, budget detail and policy alerts, looking for trends that shed insight into our decision-making process,” he continues.
“As a parent, I am guided by, and focused on, keeping the main thing the main thing – our children.
As an advocate, listen what our community is saying about the impact of our decisions, the quality of our programs and the expectations for progress.”
Property Taxes/Fiscal Responsibility
Increasing property taxes are always a concern in Mt. Olive and officials would point their finger at the school district budget. The challenge every year is how to keep taxes down while Mt. Olive School District leads in its programs, facilities, technology, curriculum etc.
“The unfortunate reality is that every year the board has to contend with the rising costs associated with operating a school district,” he explains. “Approximately 80% of the school budget is directly tied to rising health care, pension and social security, salary and special education costs. These cost drivers likely come as no surprise as education is a labor-intensive industry
“Thanks to careful budget planning and creative cost-saving ideas such as programs that generate out of district student tuition, effective use of State reimbursements such as Extraordinary Aid, facilities management to conserve energy and lower costs, facilities rentals (including the dome), containing insurance costs and fees, our exchange program with schools in China who also pay to use our curriculum and creative before and after school care solutions, we were able to generate additional revenue for the district to help keep property taxes low.”
Why Re-elect Gayles to the Mt. Olive BOE?
“I believe that the best way to predict the future is to create it,” says Gayles. “Whether I am collaboratively planning for potential population growth, working with our active parent associations, being the advocate for diversity in our teaching and administrative corps, improving equity in access to higher level courses for students of color and twice exceptional students or being a vital part of the team to guide us through this pandemic, my consistent leadership during these unprecedented times can be an asset in creating what comes next.
“Do not be swayed by on-line commentators! A vote for me is a vote for a true servant-leader, not an attention seeker who creates hysteria on social media; one who will hold the Superintendent accountable, take responsibility, ask the tough questions and keep students first,” he concludes.
Another reason to vote for Gayles is his commitment to putting students first.
“Keep an eye out for my re-election campaign FB page and remember, My name is last on the ballot, but OUR children are First!”
Students in grades four through 12 in the Mt. Olive School District will start off the school year attending school virtually this September.
For those who may have missed the announcement for the sudden change of reentry plans, MOSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki shared the breaking news Friday, Aug. 21, at 8 p.m., during his live Parent University meeting on Facebook. Students in the upper grades will attend full-day remote learning, while students in grades three and below will still attend in person on alternating weeks or virtually for those who chose that option.
For listeners of MOSD's Parent Universities these past few months, Zywicki has been stressing the point that the reentry plan could change at any moment….and that it has.
“This is a difficult message to receive,” Zywicki told listeners. “It is a difficult message to deliver. We are an amazing community. We’re going to get through this. We’re going to overcome and we’re going to make sure that we do so in a manner that is safest for our students and staff and that we are prioritizing and delivering the best academic product possible.”
Zywicki is also recommending that the first day of school be moved to Sept. 8 instead of Sept. 2. He has called a Special Board Meeting to be held tonight, Monday, Aug. 24, at 6:30 p.m. to request amendments to the 2020-2021 school calendar and discuss personnel and confidential pupil matters. The meeting will be conducted virtually via Google Meet.
He also says more answers to questions, updated documents and more Parent University sessions are planned for this week.
The next Parent University is set for Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 5:30 p.m. for general updates for all schools; and Sunday Aug. 30 at 5 p.m. for students in grades pre-K through 5; and 6 p.m. for grades 6-12.
He says “there are so many questions and lots of details coming.”
Zywicki’s decision to move the upper grades to virtual learning was based on several reasons.
He says over the past two weeks, N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order requiring six feet of social distancing for students. Also the guidelines set by the N.J. State Dept. of Health is requiring school buildings to close if there are two positive cases in one cohort.
With the number of positive cases in Mt. Olive and the region being so low, Zywicki was optimistic that the district could execute its hybrid plan which would have invited all students to participate in an alternating A Week/B Week, or virtual option to attend school for half days.
However, over the past week “we received numerous leave requests and accommodation requests from our staff, so much that we will not be able to fully staff all of our programs and that creates a supervision issue and a health and safety issue because we wont be able to ensure the supervision with social distancing in some of our schools,” he says.
“People are scared; people have personal risks and things going on in their families,” he explains. “They are immune-compromised. They are at risk. They at sometime had COVID-19 in the past six months or a family member has or had COVID-19 over the past couple of months.”
Zywicki asks parents and students to not blame teachers.
“They are an integral part of our community; they care about you; they care about their kids,” he says.
