2020 will be remembered as the year that COVID-19 separated students from teachers and made virtually everything “virtual.”
But Linden Public Schools pressed forward to make sure that this past year was about much more than that. 2020 was a year of change, of overcoming obstacles, and rising to the challenge.
We’ll take a look back as some of the biggest news to come out of Linden Public Schools in 2020. Much of the news had to do with adapting to a new reality and forging new paths. But a lot of these stories are also about continuing the excellence in education and celebrating the achievements that have been the hallmark of Linden Public Schools for years.
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LHS BOWLING WINS STATE AND CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Before COVID-19 became a household term and remote learning canceled our spring sports season, Linden High School’s standout bowling team reached new heights of excellence.
The Tigers won the Group 3 state championship for the first time in history – the program’s first state title of any kind since 1988.
Linden also won the conference championship on the final day of the regular season with a record of 17-2 in match play. Individually, then-junior James Fitz won the Union County Tournament championship with a dominating performance in the boys individual tournament, and several bowlers were named to all-conference teams.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=12464
ANOTHER ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR TAMECKA DIXON
February saw another celebration of the LHS athletics program, but this one came for achievements reached three decades ago.
Linden High School retired the No. 33 of legendary girls basketball star Tamecka Dixon at an emotional ceremony in the school’s gym featuring friends, family members, fans, administrators and dignitaries, and the current LHS girls and boys basketball players. Dixon dominated opponents as a star for the Lady Tigers in the early 1990s. She was twice selected to First Team All-State and her 2,092 points remains a school record among both girls and boys.
Dixon went on to star at Kansas University, where she was Big 8 Player of the Year in 1996 and Big 12 Player of the Year in 1997, and second team All-American in 1997. She was chosen 14th overall in the first ever WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks in 1997, and went on to win two championships and was selected to three All-Star Games.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=12303
MUSIC PROGRAM AGAIN CHOSEN AMONG NATION’S BEST
Linden Public Schools were named among the Best Communities for Music Education in America for the sixth year in a row. Linden is one of about 700 districts across the country to be chosen for the prestigious honor for 2020.
The NAMM Foundation (National Association of Music Merchants) has recognized the district for its outstanding commitment to music education year after year. Linden is one of just 49 districts in New Jersey and four in Union County to be selected.
The honor highlights outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders who work together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=12814
TWO SCHOOL NURSES VOLUNTEER FOR FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
As COVID-19 and virtual learning took hold, two staff members stepped up to aid not only the district, but the community at large in fighting the pandemic.
Elizabeth Radil of School No. 6 and Colleen Goeller of the Central Registration Office volunteered to assist in New Jersey’s fight against the coronavirus epidemic in addition to their regular school duties.
Radil worked at the COVID-19 testing center at Kean University, gathering samples of those being tested for the disease. Goeller worked at the Union County Office of Health Management connecting residents in need with the proper services.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=12838
LHS BROADCAST STUDENTS STAY ON THE AIR FROM HOME
One group of Linden High School students overcame remote learning to help maintain a level of normalcy in keeping students and staff feel connected to their school.
Students in the school’s TV/Digital Media advanced class continued to put out their TNT News broadcast each Friday, despite not being able to meet and having to work without most of their equipment. They instead created videos with their cellphones and edited using their district-issued MacBook Air laptops.
The first show included features on how to stay safe from COVID-19, how to cope with remote learning, and the district’s initiative of inviting families to post uplifting artwork. Other shows throughout the spring focused on spring break, Teacher Appreciation Week, college selection, and preparations for graduation. The program was praised by Christine Norbut Beyer, commission of the New Jersey Division of Children and Families, in a letter to the school highlighting its key role in keeping students connected in a time of social isolation.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=12857
HEAD NURSE NAMED COUNTY SCHOOL NURSE OF THE YEAR
The district’s head nurse Joyce Hirsch was honored as Union County School Nurse of the Year by the Union County School Nurses Association. The award goes to someone who has demonstrated excellence in both school nursing practice and leadership in school health.
Hirsch has been at the forefront of many of the district’s initiatives throughout the year to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19, so the honor seemed especially fitting this year.
Hirsch was officially informed about her award at the association’s virtual meeting on May 4, which was attended by more than 100 nurses. She was also surprised with a tribute video put together by several of Linden’s school nurses who serve under her.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=12931
SOFTBALL COACH BRINGS FIELD TO PLAYERS FOR SENIOR DAY
Since the Linden High School softball team couldn’t gather on the field last spring, head coach Valerie Tauriello brought the field to them.
To help ease her eight seniors’ pain of losing their final season, Tauriello visited each of their homes to drop off mementoes of their years as a Tiger. She enlisted help from her underclassmen to create a poster for each of the seniors, and she gave each player a mason jar of dirt from their home field.
Tauriello, who is also a physical education teacher at Soehl Middle School, went to the team’s home softball field at Memorial Park and individually filled each jar with dirt from what would have been that senior player’s position this season.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=12985
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HISTORIC CLASS OF 2020!
Four-hundred forty-one seniors graduated from Linden High School in a virtual ceremony that celebrated a school year in which seniors coped with the loss of many high school traditions.
