When the Gales of November Came Early…

June 20, 2013

Dear HTS Community:

We started the school year with the Digital Learning Initiative (DLI) in our middle school.  Our PTO generously purchased iPads and we distributed them to all middle school students as well as every teacher in the district.  The DLI enabled teachers to continue using cutting-edge pedagogical techniques in an effort to improve student academic achievement and enhance their technology skills. Later that month, the Vision Council, an advisory group of parents and teachers, met to discuss their agenda for the 2012-2013 school year.  Special thanks to Co-Presidents Lisa Humphries, Brenda Myers, Mary Saltzman and Sandy Waxgiser for their service this year. We are looking to set the Vision Council’s agenda for next year. If you have any suggested items to discuss, please email them to visioncouncil@hardingtwp.org.

In October, we welcomed the Princeton University Tiger Tones to HTS for an HTEF-sponsored assembly.  The Tiger Tones are the oldest college a-cappella group in the nation and they performed hits from the 1950s through today.  HTS also celebrated Red Ribbon Week with many positive events including the Harding Alliance-sponsored Halloween Dance and Costume Contest. In late October, Superstorm Sandy made landfall destroying portions of the state, flooding other sections and knocking power out to almost 90% of New Jersey. As a result, HTS was closed for seven school days.  Through it all, teachers, parents, community members and students came together to support one another throughout the duration of the aftermath.

HTS fall sports, girls field hockey and co-ed soccer, wrapped up their successful seasons in early November and our student-athletes and coaches began preparing for their winter seasons.  The PTO had their annual Holiday Bazaar and Pancake Breakfast and, later that month, HTS students were treated to a special performance of The Nutcracker Suite, featuring our own Brock Bierly.  The District Curriculum Council (DCC), a “think tank” of teachers, administrators and one Board of Education member continued to meet and engage in candid conversations about the HTS academic program, raising expectations and increasing the rigor of our curricula.  The DCC provided summaries in every curriculum area and shared this analysis with the entire staff as well as with the Board of Education.  Discussion topics this year included the nature and criteria of the HTS Middle School Honor Roll and High Honor Roll, the Four-Square Writing Method, our Singapore Math curriculum as well as various strands of professional development available to our staff.

Year two of HTSTV, the product of a successful HTEF grant, was again a success with Mr. Harris (please follow him on twitter @htslmc) and his industrious band of eighth graders filming, editing, revising and writing copy for informative editions of HTSTV. We are happy to announce that next year, HTSTV will be opened up to our seventh grade students for an elective class experience. Also in the area of technology, HTS has received a $100,000 grant from Harding resident (and former HTS parent) Andrew Boszhardt for the creation of the Boszhardt Family Technology Learning Commons. The grant will cover a complete renovation (new flooring, furniture and computers) of the existing computer lab. Additionally, the grant will also fund the creation of a new Recording Studio in the Instrumental Music Room. This space will enable our students to record and self-assess their performances and discuss ways to improve.  Working together with two-time Grammy winner Kevin Crouse, Mr. Alworth and his middle school band students will create and record an original song.

This year was also the first time HTS students completed the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). This formative assessment was administered in Math, Reading and Language Usage in the spring and will continue next year. Parents received their child’s MAP Score as well as comparisons to district and national averages. This real-time data was shared with parents and enabled teachers to customize their instruction to meet the diverse needs of their students.

HTS is also partnering with the HTEF, HTRA (Harding Township Recreation Association) and Christina Lamb, a Harding resident, to build two multi-sport courts adjacent to our playground. We will be breaking ground this summer and using the courts during recess and for Physical Education classes (using equipment donated by the New York Jets).  Additionally, HTS is also partnering with the New Jersey Golf Foundation, an arm of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) and Tom O’Rourke (HTS parent) to bring the Golf in Schools program to HTS next year. As a result, HTS students will complete a unit in golf during their P.E. classes next year.

Relying heavily on support from the entire HTS community, we conducted a mid-year search for a Director of Curriculum/Principal and were very fortunate to hire Matt Spelker away from Glenwood School in Millburn. Though he doesn’t officially begin until July 1, Mr. Spelker has been very busy at HTS over the past few months.

The Visual and Performing Arts are alive and well at HTS. HTS students performed Fame, Jr. over three consecutive days in early March. Featuring a cast that included Bella Martin, Cassidy Schumm, Will Davila and Matt Adamo, our actors sang and danced to some of the more memorable hits from the 1980s. Moreover, our musicians had two wonderful concerts and performed many songs from Mozart to Les Miserables to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Additionally, our art students were able to display some of their featured projects such as Kings and Queens, Aboriginal Dot Painting and the Mod Podge Head Collage.

Our Quest Program competed in regional contests and local activities including Junior Solar Sprint, My Town Through a Child’s Eyes and Introduction to Solar Power. Similarly, the Technology Student Association (TSA), a group of 23 seventh and eighth grade students that meets during “0” period, worked on multiple events including the Siemens Technology Challenge, Thomas Edison Invention Challenge, Bayer Alka Seltzer Rocket Contest and CO2 Dragsters. These STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) projects allow students to apply academic concepts such as measurement, formulas, graphing, estimation and algebra to participate and compete in sundry events.

In addition to their support of the DLI, the PTO also sponsored a Novels Grant for our Language Arts Department and raised funds through the Car Show, 5K Fun Run and Parents Night Out. Additional HTEF grants included Kindergarten Circus Yoga, the Eighth Grade Shakespeare Residency, the NJPAC Trip, Project Memoir and many others. We look forward to partnering with these organizations next year and hope you can continue to support our major benefactors.

All things considered, the 2012-2013 school year was very successful for our students, for our parents and for our staff. Though we are still looking to increase our expectations for September, the level of rigor in our classrooms is impressive. Additionally, the level of creativity is very significant – some of the best and most innovative lessons I have ever observed are occurring right here at HTS.  We have a wonderful student body, supportive parents and a first rate professional staff. We hope to pick up in September right where we are leaving off in June.

Lastly, congratulations to the following students for having perfect attendance this school year: Katelyn Amaral, Nicole Amaral, Natalie Delaluz, Evan Hartnett, Vivian Lee, Bruna Paola Lima, Mary Ragold and Andrew Williams-Stoute.

All the best for a restful and productive summer vacation.



Alex Anemone





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