One of the main obstacles is finding enough substitute teachers who have requested to not return this fall.
“There’s been a sub-shortage in this county for years,” says Zywicki, adding that he has been trying to attract subs, “but even on our best day we struggle to be able to fill all of our staff absences and substitutes.”
New Reentry Plan
If the BOE approves the school start date, students will begin Sept. 8 with a hybrid entry, Phase One plan that will last until the first trimester for students in grades kindergarten through eight; and until the first marking period for high school students.
Students who have IEP’s and specialized learning programs will attend in-person school for half days; students in kindergarten through third will attend half days on an alternating A Week/B Week or virtual schedule; students in grades four through 12, will attend “full-time, full-day synchronous remote learning.”
Attendance will be taken for accountability, he says, and there will be dynamic, enhanced virtual learning with teachers curating with jig saws, station rotations, reciprocal teaching and other innovative activities.
As “chief educator,” Zywicki says he justifies this decision by saying the district “would not be able to fully staff and supervise these programs during the day which would create a health and safety issue. The last thing we want are kids in school who are basically being babysat while they are doing online learning and turning our middle school and high school into one giant study hall.”
He says, “We can deliver a better education product with six hours of synchronous remote instruction rather than turning these schools into study halls because we don’t have enough teachers in the building.”
Fall sports will be allowed to proceed outdoors; indoor sports such as volleyball and gymnastics, will be postponed until the spring.
In person Kindergarten registration is still planned for Aug. 27 and 28, and all new students will get a Marauder For Life t-shirt.
Of the modified plan, he says, “I understand this is going to make some people happy,” says Zywicki. “I understand this going to infuriate others. I understand this puts tremendous pressure on families and I totally get that.
“I understand emotions are running high,” he says. “We are going to do the best we can.”
His goal is to monitor the situation, “looking to see if more people are willing to come back to work. If we can get more grades in the building, we will do so. If we can get to Phase 2 of this plan before the end of the first marking period, we will do so.”
He says “We’re going to look at health data and we’re going to make the best decision based on what the health and safety of our students and staff and integrity of the academic program that we can provide to everyone.”
Zywicki thanks everyone once again for their patience.
“You’ve been extremely patient with me and the administration over these past six months,” says Zywicki. “This has been an unprecedented time. I can’t thank you enough for that. I understand right now this can be upsetting. We are doing the best we can.
“This is an amazing community,” says Zywicki. “We care about the safety or our students and our staff.”
By Cheryl Conway
The bells will be ringing at the All Veterans Memorial in Budd Lake come September with the unveiling of a newly designed one-of-a kind bell tower.
The historical unveiling and dedication of the POW/MIA/PTSD Ascension Bell Tower is set to be held Saturday, Sept. 5, 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., at the AVM grounds, which is located at the front of Turkey Brook Park. Sponsored by the All Veterans Alliance Board of Directors and Morris County American Legion, the event will also be live streamed from the AVM’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AllVeteransMemorialMountOlive
Since its formation in 2008, new elements are continuously being added to the AVM- New Jersey’s premier ceremonial grounds that captures the nation’s rich history, service and patriotism honoring those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Ascension Bell rings in as the 11th element and will carry significant purpose in remembering soldiers.
“The bell tower’s value is immeasurable with many purposes,” says AVM Founder Charlie Wood Uhrmann. “It is a promise kept. Like our POW/MIA World Globe, the Ascension Bell Tower will be formally used during our National POW/MIA 24 Vigil Ceremony.
“Each year, we call out the name, rank and war served of N.J.’s POW/MIA’s,” explains Uhrmann. “After each POW/MIA name is read, the bell will be tolled.
Last year as we read the names, we placed a replicated dog tag donning the name, rank, branch of service and documented date the warrior was captured or went missing, onto the POW/MIA/PTSD Remembrance Wall. The impact of that display has ignited various responses from the community.”
As the originator of the AVM, Uhrmann is the mastermind behind each of the elements, funding each personally or through donations for the non-profit memorial site. The Ascension Bell Tower is her latest design which took her years to conceptualize.
Founding Of The Bell
“The bell tower is an exclusive design of the All Veterans Memorial; I designed the bell and commissioned artist/metal craftsman Timothy Sheldon to build it,” says Uhrmann. “Tim will have a video showing the making of the bell at the event for all to see. All of the elements have been registered with the U.S. Library of Congress; including the Ascension Bell Tower,” which will stand 11” high and is 52”x52” square made of stainless steel.
