Teaneck Schools Admin: Remember the Rubric, Forget the Rationale – “Mandating” Chaos in Pre-K

The Teaneck School system is blindly applying Pre-COVID regulations designed specifically for “in-class instruction”, to “virtual classrooms” — and it’s actively harming education.

Teachers are being told to limit instruction time to 15 minutes based on a rule that’s meant to ensure that teachers don’t plop kids in front of a screen in a center or large child care facility.

It was written before the days of COVID (in 2012) and has nothing at all to do with distance learning.

Mandating 15 minute intervals, especially as parents struggle with a constant stream of links, creates chaos for the virtual classroom.

Teachers need to be given the opportunity to design their lesson times and breaks, as fits the situation.


It’s September and schools have started up here in Teaneck.  As most families are acutely aware, this year will be like no other that preceded it.

For families with Kindergarten and Pre-K students, like mine, it’s far more difficult.

We received an email from our daughter’s Teacher at Bryant school.

It reads:

“We are mandated to stick to 15 min. intervals of screen time/ live instruction.” (emphasis added)

The Bryant School Remote Learning Plan contains similar language:

“In accordance with NJ DOE guidelines, children between 2 and 5 years old shall be exposed to no more than 15 minutes of screen time, and no more than 60 total minutes of combined home and school screen time.” (emphasis added)

Misinformation and Obfuscation

All class instruction is virtual.  If there is no “school screen time”, is there merely an hour max of instruction per day (in the home)?

I made an inquiry to the district as to to the source of this “mandate” and I also emailed the principal.

Principal Davidman provided the information rather quickly and we spoke for about half an hour yesterday.

The “mandate” doesn’t exist and it’s certainly not new or related to virtual education.

This requirement is created by Teaneck and stems from the CFOC Guidelines (Caring for Our Children, (CFOC) is a collection of national standards that represent the best practices, based on evidence, expertise, and experience, for quality health and safety policies and practices for today’s early care and education settings)

Her email in response to my querry can be found here:

It reads:

Children between 2 and 5 years old shall be exposed to no more than 15 consecutive minutes of screen time, and no more than 60 total minutes per day of combined home and school screen time.
– Caring for Our Children, includes the recommendations for early care and education facilities of three national organizations, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, and National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education,https://nrckids.org/CFOC. P. 67 third edition (CFOC3)

Does the CFOC actually say this?

Indeed, the words appear (it’s up to CFOC4 now, so if you click the link, it’s on page 70) in section 2.2.0.3.

But here’s the rub – this is not the scenario the recommendation applies to.

After each section, the CFOC lists the following:

  • Rationale
  • Comments
  • Type of Facility

These are areas, where they explain the reccomendation.

Here’s what it says (again, page 70-71 in the CFOC4):

Rationale:

To best develop their cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills, infants and toddlers need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers (1). Digital media viewing do not promote such skills development as well as “real life”. (emphasis added)

Comments:

Digital media is not without benefits, including learning from high-quality content, creative engagement, and social interactions. However, especially in young children, real-life social interactions promote greater learning and retention of knowledge and skills.  When limited digital media are used, co-viewing and co-teaching with an engaged adult promotes more effective learning and development.

Because children may use digital media before and after attending early care and education settings, limiting digital media use in early care and education settings and substituting developmentally appropriate play and other hands-on activities can better promote learning and skills development. (emphasis added)

TYPE OF FACILITY:

Center, Large Family Child Care Home

Did you catch that, too?

They remembered the rubric (screen bad), but for got the rationale (because in-person instruction is better!)

This is a rule that’s meant to ensure that teachers don’t plop kids in front of a screen in a center or large child care facility.  It’s written before the days of COVID (in 2012) and has nothing at all to do with distance learning.

If the teacher’s find that kids can’t handle that much instruction time, of course, it is appropriate to modify the schedules accordingly.  But, to pretend that a  recommendation on extraneous screen time is a mandate during virtual learning is detrimental to our kids, and onerous on parents & teachers.

And the teacher’s know it’s impossible:

Yet, we are told this is a “mandate” from the State of NJ.

Well, if this is a mandate, I mandate you read this and share it, because something is not right in Teaneck.