The school’s 110th Commencement was viewed by graduates, faculty and staff, families, and community members on YouTube instead of the usual ceremony under the June sun at the Tiger Stadium at Cooper Field athletic complex.
The seniors were also able to enjoy a special drive-through celebration at Linden Airport sponsored by Mayor Derek Armstead, the Mayor’s Youth Commission, and the City of Linden. Graduates lined up by the hundreds in their cars with family members to be recognized on stage by Armstead and other school and community leaders.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=13114
SUPERINTENDENT DR. MARNIE HAZELTON JOINS DISTRICT
The Linden Board of Education appointed Dr. Marnie Hazelton to be the new superintendent of schools – making her the district’s first woman of color to hold the position and the first woman to hold the position in a permanent role.
Hazelton joined the district at a difficult time but worked hard to maintain a level of academic excellence and to get students safely back into the classroom. She put a renewed focus on equity to ensure all children have what they need to learn, installed a mentoring program in which administrators work closely with students struggling with remote learning, and is working with a district-wide committee to create a new five-year strategic plan.
DISTRICT STOCKS UP ON SANITARY SUPPLIES FOR SAFETY
To be ready for students’ return to the classroom, the district made sure it had enough supplies to keep schools sanitized and safe for students and staff.
Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds Lawrence Miranda ran down the list of supplies the district had stocked up on in the spring and summer to meet the challenge of COVID-19, including 600,000 disposable facemasks, 400 wall-mounted sanitizer stations, 1,200 gallon-sized pump bottles of hand sanitizer, 2,800 containers of Clorox wipes, and special sanitizing machines that allow schools to cleaned regularly and quickly.
Several news outlets visited Linden during the summer to show how the district was far ahead of where other districts stood in terms of preparation.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=13201
SCHOOL NO. 5 HONORED AS NATIONAL BLUE RIBBON SCHOOL
As school reopened virtually, School No. 5 got news that it had achieved one of the most coveted national honors for any school when it was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
School No. 5 was chosen in the “Exemplary High Performing School” category based on a combination of state assessment data, student growth scores, absenteeism rates, and graduation rate. It is one of 367 schools in the nation and one of just nine schools from New Jersey selected for 2020.
During the nearly year-long selection process, school and district administrators completed a lengthy application with information about student engagement, community outreach, teacher support, school leadership, strategies for academic success, as well as a host of data on curriculum and instruction, attendance, staff size, and demographics.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=13442
TECH DEPARTMENT KEEPS STUDENTS AND STAFF CONNECTED
No area was put to the test by virtual learning more than the district’s technology. When students are at home, their ability to learn hinges greatly on their ability to seamlessly connect with their teachers, access their lessons, and get the virtual support they need to thrive.
To meet the challenge, the district’s Technology Department distributing more than 130 T-Mobile hot spots to families who do not have internet access at home and upgraded the district’s technology infrastructure to increase bandwidth by 10 times within the schools and three times to the internet. It also runs a help desk and call center every school day.
Linden is a One-to-One district, meaning that every student has a personal device. To enhance this program, all Linden High School students and teachers were given new MacBook Air laptops, and all kindergarten and Pre-K students were given new iPad tablets.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=13482
WELLNESS WEDNESDAY PUTS FOCUS ON EMOTIONAL HEALTH
Remote learning also puts a strain on the emotional health of students and staff. To combat this, the Department of Student Services initiated Wellness Wednesdays to put greater emphasis on students’ social and emotional well-being during stressful times.
School counselors and social workers from around the district recorded a video every other week on wellness topics and sharing through social media. The first two videos were about the power of positivity and setting goals. The videos are meant to inspire and provide support for our entire school community.
At Linden High School, social workers and school counselors are partnering with the Navy Junior ROTC and physical education classes to focus on themes such as respect, kindness, emotion, and coping skills during class each Wednesday. Students watch a short video, followed by a discussion with their peers and staff, then independently respond to an online survey. Students who take the survey are entered into a raffle to have a pizza delivered to their house.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=13733
SOEHL STUDENTS DIG INTO DATA TO FORECAST ELECTION
Beside the pandemic, the national topic that dominated the headlines was the presidential election. Soehl Middle School social studies teacher Michael D’Amato used this as an opportunity to teach his seventh-graders about the workings of the Electoral College.
Each student studied polls and analyzed past election results to create a projection map of how they thought the election would go in each state. D’Amato told students they could double their grade if they created a perfect map.
Student Jazlyn Graves had 49 of 50 states correct, missing only Georgia, and D’Amato decided to grant her the double grade.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=13746
SCHOOL 1 TEACHER HONORED AS NJ EXEMPLARY EDUCATOR
One final honor for 2020 stood as a reminder of the outstanding work that Linden’s educators are doing under the most trying circumstances.
School No. 1 fifth-grade teacher Amy Maloney was chosen as an Exemplary Educator by the New Jersey Department of Education. She is one of just 93 teachers across the state who are being honored for 2020.
Each year, the NJDOE invites public school districts to participate in the Exemplary Educator Recognition Program. The goal of this program is to identify outstanding educators for special recognition. Exemplary Educators exhibit strong knowledge and skills, an inspiring presence, and a positive impact on students, colleagues and the school community.
Read more: http://www.linden.k12.nj.us/?p=13865