September, 2016 Superintendent of Schools Rui Dionisio sits down with Verona Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Tom Malanga and Doreen Arminio, for the first interview of the year on Verona TV. Mr. Dionisio provided an update on facility improvements through the referendum, peer mediation and conflict resolution programs at the elementary schools, social and emotional learning, crisis management, the middle school house model structure, rigorous academic opportunities for students at Verona High School, and much more.
December 8, 2016 The Star Ledger recently published an investigative article on Field Turf regarding a product called Duraspine used to construct athletic turf field fibers. Field Turf has advised the Verona Public Schools that the new athletic fields being installed in our community are not made with this material. Attached are two letters from Field Turf providing detail on the matter and confirming that the Verona Public Schools is not impacted by this situation. Please click the Field Turf tab above this text to view the correspondence.
Inquiry in Actionby
Focus. Explore. Reflect. Apply. Repeat.
The Verona Public Schools district is dedicated to cultivating learning environments that nurture the curiosity that exists naturally in children. It was clear from teacher feedback that last year’s inquiry-based science pilot program fostered a high level of student engagement. The new science program, developed with support from the Smithsonian Institute and National Academies of Science, is being implemented this year in our elementary and middle schools with the goal of increasing student engagement and improving student knowledge of scientific processes.
“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) defines scientific inquiry as “the formulation of a question that can be answered through investigation, while engineering design involves the formulation of a problem that can be solved through design.” Research has shown that an inquiry-based teaching approach fosters deeper critical thinking. Our new science program provides a commitment to active, hands-on learning in grades 1-8 focused on research-based standards that highlight what students should be able to do to at each grade level. Implementing inquiry-based science is one approach to address the needs of all learners, personalize instruction for students by addressing the preconceptions that they bring with them to the classroom, and develop critical thinking in order to raise student engagement and achievement in science.
As educators, we have a responsibility to help students develop a deep understanding of science concepts, knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to grow up into responsible global citizens. Our schools must prepare students to compete in the future by focusing on critical thinking and problem solving which will prepare students for careers that do not yet exist today.
"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin
Curriculum should be designed to support student learning to develop scientific and technological literacy for an educated society as essential preparation for all careers in the modern workforce. Curriculum developed with fewer topics in mind, where the teacher can devote time and energy on cultivating a greater depth of understanding, supports meaningful discussions centered around big ideas. If the curriculum has been designed with rich, engaging tasks, appropriate instructional decisions can be made to assist all students in attaining significant cognitive growth” (NRC, 1999).
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences outlines how people learn through different modalities such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. He believed that students should think independently and develop their own understanding of concepts as opposed to utilizing rote memorization and acceptance of others’ ideas (Gardner, 1991). Inquiry-based instruction represents an evolution away from traditional lecture-based instructional methods of teaching science with a focus on process over memorization of a body of facts (Dewey, 1910). Many students simply memorize facts without truly grasping the idea but would better understand a concept if they were awarded opportunities to conduct hands-on experiments and engage firsthand with the scientific phenomena. That is exactly what our new science program seeks to accomplish.
“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” Roger Lewin
The research from the National Research Council and AAAS Project 2061 is compelling, that conveying scientific processes in a coherent manner within and across all grade levels, provides teaching and learning opportunities in a continuous, interconnected, and cumulative manner with the greatest potential for maximizing student learning. The Verona Public Schools is committed to the success of all students by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth. We look forward to our progress from the collective efforts of our faculty and support of the Verona community for years to come as we enhance science as we know it.
Dewey, J. (1910). Science as subject matter and as method. Science, 31(787) 121-127.
Gardner, H. (1991) The unschooled mind: how children think and how schools should teach. New York: Basic Books Inc.
National Research Council. Designing Mathematics or Science Curriculum Programs: A Guide for Using Mathematics and Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1999.Inquiry in Action.pdf 30.49 MB (Last Modified on December 20, 2016)
Leaving a Legacy-In Memory of Arthur Acquavivaby
November 29, 2016
Mr. Arthur Acquaviva, known as “Mr. A” to staff and students, was a valued and trusted member of the VHS family. A graduate of VHS, he later served as a substitute teacher, teacher of science and mathematics prior to being named as Director of Library and Media Services. Art was named Library Media Specialist in 2000. During his tenure, he was responsible for leading the effort to transform our library into a 21st Century learning facility. He belonged to several professional library organizations, as well as the advisor of our Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society. Arthur Acquaviva passed away on May 18, 2014.
Mr. Acquaviva led a number of initiatives to modernize the Verona High School library. Some of the enhancements included increasing our educational databases, creating a system for accessing online reference materials and various novels, and creating and leading the 9th Grade Orientation to our Library and Media Center.
While Art certainly had a positive impact on the overall structure of our library, his greatest impact was felt when one observed him assisting our students in the library on a daily basis. His calm, pleasant, and positive demeanor made our library a welcoming place for all students, staff, and community members. His love and adoration for VHS was clearly evident, both in word and deed. He was greatly respected by his students, our staff, and the community of Verona.
