Better scores one goal for South

The district also wants to improve communication with the public.

By: Linda Seida
   WEST AMWELL — As the South Hunterdon Regional High School District prepares a referendum to update its facilities, the Board of Education and the superintendent are setting goals that include improved communication with the community and higher achievement for students.
   "We have made excuses here, and we cannot do that any longer," said Superintendent Lisa Brady during a meeting of the board Nov. 18. "There are plenty of small schools that have high test scores, and we are going to be one of them."
   Her comments were in response to a letter to the editor published that day in The Beacon. The letter was written by Dr. Gisbert Manskopf of West Amwell, a retired physician who served on the Rutherford Board of Education from 1993 to 1999.
   Dr. Manskopf, the father of a science teacher who is employed in another state, noted the district students have low SAT scores and similarly low scores on other standardized tests.
   "Before such a referendum should be even considered, the academic performance should be markedly improved," he said.
   Parent Audrey Frankowski said she "saw purple" when she read Dr. Manskopf’s letter.
   "The way it comes off, as if it’s a black-and-white thing, is so irritating," she told the South Hunterdon board.
   Ms. Frankowski said she noticed a "very, very positive" feeling in the community toward the district.
   South Hunterdon has plenty of success stories on a daily basis, Ms. Brady said during the board meeting, but they are "by their nature difficult to communicate."
   Monday, she said, "We are confronting and taking a very close look at issues that are related to test scores."
   For example, she said, "We are training teachers to use more of the kinds of prototype questions found on standardized tests. In all classes, all the time. We need to start sharing that information with out students."
   The perception voiced by Dr. Man-skopf "is something we really need to address," she told the board. "As the face of South Hunterdon gets stronger in the community, people will begin to put down their end of the rope."
   In addition to improved communication with the community, another goal is "to continue working with curriculum and assessment," Ms. Brady said Monday. The district is going to "continue the evaluation cycle the administration implemented under the previous superintendent and now focus on innovative strategies to deliver" the curriculum to students.
   "The curriculum is a written document," she said. "Delivery of it is critical" in terms of student achievement.
   The district plans to put a referendum to voters in September 2005 for renovations to the building, which has not undergone a major renovation since it was built in 1959.
   Voters in the recent past twice shot down building referendums. In 2002, only six votes defeated the proposal.
   In September 2001, the board asked voters to approve expansion projects that totaled $18.8 million, including the cost of a new gym and auditorium. When that failed 969-857, the board returned to voters March 2002 to ask for a pared down referendum for renovations that left out the gym and auditorium and totaled $11.8 million. That also failed, 861-855.
   If South Hunterdon wants to be eligible for state construction funds, the referendum must go to voters by September, Ms. Brady has said. The fund, which is available until September 2006, reimburses 40 percent for construction and 30 percent for renovation.