“It has taken me a couple of years to come up with a design,” says Uhrmann. “I initially entertained installing a common rounded bell – but always stopped short – feeling as if it had little to no impact or fit. The four-sided bell itself will hang from underneath the guard’s shed. The bell has four sides; the original POW/MIA logo, POW, MIA, and PTSD; each one has its own unique pitch or tone. Tim and I have been working on the size and engineering of the design since January.”
Other elements at the AVM include: 1. The Mt. Olive War Monument; 2. Charles Johnson Gazebo; 3. Path to Enduring Freedom; 4. War Dog Memorial; 5. NorthStar Seating; 6. Bill of Rights (Liberty) Wall; 7. Battleship NJ Bollards; 8. Warrior Obelisk; 9. Spiritual Cenotaph; 10. POW/MIA/PTSD Remembrance Wall. The Ascension Bell Tower will be placed at the left corner behind the POW/MIA/PTSD Remembrance Wall, explains Uhrmann.
“It will be overlooking the prison mural,” says Uhrmann. “The bell tower is a replica of a universal prison guard tower. It is featured in the background of the POW/MIA logo, which was originally designed by Newt Heisley Rivkees who was very sympathetic to the POW/MIA issue. Heisley designed a flag to represent our missing warriors; following approval by the League's Board of Directors at a meeting held January 22-23, 1972.
“Though there has been minor changes to the logo over the years, we used the original designed that was submitted and accepted by the National League of POW/MIA Families and the passage by the 105th Congress of Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act,” she continues. “The Bell Tower is a symbol of a promise our nation made to those who were either prisoner of war or missing in action that they would not be forgotten.”
Financing for the Ascension Bell Tower was jointly funded by Uhrmann through her non-profit organization All Veterans Alliance and the Morris County American Legion, which was Amery Vasso’s Commander’s Project. Uhrmann’s AVA also contributed to the design, engineering and installation of the tower.
At 11:30 a.m., Veteran Support Groups have been invited to offer any outreach services to veterans who have not had access to necessary medical attention due to COVID-19, explains Uhrmann.
Opening ceremonies will begin at 1 p.m. featuring the Rolling Thunder and Legion Riders.
“The motorcycle groups will loop the park once, then enter onto the All Veterans Memorial grounds,” explains Uhrmann. “They will create a barrier around the perimeter holding POW/MIA flags. Upon the arrival and raising of the last POW/MIA Flag, the ceremony will begin. It should be an amazing display!”
At 1:15 p.m., service pavers will be installed by private individuals; at 1:30 p.m. donors and volunteers will be recognized.
“We will be recognizing those who supported us in our outreach efforts i.e. Helping Homeless Heroes etc. – such as Budd Lake Boys Scout Troop 249, Mt. Olive High School JROTC Air Force and various American Legions,” says Uhrmann.
“Our featured guest(s) will be Vietnam Veterans, as they were instrumental implementing the POW/MIA movement and the return /re-designation of our K-9 warriors,” she adds.
At 1:45 p.m., the POW/MIA/PTSD Ascension Bell Tower will be unveiled and dedicated.
With social distancing still being mandated in N.J., Uhrmann is ready to comply.
“We are an outdoor complex,” says Uhrmann. “We will remain cognizant of the social distancing mandates set forth by N.J. Governor Phil Murphy. We plan to encourage 6 ft. distancing when possible, provide hand sanitizers and have available neck gaiters and face masks.”
As Uhrmann prepares the unveiling of the latest element to the AVM- the bell tower- she already has the next element in the back of her saddle.
“Coming soon will be a life size monument of George Washington’s horse when he crossed the Delaware River – “Blueskin,” Uhrmann shares. “Blueskin will represent all the horses that fought and perished during battle.”
By Cheryl Conway
A newly proposed contract for the Mt. Olive School District’s superintendent will include a base salary increase, but officials say there will be an “overall savings” to the district when considering the full contract.
The Mt. Olive Twp. School Board of Education plans to hold a public hearing at its Monday, Aug. 31, meeting at 6:30 p.m., at the Mt. Olive Middle School to get community input on the proposed contract. Public notice was posted on the Mt. Olive School District website earlier this month and was also announced at the last two Mt. Olive Township Council meetings on Tuesday, Aug. 4, and Aug. 18 by Councilman Daniel Amianda, liaison to the Mt. Olive BOE.
This will be the third contract in a 20-month time period for Mt. Olive Superintendent Dr. Robert Zywicki, since 2018. Lauding Zywicki’s performance these past two years, the school board president supports the proposed package and says it provides a savings to the district.
“We have the best superintendent in Morris County,” says Mt. Olive BOE President Dr. Anthony Giordano. “This contract is an overall savings to the district.”