April 3 COVID-19 Update from Dr. Irving

April 3, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians, Students and Staff,
The last three weeks have been challenging, exhausting, and extremely informative. This describes what I have heard from many parents, and how our staff – including me – have described our current reality. The good news is that a well-deserved spring break is upon us and when we “return”, we will begin a very different educational approach using Google Classroom.
In my last communication to you, I mentioned that beginning Monday, April 13, we will move to a virtual learning platform with specific class/subject schedules Monday – Thursday. Fridays will be used as a review or testing day.  However, next week is also an important week because there will be some informational sessions and opportunities for you to get prepared for our new virtual learning schedule.  All of the information that you will need will be posted on our COVID-19 Update section of our website (a green button on the left hand side of the homepage –   https://www.teaneckschools.org/COVID-19.aspx). Please bookmark this page as it will become a very important resource for you as we move forward.
Here is our go-forward plan:

Continue reading “April 3 COVID-19 Update from Dr. Irving”

Teaneck Schools Closed Indefinitely beginning March 16, 2020 – Important COVID-19 Update from Superintendent

Dear Parents & Guardians,

Out of great concern for the health and welfare of Bergen County residents and all school staff during this Coronavirus/COVID-19 health crisis, the Bergen County Executive has called for ALL school buildings in this county to be closed, indefinitely, beginning on Monday, March 16, 2020.

On behalf of Teaneck Public Schools, I am appreciative of this decision.  Although we currently have no presumptive positive cases in the District, we will close all of our school buildings next week. Our district office (at the Glenpointe – 300 Glenpointe Centre “East” building – 7th Floor) will remain open with limited staff each day. In the likely event that we will need to close our school buildings beyond the coming week, I will communicate that to you by the end of next week.

IMPORTANT EXPECTATION:  During this difficult time, all school districts are required by the NJ Department of Education to continue to educate our children through a “learning from home” protocol.  To that end, please be aware of the following important actions that we are taking:

Continued Education

Over this weekend, you will receive an email from our Curriculum & Instruction staff outlining how to access your child’s lesson plans/assignments – by grade – via our district website:  https://www.teaneckschools.org

Middle school and high school students will be expected to work “virtually” (through the internet) and will be guided by their teachers in “Google Hangouts” throughout this process.  All of our middle and high school students were provided a Chromebook to take home.  If you do not have internet access at home, please contact your child’s school principal on Monday, March 16.  They will be in the school building on that day from the hours of 11am-1pm to print home instruction packets for families.  After Monday, you will not be able to enter the school buildings. If needed, you can visit the District Office at the address above.

For all other grades, the lesson plans provided will help guide you through the daily, two hour per day requirement.  For our parents with children of special needs, you will receive further information from our Special Services department this weekend.

The email you will receive will provide more specifics and will even include “how to” videos.  Just know that our expectation is for your child to complete their daily assignments. It is best to complete these over the next one to three weeks; but please note that in order for your child to receive credit for these instructional days, they MUST complete all assignments by the end of this school year. Also, if you have any questions at any time, you should contact your child’s teacher via their district email address and expect a response within 24 hours.  If you do not receive a response within that timeframe, please let your school principal know and he/she will ensure that you receive an immediate response.

Afterschool & Evening Activities

While our school buildings are closed, there will be no afterschool or evening programs – including our before and aftercare (SACC) program.  High school athletics will be suspended unless otherwise notified by our Athletics Director.  The March 18th Board Meeting is our one exception – it will take place as scheduled (beginning at 7:30 pm).  Any special recognition ceremonies previously planned for this meeting will be rescheduled.

Food Services

Although the school buildings will be closed, we will be distributing box lunches to any district family in need.  Beginning Monday, March 16, you can come to Teaneck High School from 11 am – 1 pm to pick up a boxed lunch.  There will be a tent area by the Cranford gym (facing the back parking lots).  You will be asked for your child/children’s names.  Our focus is on the health of our children.  This includes ensuring they receive a nutritional meal!

COVID-19 Resources

As we all continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines on preventative measures such as washing our hands and “social distancing”, if you have any questions, please visit the following websites:

https://www.nj.gov/health/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Additionally, Teaneck Township is providing its residents with a resource to obtain information about the Coronavirus/COVID-19 by sending an email to covid19@teanecknj.gov. A member of the Teaneck Health Department will answer your question(s) as quickly as possible.

