Mt. Olive Online Publication December 28 2020
Mt. Olive Online Publication December 28 2020
For those who may have missed the last Mt. Olive Twp. Board of Education meeting earlier this week, the school board approved a new contract for the district superintendent.
The Mt. Olive BOE voted 5-2 in favor of the new contract that carries a 2% salary increase for Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki. The meeting which had been scheduled to be held indoors on Monday, Aug. 31, at 6:30 p.m., at the Mt. Olive Middle School, was changed to outdoors at the Mt. Olive High School Marauder Stadium.
BOE members voting in favor of the new contract were: BOE President Dr. Anthony Giordano, BOE Vice President John Petrie, Dr. Asunta Beardsley, John Kehmna, and Nolan Stephens. Voting against the new contract were BOE members William Robinson and Elizabeth Ouimet; Dr. Antoine Gayles and Anthony Strillacci abstained.
Prior to the vote on that chilly evening, the community was invited to participate in a public hearing to offer input on the proposed contract, but no one from the public offered any comments during this portion of the meeting. Less than 20 people, with masks on, sat spread apart in the stands during the meeting.
This will be the third contract in a 20-month time period for Zywicki since 2018. The new contract includes a 2% salary increase for Zywicki but leaders say the overall package carries a savings to the district.
“I believe that this new contract is a win-win for the Mt. Olive School District community and Dr. Zywicki,” says Giordano. “The board retains one of the best superintendent’s in the state, who will continue to drive our district forward, and Dr. Zywicki is paid fairly and competitively as compared to his superintendent peers.”
In a previous article, 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,” he explains. “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.”
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.
He had gained two more vacation days in the second contract and his health care changed from a P.L. 2011 c 78 at tier 4 of 35%, with automatic deductions from his salary, to 1.5% of annual salary toward health care coverage with Zywicki paying co-pays and deductibles.
The third contract is from 2020 to 2025 and includes a base salary increase of 2% annually. Zywicki will get paid $235K in 2020-21; $239,700 in 2021-22; $244,494 in 2022-23; $249,384 in 2023-24; and $254,372 in 2024-25. Unlike the previous two contracts, Zywicki will not receive extra merit pay.
Other changes include an increase in vacation days from 22 to 24, as well as tuition reimbursement of $39K for an MBA from the University of Iowa.
In the new contract, Zywicki agreed to forgo his sick and vacation compensation upon retirement. In his previous contract, he was eligible to receive $39,811 for sick and vacation compensation every year.
Not All In Favor
Some board members were not in favor of the new contract and voiced their concerns before the vote was taken.
Ouimet questioned how the superintendent’s contract came about and how it will save the district money. She says she was not part of the negotiations of the new contract and she was unaware of the tuition reimbursement which was not included in the first two contracts.
Ouimet also questioned whether public notice about the hearing was published 30 days in advance as required by law.
Why was the contract being discussed tonight? asks Ouimet, adding that the concerns she was raising were brought to her from residents who were uncomfortable speaking at the public meeting.
“Sometimes people don’t feel comfortable coming,” says Ouimet. “We are elected officials,” she says, adding that she is on the board to “do due diligence” by representing the public’s concerns, “especially when the issues are financial.”
“There’s COVID going on right now,” says Ouimet, adding that this “Is not the right time to be doing this; nothing against Dr. Zywicki, he’s doing an admiral job.”
When Ouimet asked about a letter Zywicki had submitted to the board in regards to the contract, she was reprimanded by the board attorney and told not to discuss the superintendent’s correspondence with the community.
Robinson, who also voted against the contract, says “This is the third contract in two years. I’ve not seen any results; I know he’s good. We never had the chance to talk about this. I got this contract Saturday morning.
“There’s a of things,” says Robinson that he needed clarification on such as the $38K raise, turnover of $20K merit pay and tuition reimbursement.
“When are we going to become a real board of ed here?” asks Robinson, who also got criticized for raising these concerns during the public meeting rather than in closed session.
His response, “I would have rather had a closed session here,” says Robinson to discuss these concerns. “Three contracts in two years is absolutely shameful. We hired him in good faith. I just think it’s wrong.”
Strillacci, who abstained, mentioned how thankful he is that full day kindergarten is now a reality and says “you’ve done a tremendous job.”
Some members of the public spoke between themselves after the meeting questioning why the meeting was moved outdoors last minute, and why was it held when parents meetings were being held virtually at 6 p.m. for all high school senior parents, as well as parent meetings for eighth grades parents and elementary school parents.
Giordano provided explanations for these issues raised.
“The Board moved the meeting outside in response to Executive Order 173 which limited indoor gatherings,” says Giordano. “Many of us prefer the live format to the virtual format, particularly when the weather is nice. The live format is more conducive to open dialogue with our constituents. As to the scheduling conflict, we cannot always avoid conflicts with school events, but do our best to do so.”
Giordano also touches on the savings to the district.
“The material changes to this new contract over the former contract are that Dr. Zywicki’s merit pay has been eliminated and put into his base compensation which is the trend statewide,” he says. “He is also getting tuition reimbursement, but we eliminated the large payout for sick and vacation days.
“It’s an overall savings to the district,” explains Giordano, when looking at the total package. “You have to look at total compensation when you are negotiating.”