Since the contract is still under negotiations, a copy has not yet been made public.
Giordano provided some specifics to the proposed package: “The salary was calculated by rolling Dr. Zywicki’s merit into his base pay which would be $226,000,” explains Giordano. “Dr. Zywicki agreed to concessions on his vacation and sick payout and, subsequently an amount approximately equal to 2 percent increase of $4,500 as well as the previous high school stipend $5,000 was added to the new base for a total of $235,000.”
Giordano’s rationale to the proposed contract: “The salary is comparable, actually less than the newly approved salary of a K-12 superintendent in a neighboring Morris County district that has 1,500 less students. Dr. Zywicki also has more superintendent experience and a much larger district.”
Zywicki’s first contract, Oct. 2018 through June 2023, was passed as part of the 2019/2020 budget with an annual base salary of $196,584.
In 2019, he negotiated for a new contract: July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2024, with the same base salary of $196,584, passed as part of the 2020-2021 budget.
By comparing the two first contracts, the most obvious changes were the addition of more vacation days, from 20 to 22 in one year, as well as changes to his health insurance.
In his first contract, Zywicki and the BOE agreed to a P.L. 2011 c 78 at tier 4 of 35%, with automatic deductions from his salary. In the second contract, the parties agreed to 1.5% of annual salary toward health care coverage with Zywicki paying co-pays and deductibles.
If approved by the BOE, the third contract would extend until 2025 and would be part of the 2021-2022 budget.
During the last budget process, Zywicki shared with the BOE his suggestion on how to save the district money, explains Giordano. That was back in February with the plan to look at those numbers in the following weeks. But then COVID-19 hit, placing the idea on hold, until early July when the suggestion resurfaced.
When looking at “the total package” of Zywicki’s proposed contract, “it’s an overall savings to the district,” explains Giordano. “You have to look at total compensation when you are negotiating.”
While some may say three contracts in 20 months is unusual, Giordano explains that the first contract was to hire Zywicki; the second contract was approved because the BOE was “pleased” with Zywicki’s exemplary performance; and the third contract is a “budget cost savings.”
Looking at the specifics, Zywicki’s base salary will jump from $196,584 to $226,000 after adding in his merit. In previous years, that merit has been awarded separately once the superintendent earned it by meeting certain goals. The merit amount in the contract is an increment of $5,000 annually, totaling $30,000 thus far.
Then with a 2 percent increase, $4,500 is added in along with the $5,000 stipend from the first year bringing the new base salary to $235,000.
A superintendent himself, Giordano is schooled on salaries of his colleagues.
“Dr. Zywicki has been a gentleman about negotiating,” says Giordano. “He’s been very humble. He wants to stay in Mt. Olive to retire. We all like to be free market, right now the market is bearing.”
With the salary cap for superintendents abolished last July, other school districts are also considering new contracts for their district heads by also rolling merit pay into salaries.
Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic was granted a new five-year contract in July with a salary of $235,184, an increase from her previous $230,573 salary.
Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa received a new contract in July 2019 with an annual salary of $238,000.
According to Salary.com the “average School Superintendent salary in New Jersey is $180,116 as of July 27, 2020, but the range typically falls between $147,124 and $217,332. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years” spent in the profession.
Mt. Olive Fitness Presents:
WHERE: Various Local Parks
WHEN: Weekday Evenings, Weekend Mornings
COST: Unlimited Classes per session - $120 (Outdoors + ZOOM)
20 class fee - $100
12 class fee - $80
Per Class Fee - $10
Classes are held early evening during the week and weekend mornings. Various class types include A Walk in the Park with Weights; Buts & Guts; Cardio Intervals; Kickbox/HIIT; Step & Sculpt; Zumba; Pilates; Cardio; and Toning.
All payments must be made at the time of registration or in person for attending the class. Exact change for walk-ins is requested.
This program will be offered for SIX weeks from 8/18/20 through 10/3/20. This program is NOT affiliated with Mt. Olive Recreation nor the township.
Morris County Secures Millions In Aid
The Morris County Freeholders recently announced that more than $7 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding has been directed by Governor Phil Murphy to assist Morris County with continued COVID-19 testing and reimburse it for costs already incurred in its diligent response to the pandemic.
The freeholders and administrator joined Murphy on Thursday, Aug. 20, in announcing the new grant at an event at Vasa Park in Mt. Olive.
The funding includes $3,819,380 in reimbursement dollars for expenses Morris County incurred as of June 30 and which were not covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dollars, insurance or other funding.