Moving Forward

By Friday, March 20, I will let you know about our plans for the following week. Parents and guardians should continue to make childcare plans as I expect that we will likely be closed.  Our faculty have prepared lesson plans for this second week and will be working on lesson plans for a possible third week of school closings.

I realize this is an extremely difficult time and will present great hardships for our families. I appreciate your patience and cooperation as we work together to stay healthy while continuing the critical work of educating our children.

Thank you Teaneck parents and guardians!  I truly appreciate each and every one of you.

–  Dr. Christopher Irving, Superintendent of Schools

Tedesco Remarks on the Status of Bergen County’s 75 School Districts

For Immediate Release:
March 12, 2020
Contact:
Michael Pagan
201.336.6972

Tedesco Remarks on the Status of Bergen County’s 75 School Districts

Hackensack, N.J. – Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco today delivered the following remarks at an evening news conference concerning the status of Bergen County’s 75 school districts:

“As many of you have reported, Broadway has gone dark.  Disneyland has closed its doors. And the NHL, MLB and NBA seasons have come to a halt.

As the Bergen County Executive, I feel that closing all of our public schools in Bergen County is just as paramount a decision, and I do not take it, or make it lightly.  I’ve been fielding phone calls this week from Mayors, Health and School Officials, and other leaders and parents about the status of our schools.

With the continuing spread of COVID-19 throughout Bergen County, it is imperative that we take action and do everything in our power to protect our 1 million residents.  This includes our 75 school districts which have almost 170,000 children; 16,000 teachers; and hundreds and hundreds of administrative, custodial and support staff.

Earlier this week, I declared a State of Emergency in the County of Bergen.  As a result, we closed all 10 County-Operated Senior Activity Centers until further notice to protect our seniors who continue to be the most vulnerable population when it comes to the spread of this deadly virus.

We suspended visitation to our Bergen County Health Care Center at Rockleigh, and our partner agency at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center implemented the same policy for their long-term care facility. We also announced that we were closing the Bergen County Technical Schools and the Bergen County Special Services Schools which affects approximately 3,600 students and 1,600 teachers and administrators.

Today, we are making another announcement concerning our schools. 

After consulting with Executive Leadership of the Bergen County Association of School Administrators and our County Health Officer, I have decided to have all 75 public school districts in Bergen County transition from on-site learning to off-site internet-based and paper-based distance learning until further notice.

While the CDC states that COVID-19 does not pose as great a risk to our children as it does to our older adult population, it is vital that we protect our children from the dangers of this virus or the community spread of this virus.

We are confident in the ability of Bergen County’s teachers, staff and administrators to successfully educate our children off-site, and are encouraging them to begin preparing lesson-plans as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, this virus is not going anywhere for the time-being. As your County Executive, I will continue to take every step necessary to protect you and your families.  In an ongoing effort to be safe, we must continue to take proactive steps to get ahead of this virus, contain the spread of this virus, and protect ourselves from this virus.

You’ve heard many health officials say this over the past week but it bears repeating: There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

The CDC and the NJ Department of Health recommend that you take the simple steps that they have recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We are also encouraging businesses to let their employees stay at home using tele-communication technology to be with their children to address their childcare needs, and if that is not possible, we hope and expect private businesses would make allowances to their employees to be paid for a reasonable time to take care of their families — similar to the Civil Service guidelines public employees have.

The people of Bergen County are a very strong group of people and we will get through this. We made it through Superstorm Floyd and Superstorm Sandy when schools were closed for days and we will make it through COVID-19.

We are Bergen County Strong, but we must take steps to protect ourselves, and that is what we will continue to do with this most recent announcement concerning our schoolchildren.”

Teaneck Public School Closing Info

Dear Teaneck Community,

On behalf of Dr. Irving our Superintendent, and in partnership with the Teaneck Community Charter School, we will be using one of our remaining snow days to close tomorrow, Friday, March 13th for all students and school staff.  All after-school and evening programs are also cancelled.  However, please note that our Leadership team and Central Office staff will still report to work.