Last February, during the budget process, Zywicki shared with the BOE his suggestion on how to save the district money, explains Giordano. The plan was to look at those numbers in the following weeks, but when COVID-19 hit, the idea was put on hold until early July when the suggestion resurfaced.
With the salary cap for superintendents abolished last July, other school districts are also engaging in new contracts for their district heads by rolling merit pay into salaries.
Giordano says the board members were involved and aware of the details of the contract.
“All non-conflicted board members were fully aware of the terms of the new contract and were fully included in the process,” says Giordano. “Dr. Gayles and Mr. Strillacci abstained because of the ethics rules which require them to do so because they have relatives employed by the board.”
As far as the letter to the board from the superintendent that Ouimet raises, Giordano says “I am not going to comment on confidential personnel communications from the superintendent.”
BOE secretary Lynn Jones did provide “Mt. Olive Online” with a copy of the ad receipt and legal notice for a change of meeting date, from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31, of the BOE public hearing on a proposed new employment contract for Zywicki to be held at MOMS. According to the receipt provided, the notice was supposed to run July 30 in the Daily Record.
Zywicki Thanks The BOE
Despite any issues that were raised with the approval of the new contract, Zywicki is proud of the district’s accomplishments and thankful for his new package.
“I’m honored to serve here,” Zywicki comments at the meeting and thanks the board for approving the new contract.
“Over the past two years we have accomplished great things in this amazing light house district,” says Zywicki in a statement to "Mt. Olive Online."
“Some of these successes include all six schools earning Future Ready certification, we passed QSAC, full-day kindergarten is now a reality, we expanded special ed inclusion in K-5, we increased AP participation by 200 exams, the graduation rate has increased, and we brought to fruition several capital projects all while producing a positive fund balance through a switch to fiscally conservative zero-based budgeting.
“I am most proud of how we increased communication and community engagement,” he adds. “I am honored that the board awarded me a new five-year contract and look forward to building on our successes.”
Zywicki commented at the end of the meeting, that he plans to donate some of his salary to the Ed Foundation.
“The Ed Foundation has been a passion project of mine,” says Zywicki. “Over the past year I have worked with the Ed Foundation President Rhonda Cohen to file new incorporation paperwork, obtain IRS approval, and get the foundation running again. The mission of the Ed Foundation is to support innovative teaching practices, professional development for MO teachers and scholarships for MO students.
“I believe deeply in this work and I will be donating $2,400 per year of my contract to support the Ed Foundation,” says Zywicki.
Check out this great video
As more public places open up, such as indoor dining, catering halls and movies, more people may want to get that long-awaited hair and nails grooming appointment.
Getting a cut, color or even washed, can be hairy when face-mask ties get in the way. To avoid that nuisance, one local salon owner got innovative and created a special face mask. Kim Knorr of Fredon, owner/stylist of Hair Designs By Kim in Hackettstown, has modified disposable face masks so her customers can feel more at ease when visiting her shop.
Established in June 2015, Hair Designs By Kim just rang in its five year anniversary when it reopened on June 22 after being mandated to shut down on March 19 from COVID-19. While many businesses have struggled to stay afloat, Kim Knorr, who prefers to be referred to as “Kim” has faced her challenges head on.
“When the going gets tough the tough get going,” and Kim is the perfect example of that popular cliché. Instead of closing her doors, Kim is expanding her shop and even hired another stylist to her employee list.
Hair Designs By Kim offers many services such as haircuts for men, women and children; hair color; highlighting; hair extensions; Keratin treatments; specialty highlights such as ombre and balayage; formal hair and makeup for proms and weddings; manicures and gel nails; waxing; and eyelash extensions to come.
A professional hair stylist for the past 15 years, Kim is certified in hair extensions and Keratin smoothing.
She knew from a young age that hair styling is her forte.
“I love it,” says Kim who learned the secrets to her trade from Capri Hair School in Succasunna. “It’s something I always wanted to do. I always did hair on my friends,” and would cut her dolls’ hair.
Before attending school for hair in 2004, when her youngest child enrolled in kindergarten, Kim worked as an account executive for a medical advertising agency for 10 years. When she left the corporate world, she took on a job as a hair receptionist for five years, triggering her path into hair styling.
“Now that I have my own shop, I do enjoy coming to work and I have a great group of girls,” says Kim. “We all work together. Teamwork makes the dream work. I enjoy my employees and my customers. That’s all you can ask for.”
Providing a service that allows her customers to look their best is the highlight of her career.
“Making people feel happy,” says Kim, and “making people feel good about themselves,” is her greatest reward.
“Hair is our passion because we believe that your hair is your best accessory,” says Kim. “When your hair looks amazing, so do you.”
Expansion & Growth
Not many business owners can close their doors for three months then reopen with an expansion, new services and an additional stylist.
It was during the pandemic when Kim received a phone call from her landlord informing her that the business across the corridor of her building was being vacated. Knowing that Kim always wanted a larger space, the landlord asked her if she wanted to rent “the other half of the building,” explains Kim.
“The lawyers next door left,” says Kim. “The landlord asked if I was interested.”
While the timing was not the best to expand, Kim decided to jump at the opportunity.
Work on the expansion began at the beginning of August and is expected to be completed in the beginning of October, she says.
With the expansion, Kim will be able to provide a reception area, waxing, eyelashes, nails, separate bathroom for customers and a back room for her employees to eat.