An additional $357,500 is earmarked to continue testing operations until December and $2,915,033 to support the testing of vulnerable and priority populations moving forward.
“This funding it critical to Morris County’s ability to continue combating this devastating pandemic with the same responsible, direct and forceful effort we mobilized when the virus first hit us,’’ said Freeholder Director Deborah Smith.
“Morris County went from being one of the most seriously impacted areas in the state to having one of the lowest virus-spread rates in the state because of our rigorous, organized response, which included proactive budgeting and spending adjustments so we did not dig the county into a financial hole,” Smith added.
Morris County’s extensive response included, among other actions, opening a testing center, monitoring the virus spread, direct aid to food pantries, partnering with health providers and providing infrared thermometers to community and faith-based groups.
In early March we were planning for a prolonged health emergency. We bolstered our health and human services, focused our county resources on fighting the pandemic and worked closely with our local health officials and medical providers,’’ said Deputy Freeholder Director Stephen Shaw.
“Our efforts included retaining additional public health staff, boosting our stockpile of personal protection equipment, and launching a testing site without state aid. We have now pivoted to assist in recovery with the formation of a COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. The task force continues to address the needs of community organizations, businesses, and help with the mental health effects of the pandemic. This grant dovetails with some of those initiatives, and we look forward to offering more testing support to our towns, businesses and communities as we pull through this crisis together,” added Shaw.
Morris County, along with 11 other counties, received no direct CARES Act funding from the federal government this past spring because direct aid was predicated on a requirement a county have a population of at least 500,000 residents.
Morris County missed that threshold by a mere 8,000 residents, while nine other counties, two of which barely met the population requirement, shared in $1.05 billion in direct aid.
Morris County freeholders flagged the population requirement as arbitrary, and urged the Governor in April to provide Morris County with a share of $2.4 billion the State of New Jersey received from the CARES Act.
The freeholders’ request was supported in a joint letter by Republican State Sen. Anthony Bucco, Democratic State Sen. Dick Codey, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill. They argued it is unfair to deny aid to some counties and give millions to others, particularly when the counties have virtually the same populations.
They also noted the pandemic’s impact on Morris County residents last spring was much higher than in other counties that each received nearly $90 million or more in direct aid.
“We want to thank the state and Governor Murphy for this grant,” Morris County Administrator John Bonanni. “We also need to acknowledge that we were very fortunate to have had the support of Senator Bucco, Congresswoman Sherill and Senator Codey advocating to the Governor’s Office to secure this funding.
“Without question their joint efforts helped the governor to recognize how unequitable a rigid population requirement was in determining the distribution of financial aid in New Jersey, which has been hardest hit, second only to New York, by the pandemic,” added Bonanni.
The new funding provides opportunities for the county to conduct at-home testing programs and work with municipal health officials to establish scheduled mobile testing sites. A more detailed plan is already in development and will be available in the near future.
For more information on the initiatives taken by Morris County to address COVID-19 since February and other significant announcements about the virus in New Jersey, go to https://morriscountynj.gov/covidannouncements
Freeholders Oppose Mail-In Voting
The Morris County Board of Freeholders has passed a resolution unanimously asking the governor and state legislature to reject a mail-in voting system for the November Primary Election, and to consider safe COVID-19 options for in-person voting, instead.
The freeholders contend the practice of predominantly using mail-in ballots for all registered voters is fraught with concerns about voter fraud, voter disenfranchisement, postal delivery delays, significant increase in election costs, and reliance on a flawed statewide voter/DMV computer registration data base, plus significant delays in counting ballots.
Sending out 220,000 mail-in ballots for the July primary election resulted in a cost increase for Morris County of $807,000, compared to the 2019 primary election. Mailing an expected 370,000 ballots for the November election would almost double that July cost and offer more election problems.
“Many of our residents are very upset about main-in balloting, and have expressed their disdain about losing their choice on how to vote,” said Freeholder Director Deborah Smith. “The Board of Freeholders feel strongly that voter “choice” should refer to “how” to vote, not just “who” to vote for in a given election cycle.”
Rather than mail-in balloting, the freeholders are urging the state to utilize in-person machine voting, with consideration of multiple days of voting and/or use of outdoor spaces for added safety, in conjunction with mail-in balloting.
“We urge smart alternatives for in-person voting that would provide more opportunities and more days to vote, and more locations to safely vote,” said Freeholder John Krickus. “These options easily could accommodate the need for face coverings and social distancing.”
The freeholders, in their resolution, noted that well before the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey law already permitted voting by mail, if a resident requested it. So, voters who are even remotely concerned about in-person voting already have the option to request a mail-in ballot, thereby enhancing voter choice.