We have heard from many parents, students and staff, and want to assure you that we take this health crisis very seriously.  Closing schools for an extended period of time will be a hardship for all; but the health and safety of our educational community must be our top priority.

This day will provide us with the necessary time to make any final preparations in case we need to close for several weeks. We continue to work closely with our local and State agencies, and any decisions regarding school closings beyond this weekend will be made with careful consideration.  Parents and guardians should prepare to make any necessary childcare plans.

We appreciate your patience during this very challenging time.  Thank you.

Teaneck Public Schools

Teaneck BOE Moves Forward with $6.9M+ Renovation Plans Presented at Special Meeting

The Record, in an article published on August 28th, 2019, discussed upcoming plans for conversion of the Eugene Field School and transfer of administrative offices from their current location in Eugene Field to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

TEANECK — The township Board of Education is moving forward with a plan to convert Eugene Field School, which has been used for decades as the district’s administrative offices, into a prekindergarten school.

The district plans to spend $2.4 million on renovations to Eugene Field School, $455,000 to rid the building of asbestos and $2.75 million on modular buildings that will house the administration, under a measure the board approved last week.

Both projects and the respective costs were discussed at the Board of Education meeting of Sept. 18th, 2019.

Special Meeting Held

After contacting several members of the board of education, two trustees have confirmed that bids for the projects were received / discussed.  They also confirmed that costs were presented at the Special Board of Education Meeting held yesterday.

While no formal action was listed on yesterday’s agenda*, following the presentation, a “walk-on motion” was submitted to approve the projects.
You can see a copy of the resolution here: Continue reading “Teaneck BOE Moves Forward with $6.9M+ Renovation Plans Presented at Special Meeting”

Dog-Whistle Politics? An Open Question for Teaneck’s A Team

One of the benefits to running on a slate is that you get to work on coordinating messaging.
Below are the responses from “The A Team” to questions posed by the League of Women Voters.

Question: Who is this certain “demographic” that will create an inability to meet the demands of the changing “demographic” due to the change in “demographics“?


  • Linda Burns:

3.  What impact do you anticipate the influx of new apartment development will have on the Teaneck public schools and how should the district plan for this?

The Teaneck school district commissioned a study to gauge the impact of the near-term development projects on our school system and both have found that we can currently absorb the estimated 150 or so children expected to arrive. However, although the apartment complexes are being marketed as ‘luxury’ apartments with the expectation that a certain demographic will be renting them, there are no guarantees that those in the market for luxury apartments will indeed be the ones that rent those units. Currently, one of the completed projects is having difficulty renting out their units at the amount of rent they are asking for. In addition, the Pre-K program could be a pipeline to increase overall enrollment in the district. Therefore, I think that long term planning should allow for the possibility that enrollment will increase over time.

What demographic are you referring to here, Ms. Burns?

  • Denise Sanders

2.  What do you see as benefits and/ or challenges of offering Pre-K?

Although there is controversy about whether Pre-K programs are beneficial, it doesn’t mean there is no value in a high-quality Pre-K program. In a diverse community like Teaneck, we need to seriously look at implementing programs that work to elevate the academic achievement of all students with different learning styles. While the long -term benefits of Pre-K have mixed results, we believe that by appropriately supporting students as they move through our school system, students will be the beneficiaries of a world- class education. In addition, Pre-K provides high quality childcare for young parents helping to make Teaneck become a sought-after community for new families. A significant challenge would be the inability to meet the demands of the changing demographic groups attending Teaneck schools.

What demographic changes are you referring to, Ms. Sanders?

  • Sebastian Rodriguez

3.  What impact do you anticipate the influx of new apartment development will have on the Teaneck public schools and how should the district plan for this?

Based on the reports I have read, in terms of children attending the public schools the effect seems to be minimal, about 60 children. The numbers, spread among different ages/grades will have an insignificant impact on class size. So from that aspect, I expect a positive impact. On the other hand, anytime you have a change in the demographics of any community it is important for the newcomers, as well the people who already reside there to find ways to get to know each other and work together to continue to improve the community.

What demographic changes are you referring to, Mr. Rodriguez?

Enough with the politics of division.  We need board members that will work collaboratively for everyone’s benefit.