Mandated to adhere to social distancing at six feet apart, and limit indoor capacity, Kim is grateful that she decided to expand.
“With the pandemic, it will help us work on more customers at a time,” says Kim. It will also provide her customers “more room to sit and relax after a hair color.”
Her current shop is 500 sq. ft.; after the expansion she will double the amount to almost 1,000 sq. ft., she says.
Also after the pandemic, Kim took on another stylist-Traci Buccino, who has been in the business for 35 years. Her other experienced stylist, Stacy Stanaback, has been styling hair for 28 years; and Kristina Smith, for two years. Her receptionist, also named Traci, is a stylist and manages the appointments “and keeps everything in check.”
Smith is currently attending school to be certified in eyelash extensions. Once certified, Kim is excited that she will be adding individual eyelash extensions as a new service in her shop.
With facemasks becoming the norm, the eyes speak volume. Eyelash extensions maybe the latest and greatest beauty necessity since the pandemic hit. Stay tuned for this new service.
“All the stylists at Hair Designs by Kim are always up to date on the current hair and nail trends,” as well as beauty trends, says Kim. “We firmly believe that education is an important way to keep our clients adorned with the latest trends which also keep our skills honed.”
Sticking To The Rules
As a business owner, Kim is serious about adhering to the mandates about social distancing, sanitizing and face masks in her shop, and installed plexi-glass in front of the reception area.
The stylist’s chairs are separated six feet apart; they service one customer per stylist “from start to finish;” sanitize everything in between customers; closed its waiting area; and stored away the coffee pot, as well as the cookies and magazines.
“Anything that can be commonly touched, we don’t have,” she says. Customers are invited to bring their own reading material if they wish.
There is “never more than six people at a time” inside the shop, she says. Before the pandemic, the stylists could rotate multiple customers at one time.
Kim explains they “can’t do that anymore.”
Now they have an organized routine for the customers, and appointments are required.
“When they arrive, they call us from their car to let us know they are here to let the stylist know,” Kim says. “They come up to the front porch, take their temperature” with a touchless thermometer, and fill out a health questionnaire required by the N.J. Department of Health and N.J. State Board of Cosmetology.
Once they pass that screening, they are invited in and go right to the stylist’s chair rather than in the waiting area. Masks are required to be worn at all times by the stylists and customers.
Each station is sanitized in between customers with hospital grade disinfectant, she says. At the end of the visit, the customer pays, and then the next customer waiting outside in the car will be called in to enter.
The greatest challenge has been the masks, with the ties around the ears that can get wet or soiled.
“Some come in with pretty masks; they don’t want to ruin them,” says Kim.
While she was off for three months during the pandemic, recouping from back surgery as well, Kim’s creativity untangled, and she came up with a more effective face mask for her customers to wear while at the shop.
“How am I going to do this?” she asks. “How am I going to make this easier for people? It’s going to get wet and yucky.”
Made out of regular, disposable, non-medical three-ply masks, Kim went ahead and cut the strings off, placed double side tape on each side so it sticks to the cheek. She provides each customer with one of her specially designed masks.
“It can’t get snipped with scissors,” she says, or ruined by hair color.
Regular masks “its workable,” she says, but with the taped masks, “this is so much easier; you don’t have to worry about the strings getting in the way. They all love it. It’s great for a customary fix.”
In addition to the masks, Kim greets her new customers with kits. Placed in a Ziploc bag, the customer can expect a stringless mask, a pack of hand sanitizer/alcohol wipes to clean their cell phone, and lifesavers.
She has a bottle of disinfectant “everywhere you turn. Everything gets disinfected.”
Prior to COVID-19, Kim says “we’ve always disinfected everything” regularly at her shop. “Now, doing it 10 times more often.”
Kim is thankful she was able to stay afloat during the closure and happy her customers are slowly returning for services.
“I’m grateful I was able to save the past years,” says Kim. “If it were any longer I would have had to shut down.”
While most of her customers have returned, she admits some are still leery; others “they are like where am I going? It’s not a desire, need to be here every four weeks.” People “are being cautious on what they are spending their money on.
“I get it, you have to understand it, they are scared,” she says. “Some care for their older parents at home. It’s a weird situation, you bite the bullet, and move on,” and that is exactly what she did by deciding to expand.
“I’m crazy,” she laughs. “I’m biting the bullet. I’m trying to think positive. I always wanted to expand. I am going to go for it and take the chance,” just like she did when she started her business with just a two-year lease.
With the larger space, she says her stylists will be able to accommodate more customers especially during the busy holiday time.
“With the expansion, we will be able to do more people,” she explains. “We can use the other side of the building so they can sit and relax six feet apart with no issues. I can get around this issue not being one person at a time, and everyone will still be safe. At least it’s workable. Maybe it will be a blessing in disguise.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” concludes Kim. “We will get through.”
Located “in the heart of Hackettstown,” at 116 High Street, Hair Designs By Kim offers a quaint “Steel Magnolias” feel. “Come relax with us and we’ll make it an experience you will love and return to.”
The shop is open Wednesday to Saturday. Appointment required; call 908-979-9600. Visit www.kimcutshair.com for more information.
During this unprecedented time, this school year will be a learning experience for all as Tuesday marks the first day back for the 2020/21 school year.
