The following column appeared in The Ridgewood News on September 29, 2017.

Welcome to the new school year! We got off to a great start on September 6, hit our stride early on, and continue to enjoy a positive energy in all our schools.
As is the case each year, credit must be given for our strong start and smooth transition to the effort this summer of many administrators, teachers and support staff who worked hard to ensure that our programs and buildings were in top shape when the opening bell rang. From important changes in our curricula and programs to the hiring of several new staff, from facility projects across the district to technology improvements and implementation, we had a very busy and successful summer.

Here is a snapshot from my Opening of School Report, which may be read in its entirety on the district website at www.ridgewood.k12.nj.us:
• We welcomed 5766 students on the first day of school.
• New or revised curriculum was written for 74 courses.
• At Ridgewood High School, new courses were added to the Business, Science, Computer Science and Technology departments.
• Newly hired for 2017-2018 are 49 staff members, representing either new positions due to enrollment or initiatives, or replacements for employees that resigned, retired, or are on leave.
• Renovations across the district included floor tile asbestos abatement, new flooring, painting, electrical work, new bathroom partitions and window replacements. Additional facility projects were completed at each school that ranged from boiler replacements through our Energy Savings Improvement Plan (ESIP) and state-of-the-art drinking fountain replacements featuring water filters and filling stations, to remodeling for the implementation of full-day Kindergarten.
• Technology upgrades in classrooms and buildings, and improvements to building security were completed.

As we prepared to open our doors, schools in other parts of our nation were either temporarily shuttered or transformed into emergency shelters in preparation for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Thankfully the devastation was far from Ridgewood, yet I am very happy to report that our schools still sprang into action to help, so that on opening day coin jars for the American Red Cross hurricane relief efforts were prominently on display and filling rapidly in every building. Also there were Soles 4 Souls collection boxes. What a great reminder that our education program goes beyond academics, that we continually seek out opportunities for humanitarian service so that our students may grow their character as well as their minds, and that we can help them learn the value of global citizenship. These things are a critical part of what we do, too.

Last year at this time your Board of Education turned its attention to the goal of implementing full-day Kindergarten in the district, which was approved by Ridgewood voters last November. This September, after remodeling classrooms, writing curriculum and hiring teachers, we joined the majority of New Jersey’s public districts when we welcomed our first full-day K classes. There are several key factors in favor of full-day K, notably the ability to provide more time in the daily schedule for structured play experiences designed to reinforce learning. It is exciting to see our mission of excellence at work in the classrooms of our youngest students, who are now presented with an even stronger opportunity to effectively learn and thrive than ever before.

Another project from last school year, the May 2017 parent-guardian survey report was presented at the September 25 Board meeting. The fifth district-wide satisfaction survey since 2010, the results this time around are again quite positive in areas ranging from the quality of our educational programs to satisfaction with the school facilities, extracurricular offerings, communications and the Chromebook initiative. Thank you to the nearly 31 percent of our parents and guardians who took the time to complete the survey. Your input supports our ongoing efforts to review and refine our programs and practices. Survey results for all schools and the district are posted on our website.

There’s an upcoming opportunity for residents to meet with the Board and me to informally discuss the survey, full-day K, or any other school-related topic of interest to you. On Wednesday night, October 18, we’ll have the coffee brewing at the Education Center, 49 Cottage Place, from 7-8:30 p.m. for the first of three dates set for Coffee and Conversation this school year. Our work requires the support of our broader community and we are appreciative of your trust, enthusiasm and financial commitment to our mission of excellence. We’d like to know you better, so please drop by on October 18 with your questions, suggestions and concerns.
Thanks to all, we are off to a great start to the 2017-2018 school year. I look forward to updating you throughout the upcoming months on all things Ridgewood Public Schools.
As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.

Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D., is Superintendent of the Ridgewood Public Schools. Dr. Fishbein can be reached at 201-670-2700, ext. 10530, or via e-mail at [email protected]