SOUTH BRUNSWICK: Board hears parent’s plea for homework holiday

By Deb Dawson, Special Writer
SOUTH BRUNSWICK — Homework was a hot topic at the Oct. 12 Board of Education meeting. About 20 parents were there to support parent Joyce Mehta’s appeal for a homework reprieve for their children. She went so far as to request a homework “holiday” over the November break.
Ms. Mehta said parents are grateful to the administration for including wellness as a goal this year. “We wish to bring to your attention (the fact) that the overburden of homework is severely affecting the health and wellness of our children,” she said.
She asked the board to do an anonymous parent/student survey to “investigate the matter immediately to find out these issues for yourselves.”
She also requested the board form a stakeholder committee comprising parents, teachers, students and administrators, which would be open, inclusive and participatory.
Ms. Mehta wanted a written response within seven business days.
Superintendent Gerard Jellig said, “Five months ago at our goal setting convocation we — faculty, parents, administrators and students — elected to have the study of homework as a 2015-16 goal. Inclusive in that study are surveys of every constituency, benchmarking, a study of scholarship on the subject, and when it’s over we will have a district position on homework.” He also said, “I recognize and I understand your concerns. I will insure that we reach out to you. We’re going to let leadership determine that we do it right.”
Regarding the November break, Dr. Jellig replied, “We’re not going to have a homework holiday — to dictate to teachers how much homework they can give would be destructive.”
Board President Stephen Parker said, in his home, “When it came down to homework or health, it came down to health — it’s the parents’ choice. As Dr. Jellig said, we’ll find the right way to get through this.”
Also at the meeting, Patty Lagarenne, chairman of the Grant Committee of the South Brunswick Education Foundation (SBEF) introduced the winners of the 2014-15 SBEF grants, who described what they did with the money received. Ms. Lagarenne said a total of $10,364 was distributed last year, and $44,945 has been given cumulatively to date.
Winners were teachers at the various South Brunswick schools who received grants to help with classroom projects.
Here are the winners and what was purchased:
Crossroads North, Jess Patterson, Alison Arey, Jennifer Cole and Jen Poli, four iPod Touches for empowering struggling readers; Crossroads South, Kelli Zicha, an electronic literature portfolio; Brooks Crossing, Jeanne Yannacci, an iPad for differentiated student learning; Brooks Crossing, Susan Pazinko, Raz Kids subscription for second grade, an online program for reading to help with fluency and comprehension; Brooks Crossing, Melissa Caruso, fractions unit enhancement — a fractions kit with magnetic number lines, circles, figures and games enabling visualization; Brooks Crossing, Debra Bevin, Caroline Gonzalez and Karen Harbisen, two iPads to personalize math instruction with 21st century technology; Indian Fields, Kristin Konowicz, $500 for high-interest/low-level fiction and non-fiction reading books; Indian Fields, Colleen Eichenlaub, Maryanne Boehm, Cathy Weroste and Lorrie Costenza, non-fiction guided reading-leveled book sets; Indian Fields, Karen Kinsey, Alisia Bedson, Patricia DelGuercio and Terri Wells, “digi blocks” to develop place value skills; Indian Fields, Mariola Launick, educational classroom math and language arts indoor recess games; Greenbrook, Leah Carson and Jane Sandburg, paired texts for building reading comprehension comparing and contrasting fiction and non-fiction; South Brunswick High School (SBHS), Kelly Boyer, materials to enhance student support at events; SBHS, Kathleen Murphy, Misty Malanga, Kathleen McMillan, material to put on a physics and graphics design Hunger Games exercise to help students understand physics and get practical experience in graphic design.
Dr. Jellig said, “I wish all districts had the same opportunity. It gives teachers an opportunity. It’s an incredible gift. It’s a teacher-driven solution. I’m deeply grateful to the foundation. I honor you.”
The foundation’s primary fundraiser, A Taste for Education, will be held on Monday, Oct. 19, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Double Tree Hotel, 435 Route 1 at Ridge Road in Princeton. Tickets are $50. It will feature tasty offerings from some of central New Jersey’s best local restaurants, caterers and wineries, a raffle and silent auction. Visit
Applications for 2015-16 grants are available now and must be submitted by Friday, Oct. 23. For an application visit the website at 