With plans constantly being modified, the latest announcement permits students in grades kindergarten through third to follow a hybrid schedule. Students in these grades will report to school on an alternating A Week/B Week Schedule, or virtual as decided by parents. Students will go to school on a full day schedule, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., as opposed to the previous plan which called for half day.
Students in grades four and five will start off virtual, but can begin in-person instruction on Sept. 22 with A Week/B Week.
Students in grades six through 12 will be all virtual “For probably the first marking period,” on a bell schedule. Students will be held accountable for each period, with attendance being taken and videos on. Blocks at the high school will be 47 minutes long and class will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.
The reason for the older graders to attend virtually for now is due to the “surge in teacher leave requests,” says Mt. Olive Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki, during the Aug. 25 Parent University meeting with parents.
“The curve has flattened,” says Zywicki, with fewer positive cases of COVID 19 in the area. “We don’t have community spread.
“We meet every box on that checklist” mandated by the state to open schools, says Zywicki. “We have everything we need to open schools. We don’t have enough staff. It’s going to be stressful to open schools.”
Zywicki says at the last Mt. Olive Board of Education meeting held last Monday, Aug. 31, that the district received 150 leave requests by teachers and staff. Mt. Olive is not alone in this situation as other districts are facing the same reality.
The “vast majority” of the teachers that requested a leave are at the secondary level and hold certain certificates such as science or math. Elementary school teachers, on the other hand, are certified to teach K-5 rather than a certain subject.
“We are navigating rapids the best we can,” he says.
“All of this is tentative,” he reminds parents. “If we have positive cases, we will have to shut down.”
Zywicki stresses to parents that the virtual learning will be different than how it was when the schools shut down last March. Synchronous learning will be happening with students “engaged in meaningful tasks. It will be enhanced.”
He describes it as a “rigorous educational program.”
Outdoor sports for the high school will begin Sept. 14.
“I understand this is frustrating for many,” says Zywicki. Thank you for your patience.”
Students should have received their teacher assignments. Also a new communication system called Real Time has replaced Powerschool and parents and students should have received log-on instructions.
The Mt. Olive Planning Board will hear the remaining testimony of a general development plan at International Trade Center in Flanders at this week’s meeting.
Last month’s testimony from the applicant lasted about three hours and included testimony from the engineer and planner. The application was carried to Thursday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m., and will be held virtually via Zoom.
“If approved, the applicant will then prepare their site plan based on the input” received by the community and board members, explains Planning Board Chair Howie Weiss. “This site plan may be a year away of being ready for submission.”
Weiss explains that GDP by statute is a comprehensive plan review for a development. “This is not a site plan or subdivision hearing.”
Some may question “why another housing development?” says Weiss, who went on to explain the state’s mandate that requires municipalities to offer 1,200 units of affordable housing.
“We are now under hook to meet this obligation,” says Weiss, or else the “state will have to step in if we don’t meet the affordable housing plan.
In 2017, the Mt. Olive Twp. Council modified the property in question permitting it to be used as residential. This property is not in the Highlands Planning Zone but in the Planning Zone rather than the preservation zone, says Weiss.
The goal of the GDP is to introduce the project, masterplan, explains Weiss, and then the applicant will come back to the planning board to present its subdivision.
“There’s a lot of information out there on social media, most of which is misleading,” says Weiss, “and not based on any facts whatsoever. We are going to work in reality; going to work on the facts.”
New Development Plan Presented
The GDP is proposed to be located on 123.9 acres in the area of the International Trade Center East in Flanders, describes Kenneth Grisewood, a licensed landscape architect pf Menlo Engineering Association in Highland Park. Grisewood provided testimony on the general land plan of the proposed development during the July 16 Planning Board meeting.
The development plan, which was prepared May 28, 2019 by Menlo Engineering and then revised on Feb. 26, 2020, would be located on the east side of Route 80, along Continental Drive and would consist of three tracts of land with 87 acres on lot one, 23 acres on lot two and 13.69 acres on lot three.
The development would consist of 686 residential properties, of which 138 or 20 percent would be affordable housing units. There would be a mix of housing types: Comprehensive residential units with single family dwellings; one and two car garage townhomes; two-story low-rise affordable housing units; and three story affordable housing units.
Grisewood describes the other properties further west as light industrial and commercial uses.
Common open space would include sidewalks and pedestrian trails, totaling 46 percent of the property or 57 acres, says Grisewood.
Standard sewage and city water is proposed.
Three Lots Proposed
Grisewood then breaks down the three different lots:
Lot one or the Ridge contains 427 units for sale: 104 Affordable Housing units, 160 family units, 163 townhomes and 104 low rise affordable housing units. This lot includes 36.5 acres of interior open space.
Lot two or the Canal Parcel contains 93 market rate, one and two car garage townhomes for sale; 12.7 acres of open space for passive use.
Lot 3 or the Crossroads consists of 167 rental apartments located in six three-story structures with 34 affordable housing units; 7.8 acres of interior open space.
Grisewood clarifies that the proposal is for one development plan but there are two different developers.
As far as a circulation plan, he says pedestrian connectivity between the three lots is planned as well as sidewalks, a trail network, access roads and parking areas.
Walking paths are proposed along with open space, park area and child’s play area.
There will also be an individual development homeowner’s association responsible for an open space area, except for the Crossroads parcel.
In regards to open space, Grisewood says “open space is a function of the overall development.” He says the trend in land development and residential communities has moved way from club houses and pools because of the expense of insurance and liabilities, and that they are “not used as much.”