The freeholders have sent their resolution to Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey Secretary of State; President of the State Senate; Speaker of the Assembly; the Morris County legislative delegation, New Jersey Association of Counties, and all other boards of freeholders across the state.
Freeholder Selen Fights For Reimbursement
Morris County Freeholder Tayfun Selen demands that JCP&L reimburse their Morris County Ratepayers.
"First and foremost, thank you for your kind words and encouragement last week regarding my strong criticism of JCPL and their incompetent response to recent storms,” he says in letter submitted to the editor.
“It’s 15 days post-storm now, and I am not done fighting,” says Selen. “In other parts of New Jersey, utility company PSE&G has started to reimburse ratepayers for food and medicine that went bad during the power outage.
“CONED, a utility company in NY has been doing the same,” he continues. “What has JCPL done? Nothing!
“Frankly, I’ve received countless calls and emails from seniors, single moms, and small business owners across the county who suffered a real hardship due to these unacceptably long power outages. JCPL must be held accountable.
“JCPL made over $380 million in profit in the first six months of the year and the CEO made $9 million last year. It’s time for JCPL to put people before profits and do the right thing by their customers in Morris County.
“If JCPL won’t do it voluntarily, then the Board of Public Utilities needs to do their job and protect ratepayers.
Those with any questions or concerns regarding the current situation with JCP&L in Morris County, contact Selen at 973-222-0484.
COVID-19 Recovery Task Force Aids Community Groups
The Morris County Board of Freeholders, which is committed to helping to control the spread of COVID-19, is announcing a COVID-19 program to make available infrared thermometers to requesting community organizations and faith-based groups for use at group gatherings that follow state social distancing and face covering guidelines.
Recognizing that a congregation of individuals is sometimes unavoidable, county government will make 300 infrared thermometers available at no cost to community and faith-based groups that generally have gatherings that attract more than 20 persons, to better ensure overall public wellness.
The freeholders, at the request of the Morris Communities Panel of the Morris County Recovery Task Force, have approved spending $32,100 to purchase the infrared devices.
Infrared thermometers will be available for free on a first-come, first-serve basis – one per organization. Interested groups must fill out a required from to apply for thermometers. Visit: https://morriscountynj.seamlessdocs.com/f/thermometerRequest
“Community groups clearly play an important role in our county’s overall public health response to COVID-19,” said Freeholder John Krickus, who chairs the Recovery Task Force. “Many community organizations work with at-risk and vulnerable populations, including homeless, disabled, elderly, indigent, and medically fragile individuals, who gather at their facilities for programs and services.”
Freeholder Tayfun Selen said “The concepts proposed by leaders from across Morris County were quite remarkable. “We are fortunate to have such terrific community partners on our Recovery Task force.”
Faith-based organizations and community groups assist public health with:
Public health education and information campaigns/communications;
Improving public health access to at-risk persons, especially by building trust between those persons and public health officials;
Linking residents to needed support, programs and social services.
The Board of Freeholders, Morris County Office of Health Management and local health departments partner with and rely on community groups for educational and screening programs.
These community groups and faith-based organizations host soup kitchens, food pantries, warming and cooling centers, mental health and addictions programs, among others services that would draw group gatherings.
They also are part of the county’s public emergency response team, and will be important partners in future distribution of mass immunization or distribution of antivirals for COVID-19.
The Morris County COVID-19 Recovery Task Force was formed by the freeholders in April to prepare Morris County to reopen in the most effective manner, both in terms of protecting residents’ health, while renewing business, social, educational, and religious activities.
Leaders from government, health, education, labor, social services, recreation, arts and tourism, and others have participated in Task Force deliberations to gather information, share ideas and develop strategies for a post-COVD-19 world in Morris County, in conjunction with state and federal government health and safety guidelines.
The Task Force’s Morris Communities panel, chaired by Selen, came up with the infrared thermometer plan.
Library Goes Virtual For Kids
Virtual Storytime: Do your kids miss Storytime and coming to the library? Tune in Monday through Friday to see all of the Children's Room Librarians reading stories on Facebook and Instagram.
Buzz's Spring Reading Challenge: Are your kids looking for a fun challenge, that could also brighten up your home? Take part in Buzz's Spring Reading Challenge and help Buzz grow flowers all over Mt. Olive. Printable reading logs and flower coloring pages can be found online at www.mopl.org/youth.
Library Open For Curbside Pickup
The Mt. Olive Public Library is open for curbside pickup.
Requests can only be made via phone call or email.
