Because Bayonne has seen a significant increase its Middle Eastern population, the school district has been mandated to find certified Arabic-speaking English as a second language teacher, said Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan.
This would be a comprehensive program for students in Robinson School, which currently houses the districts ESL programs.
“Right now we have ESL programs, but not in Arabic,” she said. “But we have to find a teacher.”
She said it is a matter of providing students with better comprehension.
While the district has two teachers who speak Arabic, she said, these are not currently certified ESL teachers, and it is possible that the district might seek to encourage one or both to get certified in that.
“The state made us aware of the situation, and it is a challenge,” she said, noting that the district is currently networking with colleges to seek qualified people.
Bullying reports declined sharply
Assistant Schools Superintendent Robert Craig said there has been two incidents of reported bullying in the school district over the last year, one at Vroom School and the other at Robinson School.
“Both were investigated but could not be confirmed,” he said.
This is down from 49 reported cases in the prior year, at least two of which were confirmed, and he attributed the reduction to the school’s district implementation of anti-bullying curriculum.
The school district introduced the new program to meet the stipulations of a New Jersey law that said every district had to have an anti-bullying policy in place by September 2011. The program encouraged parents to talk with their children and to empathize with them, and to work with the school district to deal with the situation.
The school, under state law, must include anti-bullying lessons in the curriculum and in Bayonne, the schools’ guidance departments are also deeply involved in the program.
Students are told that if they see an instance of bullying they should report it to the staff, and this sets into motion a series of corrective actions by the administration to investigate and deal with the situation.
In the classroom lessons, students are asked to define what bullying is, and are taught how not to be a bully.
Earlier this year, Midtown Community School held the kick-off a national anti-bullying program as well.
Craig said the anti-bullying policy also covers teachers and staff, including possible incidents of staff-on-staff bullying, which are also reviewed.
“Right now we have ESL programs, but not in Arabic.” – Dr. Patricia McGeehan
Craig also said the district is responding to a state report that Bayonne schools currently have too large a percent of Latino students in special education classes.
“We’ve had teams in the school to meet with us and discuss the situation,” Craig said.
This also involved two full days of training of more than 70 people in an effort to better identify issues and to help decrease those who are put into special education classes.
“The workshops helped,” Craig said.
McGeehan said principals of the schools also sat in on some of these workshops.
The team also met with teachers, student representatives, and guidance counselors to better evaluate placement of students.
Breakfast for students
The school district implemented its Breakfast in School program in the fall, and will continue to expand the program to all the schools over the next semester, said School Business Administrator Leo Smith.
Poverty rates in the city have more than 70 percent of students in the school qualifying for meals, and the lack of meals at home often has a negative effect on students’ ability to perform academically.
Partly due to the new kitchen facilities the district has constructed at its Juliet Street building, the district is able to provide the breakfast as well as the lunch program.
“We’ve started it in four elementary schools, and will do two more in January, and two more in February,” Smith said.