He says “there is a growing trend for walking trails and passive type of recreational activities.”
Grisewood says he likes the open space idea for informal activities such as a central park on the Ridge parcel.
He adds that there is a community space being proposed on the Crossroads parcel for a community gathering space for interior use such as fitness center to be used only by those residents living there.
There is no pool or recreational space planned for the development.
Following the engineer’s testimony was testimony of the development’s planner- Paul Phillips of Phillips Price in Hoboken, who provided a fiscal analysis and community facilities analysis to the board.
Phillips gave projection of property tax revenue accrued by the municipality, county and school district with the proposed development.
He estimates a $227 million ratable to the township, a 7% increase.
The development will generate 1,800 residents, of which 250 will be school aged children attending the local public schools, he says.
The township will raise $1.6 million in annual tax revenues from the new development, and will have to expend $1.1 million annually to support the new residents. Those numbers yield a $550 million annual net surplus to the township, he says.
As far as impact on the school district tax rate, Phillips says the development will raise $5.5 million annually for school taxes; $3.9 million will be expended by the school district to support new students. Those figures will produce $1.6 million annual surplus, he projects.
“This is really informational,” says Phillips. Based on his comprehendible analysis that projects school impact, Phillips says the development “would not adversely impact the school district” as there was capacity to accommodate school enrollment based on a study done three to four years ago by the school district.
Safely interconnecting through the development with Route 80 right there, traffic study, cemetery bordering the property and impact on schools were the main concerns raised.
There is an existing bridge which serves as a walkway to get across the highway, says Chuck McGroarty, Mt. Olive Twp. Director of Planning, adding that it needs to be determined if the bridge is “structurally sound.”
Says Weiss, “Short of taking your life in your hands, how are you supposed to get from one to the other?”
Weiss said that since the board did not hear from the Mt. Olive Board of Education yet, he didn’t want to address that concern.
“We haven’t had any testimony on the schools,” says Weiss. “There will be testimony. We will certainly hear from the board of education when the time comes.”
McGroarty says the school district did provide him with a demographic study in 2019 and he did advise the BOE to monitor this project.
“We reached out to the board of education,” says McGroarty. “We can provide additional information; the board is being kept appraised of this.”
Planning Board Member Brian Schaechter also questions these projections on how many extra students will be attending the local schools.
“We do have capacity of 500,” says Schaechter, adding that the issue is the calculation of the 250 from the study.
“I think you are a little light on your projection,” says Schaechter, former BOE member who is also rerunning for school board. “Our schools operate not on a tax base but on our own budget. I don’t see a tax reduction with you adding kids to the district.”
Agrees Planning Board Member Joe Ouimet, with affordable housing, we “will have a lot of families moving in. It seems far-fetched,” that those units won’t attract families with school-aged children.
“It’s important we have those numbers accurate,” says Weiss. “It would be nice if we could clean that up a little bit.”
Resident John Cavanaugh questions the extra cost in bussing these students since the development is a distance away.
“Our education system is our most valued treasure in town,” says Cavanaugh. “The value that our education attracts. I do think these costs need to be figured out.”
By Cheryl Conway
They may have been socially distanced, but the crowd at Turkey Brook Park in Budd Lake last week took the first step in getting closer through conversation and connecting that ethnic divide.
Mt. Olive In Color hosted its first public event- A Teach-In Afternoon- on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 3 p.m. Close to 40 members of the community gathered with masks on and six feet apart to listen to five different speakers representing different ethnic backgrounds.
The event was the first in many to come, to begin and continue a conversation that shares the experiences of the BIPOC (Black, Ingenious and People of Color), amplifies the voices and ultimately bridges the gap.
“The mission of MOIC is to amplify the voices of the BIPOC community and to create a safe, inclusive environment,” explains Afreen Fahad, a MOHS alumnus from the Class of 2015 and one of the co-founders of MOIC.
“MOIC believes that the first step in creating a safe and inclusive community is to listen to the stories, struggles, and perspectives of different community members in order to come to a place of understanding and then move forward in the process of healing and rebuilding. The Teach-In was the first event to bring the community together in-person to start the conversation surrounding BIPOC experiences in our town.”
With the intention of highlighting experiences from a multitude of community members, MOIC worked to bring speakers of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, the group states in a press release.
“The curated lineup of speakers emphasized the notion that all of Mt. Olive’s BIPOC community members have unique experiences and perspectives,” as stated in the release. “The speakers covered topics ranging from intersectionality to struggles with faith, microaggressions, racially insensitive jokes, and unequal treatment in the workplace.”
Fahad says “the curated lineup consisted of five speakers, representing four different cultural backgrounds, to emphasize the notion that all of Mt. Olive’s BIPOC community members have unique experiences and perspectives.
“One of the speakers was a current rising senior at the high school and three of the speakers were MOHS alumni,” he adds. The last speaker, Dr. [Antoine] Gayles, is a member of the MOTSD Board of Education, who spoke about his experience as a Black man who has lived, worked, and raised his family in Mt. Olive.”
While Gayles was the only official from the township in attendance, who also served as a speaker, Fahad says MOIC “extended the invitation to the larger community and its members to both attend and have the chance to speak at the event. Township officials should always feel free and welcome to attend any event in the town they hold a position in.”