There is a limit of six items for adults and eight for kids and young adults.
Patrons will be called once their items are available for pickup.
Bags will be placed outside of the library, marked with the last four digits of the patrons card number
Due to COVID-19, patrons may not enter library.
No books will be left outside the building after curbside hours
Also due dates will be spread out throughout August to prevent everything being due back at one time.
Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Thursday: 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Closed on Sunday.
For questions email: firstname.lastname@example.org; call 973-691-8686 ext.106.
MO Democrats Host Mental Health Talk
The Mt. Olive Democrats plan to host a Mental Health Presentation on Tuesday, Aug. 25, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., via Zoom.
“For many people, the pandemic is causing anxiety over our health, finances and relationships, and causing feelings of isolation and depression,” as stated on the Mt. Olive Democrats website.
Mental Health During The COVID-19 Pandemic will be featuring Kelly Canzone, CEO/Clinical Director of the Tri-County Behavioral Care. The presentation is open to all Mt. Olive residents via Zoom. Must register to attend; a Zoom link will be sent the day of the event.
To sign up, go to https://mountolivedemocrats.org/event/mental-health/
For more information on Tri-County Behavior Care, visit https://tcbllc.org/f customers can’t find it, it doesn’t exist. Clearly list and describe the services you offer. Also, be sure to showcase a premium service.
New Jersey First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy and state Sen. Anthony Bucco load groceries into car in June at CCM
Nonprofit Table of Hope, with support of the Morris County Board of Freeholders, sheriff, and other officials and organizations serving Morris County, plans to hold a food and school supplies distribution event at County College of Morris in Randolph on Saturday, Aug. 29.
All Morris County residents are welcome to attend the event, which will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Parking Lot 1 on the CCM campus. Visitors are asked to use the college’s Dover Chester Road entrance.
Face coverings are required for everyone who comes to campus.
County residents and families can receive fresh produce, meat, dairy, canned goods and other groceries.
It will operate as a contactless drive-through event with cars stopping at different food stations categorized by food type. Volunteers will place bags or boxes filled with food into automobile trunks.
There also will be a separate station to distribute backpacks with school supplies.
"The great work being done by Table of Hope and other food pantries in Morris County has been exemplary,” said Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, liaison to the county’s Human Services agencies. “Without their dedication, many people in our county, who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, would be hard pressed to feed their families. We strongly back their efforts.''
The Board of Freeholders during this COVID pandemic have provided $56,000 to the county’s four main food pantries to help offset the cost of their distribution efforts.
CCM hosted a similar event for Table of Hope in June, which was attended by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, Sen. Anthony Bucco, and Freeholders John Krickus and Stephen Shaw.
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Rev Sidney Williams, pastor of Bethel Church of Morristown, converted the Table of Hope bus that was used to pick up food to also be utilized for mobile food distribution. Williams is founder of the Spring Street Community Development Corporation that operates Table of Hope and other programs to improve lives of individuals and families in Morris County.
Assisting Table of Hope with the Aug. 29 distribution are Morris County Sheriff and CCM graduate James Gannon, members of the Morris County Board of Freeholders, and approximately 40 volunteers, including CCM employees and students.
Sponsors include the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, Morris Habitat for Humanity, the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, Market Street Mission, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Pi Theta Omega Chapter, Valley Bank and Alstede Farms.
“We are delighted to partner with CCM so that we can reach a greater number of Morris County residents,” said Rev. Williams.
“While the past five months have been difficult and challenging for so many, it’s also been so very heartwarming to see how the Morris County community has come together to help those in need,” said CCM President Anthony Iacono. “As community organizations we are all committed to doing all we can to strengthen the communities we serve.”
“Morris County is blessed to have folks who don’t hesitate to pull together when others are in need, during this time as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers,” said Gannon.
In March, Table of Hope began operating weekly mobile food distribution programs in Morristown, Parsippany and Dover, along with additional grocery supply events in other Morris County communities including Mt. Olive.
Prior to COVID-19, its pantry in Morristown served about 65 people weekly. The number now being served each week at each mobile distribution event averages 500 to 600, reports Teresa Williams, executive director of the Spring Street Community Development Center.
To date, more than 18,500 individuals and families have been helped and more than 899,300 pounds of food has been distributed.
Table of Hope also operates a soup kitchen that during the pandemic has continued to provide dinners as a take-out service. Table of Hope receives food from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside, local farms and food service companies.
To volunteer or make a donation, visit the Spring Street CDC website at https://springstreetcdc.org/.
Along with Table of Hope, numerous other services are available to assist residents in Morris County's 39 municipalities who are in need of food.