Sharon Ojukwu, a 2017 MOHS grad, recounted: “I realized growing up, like in high school, I had to prove myself. I had to prove that I am smart. I had to prove that I am capable. And as I just grew up, I learned I had to be unapologetically me.” About 35-40 Mt. Olive community members “gathered to be included in the afternoon of listening and understanding,” says Fahad. “The socially-distanced crowd consisted of students, parents, alumni, teachers and other Mt. Olive residents. The event was also live-streamed on Mount Olive in Color’s Instagram page, where many members of the community who were not able to attend in-person were able to join in virtually to listen in and be included.”
Understanding and Networking Begins
At the end of the Teach-In, the attendees “intermingled to discuss in depth their different experiences and network to build a supportive community,” says Fahad.
“With the goal of allowing the community to reach a place of understanding, this event was the first of many of MOIC’s efforts to facilitate conversation within the broader community,” he says.
To keep that conversation going, MOIC invites the larger community to join in on future events.
“The response to the teach-in was overwhelmingly positive,” says Fahad. “Attendees and members of the online Mount Olive in Color community were quick to thank the speakers for sharing their stories and expressed that they were glad to start the conversation and join in. Some attendees expressed that despite living in Mt. Olive for years, the teach-in was the first community event that they had attended, showing that there is an untapped community in Mt. Olive that has the potential of being better engaged.”
MOIC is currently working with the administration of the MOTSD to implement the demands outlined in its petition to create an inclusive environment in the MOTSD schools with anti-racist curriculum, says Fahad.
“MOIC will also continue to use its online social platforms to amplify voices, highlight BIPOC community members, educate, and continue the conversation to heed change,” he says. In terms of events, MOIC’s goal is to host recreational events that not only share the experiences of BIPOC but also celebrate the myriad of cultures that culminate in Mt. Olive.”
About Mount Olive In Color:
MOIC is a passionate coalition dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive community in Mt. Olive, where all members can feel valued and respected. Its mission is to amplify the voices of BIPOC community members and push change centered around awareness, conversations, and accountability.
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.
Voting Options Shared For November Election
Megan Davis with the NJ League of Women Voters of Western Morris and Warren Counties will present and lead a conversation on the voting options available in the November General Election. The event will take place on Wednesday, September 23, from 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m..
This non-partisan educational event is open to all. Register and learn how all active, registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail, and have the option to return their ballot in the mail, in person at their polling place, or by using a secure ballot box in the November General Election. The non-partisan event is hosted by the Mount Olive Democrats.
The general public is invited to take part in this event. Registration required, please use the following link: https://mountolivedemocrats.org/event/league-of-women-voters-presentation-on-the-november-election/
Chabad Offers Top Quality Jewish Education
This year, more than ever, the Chabad Jewish Center of Northwest N.J. in Flanders has a unique opportunity to teach children the importance of their Jewish education.
Chabad Hebrew School offers a fun, creative, and top quality engaging Jewish experience!
Offering three tracks starting Sunday, September 13!
For more information or to register, please visit www.mychabadcenter.com/chs
or call 973-933-6011.
County Offers Jobs-Employer Connection Website
A new website allowing employers to post job openings and business profiles, and prospective workers to search for compatible open positions, has been launched in Morris County by the Morris County Economic Development Corporation.
The MC EDC, which is a division of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, created the website with support from the Morris County Board of Freeholders, and in coordination with the Morris/Sussex/Warren Workforce Development Board.
“Morris County is committed to supporting businesses to help them attract top talent to grow and sustain the economy of Morris County, which is a Forbes ‘top 10’ county in the country,” said Deborah Smith, Morris County Freeholder Director.
“Connect to Morris will allow companies in a variety of industries to create profiles and post videos about the benefits of working for their company and relocating to Morris County, which has a tremendous amount to offer. Residents and students will also be able to search for opportunities with companies in the county and stay in New Jersey,'' Smith added.
The website – connecttomorris.com – is intended to be a hyper-local resource where businesses in the community can post job opportunities and a company profile, including a video showing prospective employees why the business is a great place to work, said Meghan Hunscher, president of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.
“Our mission is to ensure that Morris County’s economy continues to thrive,” Hunscher said. “To do so, businesses need a way to reach prospective employees, both locally and those considering relocating to the county, to showcase themselves and open positions they are trying to fill.
“In addition, workers need to be as informed as possible about job opportunities available in their community. We are providing a reliable resource for both.”
The website, with the tagline “Connecting Local Companies with Local Talent,” allows businesses to load their profiles at no charge, segmented by industry sector, and offers pages for employers to post job openings and individuals to post resumes.
There also is a page showcasing the quality of life in Morris County, a page for students and a resources page. The “Connect to Morris” website is also a resource that allows postings by nonprofits seeking volunteers and board members, as well as for apprenticeships and internships.
The chamber will encourage members to post profiles and job openings on the website and the Workforce Development Board will recruit additional businesses to populate the site, according to Hunscher.
“Connect to Morris promotes Morris County’s strong job market and high quality of life,” said Workforce Development Board Director Jane Armstrong. “It is an essential resource for our business community and residents.”
The website was funded through the MCEDC as a public, private and nonprofit initiative.
International Overdose Awareness Day Observed
Morris County, state and federal officials joined families who lost loved-ones due to overdoses and several community organizations on Monday, Aug. 31, in Parsippany to recognize International Overdose Awareness Day, an annual event observed to reduce the stigma of drug-addiction and the tragedy of drug-related deaths.
The occasion was marked with a freshly planted, weeping cherry tree, dubbed an “Angel Tree Memorial,” dedicated outside the Morris County Addiction Center off Central Avenue. State Senator Anthony Bucco (R-25) opened the dedication ceremony, joined by Freeholder Director Deborah Smith, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), along with many county human services officials, health care professionals, counselors and law enforcement personnel who assist people with addictions.
“Being present for the dedication of the first Angel Tree Memorial in Morris County gives this grieving mother hope,” said Rebecca Finnerty of Montville, who spoke at the ceremony about losing her son to a heroin overdose in 2016. “Honoring my beloved son and angel, Justin, along with all of the angels in Morris County lost to the drug epidemic - those of us who grieve them, and those who continue to fight for recovery - literally breathes life from that weeping cherry tree into a place where it is desperately needed.”
Others stories of overdoses were told by a dozen parents, each bearing large photos of the children they lost to drug addiction – including one woman who lost both a son and daughter.
“Today, we recognize not only the dilemma of addiction and drug overdoses in our society, but also the dedication we all share with health-care providers and law enforcement to stop the insidious nature of addiction in our community,” said Freeholder Director Smith. “The tree we dedicate today is a fitting tribute because it symbolizes life, growth and hope – the hope that our work will one day mean we will not need to gather here in the future to talk about addiction or the lives lost to it.”
The concern over overdose deaths is more poignant this year as recent data from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates drug-related deaths in the United States rose to record levels in 2019 and continue to climb. New Jersey ranks seventh among all 50 states with the highest per-capita rate of deaths due to drug overdose.
“We have lost far too many lives in communities across New Jersey and the country due to opioid abuse and drug overdose,” said Bucco. “This day will serve as a humble reminder across our state of the work that needs to be done to protect innocent lives and raise awareness to the issue that impacts families of every creed. If we as a community come together to better understand, inform, and educate about the scourge of substance abuse and overdose, we can work to find better ways to help the most vulnerable among us and save lives.”
The senator introduced legislation approved by the state Senate and Assembly last week to establish every Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day in N.J. The rise in annual addiction-related deaths has surpassed record annual highs for auto accidents and it is the leading cause for a reduction in the nation’s life expectancy, according to the CDC.
“Morris County is at the forefront of creating programs and partnerships that understand the complexities of drug addiction and how the disease ravages a person’s health, relationships and self-preservation instincts,” said Gannon. “As the Morris County Sheriff who has made fighting opioid abuse a priority, Overdose Awareness Day is a call-out to keep the stigma-free philosophy and use every resource possible to stop drug abuse and recreational dabbling that too often lead to preventable fatal overdoses.”
First recognized in 2001, Overdose Awareness Day is observed throughout the world every Aug. 31. The freeholders established the date as an annual day of observance through a resolution adopted on July 8.
“Planting this weeping cherry tree is a simple, yet meaningful act by which we hope for a new beginning,” said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, the board’s Human Services liaison. “We launch a new life hoping that those with addictions can overcome their disease and live on. We launch this new life hoping their families, too, avoid the burden of losing a loved one to addiction.”
The CDC issued a preliminary report in July indicating nearly 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019, marking a sharp increase over 2018, when the nation had been experiencing a decrease.
“On International Overdose Awareness Day we honor those lost,” said Kelly Labar, Peer Recovery Specialist at the Center for Addiction Recovery Education & Success. “Every day that we advocate for those actively using and those with substance use disorders, we have those that we have lost on our heart.”
NJ Cares, also known as the state Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies, reported 1,595 suspected drug-related deaths in the state as of June 30. That puts the state on a pace to equal or exceed the 3,021 drug-related deaths the agency counted in 2019.
“The heroin and opioid epidemic continues to be a scourge on the residents of New Jersey,” said Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp. “The Narcan program in Morris County is a critical component to our multidisciplinary approach in combating this epidemic. Other components include a strong focus on public education and Operation Helping Hand, a cooperative law enforcement initiative where substance use treatment is offered to those arrested for possessory drug offenses, for those determined to be eligible. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement and non-profit partners to save lives and connect those struggling with substance use to treatment resources immediately after overdoses are reversed.”
In Morris County, NJ Cares counted 89 drug-related deaths in 2018 and 86 for 2019. So far this year, 54 deaths have been registered in Morris County.
Morris County has been a leading force in combatting addiction, adopting a Stigma Free policy years ago while launching multiple programs to deal with the rising phenomenon of drug overdoses through the Morris County Department of Human Services, the Mental Health Association of Morris County, the Community Outreach and Planning Section in the Sheriff’s Office, Morris County Prevention is Key and their Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success.
The Morris County Addiction Recovery Response Team and the Morris County Sheriff’s Hope One Mobile Response Unit were launched in 2017, with the ARRT offering peer-recovery support to overdose survivors in hospital emergency departments and follow-up counseling. The Hope One outreach program, which is a mobile recovery access center, travels throughout Morris County to provide critical support to people struggling with addiction to prevent overdoses and deaths.
There Is Still Time to Enroll For Fall At CCM
There is still time to enroll for the Fall Semester at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph. The college also has a number of programs to help fund a higher education so students can keep moving forward during these challenging times.