A list of available food services, including food pantries, volunteer shopper organizations, meal delivery services and take-out meal services, can be found at https://hs.morriscountynj.gov/food-services/.
Rather than taking a gap year, students have the option of tapping into millions of dollars in free funding to move forward with a higher education at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph.
By enrolling at CCM, students can focus on taking care of their general education requirements to transfer to a four-year school at a later date; explore their options with more than 100 degree, certificate and training programs; and get a head start on a rewarding and fulfilling career path.
The college is making it easier to fund an education by offering several programs students can apply for to determine if they qualify for free assistance. CCM currently is enrolling students for the Fall 2020 Semester, which begins on September 9. Following are the programs that are available to provide students with money for college.
Free tuition is available for CCM students through the New Jersey Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG). Students taking six or more credits may qualify for these funds to cover both tuition and fees. To learn more and to apply, go to www.ccm.edu/ccog/.
CARES Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund
For students who were enrolled in a degree or certificate program during the Spring 2020 Semester, CCM currently has more than $1M in federal CARES dollars so they can continue their studies this fall. Established to assist people during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is free money students can use for basic needs, technology support, educational expenses and other living costs such as rent, utilities, clothing and childcare. To find out more and to apply, go to www.ccm.edu/admissions/financialaid/ccmcares-studentemergencygrant/.
The CCM Foundation has nearly $300,000 available to award to students as scholarships this fall. The Foundation also operates the Titan Emergency Fund to provide students with money to take care of unexpected expenses ranging from car repairs, to rent, to medical care and more. To apply for a scholarship, go to www.ccm.edu/foundation/scholarships/.
In addition to the money offered through CARES, CCOG and Foundation Scholarships, the CCM Office of Financial Aid awards more than $12M each year to students. A significant portion of those awards consists of Pell Grants, which unlike loans, do not need to be paid back. To learn more about financial aid at CCM, go to www.ccm.edu/admissions/financialaid/.
Course Formats to Fit Your Schedule
Students enrolling for the Fall Semester at CCM are being provided with great flexibility to meet their schedules and comfort level as they can select from three formats to take their courses. Those formats are remote, online and hybrid.
Remote Courses are similar to live classes in that they take place through video conferencing on specific days and times.
Online Courses also take place virtually but do not require attendance at a specific time and allow for the greatest amount of flexibility.
Hybrid Courses are for those programs that require some hands-on learning with a portion of class time taking place on campus and the remainder online.
To learn more about enrolling at CCM for the Fall 2020 Semester, go to www.ccm.edu/fall-2020/.
Submitted by Diane Lang, positive living expert, life coach, speaker.
We are all going through so much change: Between the pandemic, fear of the second wave, quarantine, the new school year, etc.
Change is the only constant in the world but that doesn't mean we enjoy it. Change can cause fear, stress and anxiety. The more we resist change, the more stress we cause. The best way to deal with change is to embrace and lean into it. Don't resist or fight it.
Change brings about many emotions. To help with change, it's good to know the stages and how you can work through each stage.
Stages of Change
1. Shock/Denial- you don't see the problem or won't take responsibility for the issue. This is the time to rethink your behavior. Ask others what they think of this issue? Is there a problem you are not seeing? Is there something you're missing/ignoring?
2. Emotions- being aware of what we are feeling both physically and emotionally. Remember we need to feel - heal.
3. New Norm- shifting away from the old norm. This can take some time. Don't put a time frame on how long the shift will take. This time is called "The Gap;" it's the in between time where we go from an ending to a new beginning. This is the stage we can feel stuck or lost. If you are feeling stuck/lost ask yourself:
What is stopping me from committing to the next phase?
If one year from now nothing changes and everything is still the same, how will you feel?
What are some things that could help me make a change?
4. Acceptance - the moving forward stage. This is where you should set goals and action steps to move forward. Re-evaluate your goals every few weeks.
Write down your goals.
Set micro action steps - small baby steps that lead you in the right direction.
Reward your success - positive reinforcement
5. Maintenance- Keeping your new behaviors and habits going. What obstacles can you expect and how can you prepare for them? Know it's normal to relapse to old behaviors or habits but it's not an excuse to stay there or to beat yourself up.
Identify triggers to relapse.
How can you cope with setbacks in a healthy manner?
Watch for unhealthy coping skills.
Reaffirm your commitment to the change- remember the motivation/reason behind your change.
Keep up the positive reinforcement.
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Experienced journalist since 1990, living in Flanders for 22 years and covering Mt. Olive Township for the past 12 years.
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