The Fall Semester begins on September 9. In addition to the traditional length semester, CCM also offers a 13 Week Semester that begins on September 23 and a Late Start 7 Week Semester that starts November 4.
Students enrolling for the Fall Semester at CCM are provided with additional flexibility. There are now three format options for 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 take place virtually but do not require attendance at a specific time. Hybrid courses are for those programs, such as engineering and science, that require some in-person learning on campus and the remainder online.
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 started on a rewarding and fulfilling career path. A number of programs are offered to high school students so they can get a head start on a higher education. To learn about those programs, go to http://bit.ly/CCMHighSchoolPrograms /.
CCM recognizes the challenges that students face in funding their education. CCM offers several programs students can apply for to determine if they qualify for free assistance.
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 /.
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. Those funds can be used not only to help with tuition but to take care of 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 /.
To enroll for the Fall 2020 Semester at CCM, go to www.ccm.edu/fall-2020 /.
Photo:“Failed Response,” photo taken by Luna Wroblewski, of Kinnelon, a CCM student.
CCM Presents Online Art Gallery Exhibition
The Art and Design Gallery at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph is holding a virtual exhibition, Inexorable Creators, featuring works created by students, faculty and staff during the pandemic and nationwide protests. The exhibition can be found at http://bit.ly/Fall2020Exhibit
Centenary Health Director Confident In Safe Opening
Theresa A. Lord-Stout of Hackettstown knows a little about the anxiety parents feel as their children return to college campuses for a fall semester very much shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, she’s confident in her freshman daughter’s decision to enroll at Centenary University in Hackettstown- and to live on campus. That’s because Lord-Stout is the university’s director of health services and has spent much of the summer helping to carefully plan Centenary’s safety protocols for reopening.
“I’m confident that the university has done its due diligence in putting protective measures in place,” she explained. “There are no guarantees that everything will be 100 percent fine, but we’ve done as much as we possibly can. Now, it’s incumbent upon the students and employees of the university to do the things we’re asking them to do.”
Centenary began classes on Monday, Aug. 31, guided by a flexible reopening plan combining on-ground, online, and HyFlex course options that maximize social distancing and safety in classrooms, residence halls, and dining halls, in accordance with a recent executive order issued by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy allowing in-person instruction at the state’s colleges and universities. In addition, social distancing will be introduced to student activities as much as possible to enhance student safety.
Family ties at Centenary run deep in Lord-Stout’s family. Her daughter, Kate, is the third generation in the family to attend the university. Kate’s late grandmother, Virginia Arnold Stout, was a 1950 graduate, as were her great-grandmother, Edythe Jackson Hankinson (Class of 1915), and her great-great-aunt, Minnie Jackson (Class of 1913). Growing up in Hackettstown, Kate loved to attend Centenary sporting events with her late grandfather, Jim Lord, Jr., a beloved van driver for the University’s equestrian center for many years.
Despite the strong family connection, Centenary’s excellent education program ultimately clinched Kate’s decision to attend the University. “Centenary has a great education program,” said Kate, a future teacher who plans to play on the Centenary University Cyclones softball team. “A lot of my former teachers are graduates and told me about the benefits of attending Centenary.”
To reinforce the safety measures put into place as a result of the pandemic, Kate and her fellow students—as well as Centenary’s employees—signed a Cyclone Pledge, agreeing to adhere to new regulations on social distancing, wearing face masks, using a Campus Clear app daily to track health symptoms, wiping down personal spaces, and not congregating in large numbers.
“My husband and I wanted Kate to have the full college experience living on campus and becoming immersed in campus life,” said Lord-Stout, who has had several conversations with her daughter to reinforce on-campus safety in a COVID-19 world. “I’m confident in my daughter’s ability to follow the University’s COVID-19 safety policies—she’s a smart, conscientious student.”
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.
Building a Resiliency Plan for Tough Times
Submitted by Diane Lang, positive living expert, life coach, speaker.
When going through a tough time, a change/transition, there is always an end and a beginning. With change/transition comes pain, sadness, and fear but there is also some good and joy. You find new reasons to go on. You re-shape your life according to your new reality.
You start asking questions such as:
How am I going to rebuild my life with my new reality?
What new expectations do I have for my new reality?
What new dreams and goals come up for me?
Healing is building a life around the pain. It is acknowledging the pain, sadness, fear, and whatever emotions comes up for you, feeling them and still building a new life. You grow despite the struggle, change and pain. You find new motivation to move on. When we find ourselves in a change whether forced or planned, we find new purpose and meaning in life. Purpose and meaning changes with our circumstances. It’s important to embrace the change and all the new that comes with it.
When going through this tough time/change ask yourself the following questions:
1.What do I need? Resilient people ask for help.
2. Are my basic needs met? We need a strong foundation. Make sure your sleep, diet, water, and exercise become part of your daily routine. When you recognize an area that is lacking, think of one small step you can take to improve it.
3. What are my self-care strategies? What helps calm and soothe me? Are they healthy coping skills?
4.What does my support system look like? We cannot heal, grieve or forgive only.
5. Do I have a good morning and night routine? We are our happiest, most productive, and creative with routine, schedule and consistency. If you do not have a routine, create one by adding two activities to both your morning and night routine such as: gratitude, prayers, stretching, meditation, yoga, walking, journal writing, deep breathing, etc.
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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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