Earlier this year, we received news that Mr. Acquaviva made a significant donation to Verona High School in the amount of $266,042. In accepting this generous contribution, we will be renaming our library the Arthur Acquaviva Learning Commons. The donation provides funds to continue Art’s desire to enhance VHS with a 21st Century space. The Verona Public Schools partnered with Dancker, Sellew & Douglas (DS&D) in order to infuse the learning space with new and flexible furnishings to meet our student and faculty needs. Additional funds provided by Mr. Acquaviva will be allocated for a scholarship fund for Verona High School graduates.
The Verona Public School District is honored to be the recipient of Mr. Acquaviva’s kindness and generosity that will benefit students for years to come. A formal dedication of the Arthur Acquaviva Learning Commons is being planned for a future date. Additional information regarding that special event will be provided as it becomes available.
Please click the following attachment for the official press release.Leaving a Legacy-Arthur Acquaviva.pdf 34.21 MB (Last Modified on November 29, 2016)
The State of Our Schoolsby
November 25, 2016
Welcome to the Verona Public School district. The past several years have been ripe with opportunities and collaboration, building on the successes of the past, and sustaining incredible momentum with our faculty and students. Our growth is the result of our focused commitment to the vision defined in our Strategic Plan, the support of our Board of Education and invested leadership team, a deeply committed and talented staff, the support of our parents and community, and highly engaged students motivated to achieve their maximum potential. The genesis of this inaugural publication began two years ago and our endeavor is a tribute to the dedication and efforts of our entire teaching and learning community.
The Verona Public Schools is a high academic performing school district with lofty expectations for all of our students. First and foremost, we are deeply committed to maintaining the best interests of our students, keeping this focus central to every decision we make as we work to cultivate learning environments that enable us to support the individual potential in every child. Verona is a supportive community with highly motivated and intellectually curious students. Our district provides a full range of opportunities for our students, from academics to the fine and performing arts to athletics and extracurriculars, where there is something for everyone.
Teaching and learning is a multifaceted and dynamic process which requires intent, process, perseverance, and heart. As you review our magazine, we hope you have an opportunity to learn what makes Verona so very special. Our goal is to present what we are proud of to our community in a way that is relevant and authentic. We are certain you will appreciate our efforts in literacy through the Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project which has been successful at the elementary level and recently expanded to grade 5. In our elementary schools, you will also notice an investment in character education programs such as conflict resolution and peer mediation while we continue to sustain a positive, supportive, and nurturing environment for children.
Verona teachers are implementing our new inquiry-based science program as they strive to engage students in hands-on, active learning at the elementary and middle school levels. Communication, collaboration, and strategic intervention in our middle school has been enhanced with the introduction of our house model as our teachers work closely in teams to support the success of all students. Our district has also made a significant commitment to infusing instructional technology through our Google Teacher Academy and professional development for faculty to identify methods that enhance the quality teaching our community has come to expect.
Verona High School ranks as one of the best. We have been recognized as a top performing school district by The Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High Schools in the nation and #54 in New Jersey. VHS has also been recognized by Newsweek as America’s Top High Schools and NJ Monthly Top 100 High Schools, among numerous other publications. Our high school course guide provides diverse opportunities for students engaged in honors and dual enrollment coursework in preparation for post secondary education. We are especially proud of our commitment to increasing academic engagement by removing barriers to rigorous coursework in Advanced Placement courses, evidenced by our continuous and significant growth, dedication of our faculty, and success of our students.
VHS has added five new Advanced Placement (AP) courses since 2015, increasing whole school AP participation over the past two years by 16%, and demonstrating 7% growth in student performance on College Board exams. The academic environment in our school is possible because of the willingness of our students to rise to the level of expectation set for them and the knowledgeable and nurturing staff who support our students in achieving their goals.
Our performing arts program continues to flourish. 69% of VHS students participate in the fine and performing arts, choir enrollment has nearly doubled in just one year, and a thriving band program has been regionally recognized and continues to engage in authentic learning experiences. Verona offers 26 interscholastic athletic teams that produced three championships last year. Even more impressive, the VHS athletic program and coaches help our athletes develop skills, provide a sense of belonging, promote collaboration, cultivate the ability to overcome adversity, and foster critically important non-cognitive skills.
Last year was also an opportunity for us to assemble new members of our esteemed staff and leadership team who will further support the growth and development of our teachers as lifelong learners. We have charted a course of continuous improvement for our students. Curriculum and instruction continue to move on an upward trajectory. Thank you to those who have joined us in our ventures and have been supportive along the way.
Our publication pays homage to several Verona educators who have made special contributions to our schools. As you flip through the publication, you will get also an inside look at the enhancements to our facilities that helped bring the district up to the 21st century. Finally, we are eternally grateful and appreciative of our education foundation, VFEE, and organizations such as the SCA, VMPA, VMAC, and athletic boosters, who help make much of our success possible.
Verona is a special place, surrounded by an amazing faculty and supportive community. As the saying goes that iron sharpens iron, it is as we work together to create schools where our students are challenged and inspired so they may reap the fruits of our labor. We are the result of our collective efforts with each of us who are highly invested in the success of our future. I encourage you to explore our Fall 2016 publication and learn about the robust, vibrant learning opportunities that exist in our schools each and every day.
Please click the following link Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Edition to learn more about our district.
Best wishes for 2016-17.
All my best,
Superintendent of SchoolsThe State of Our Schools.pdf 1.88 MB (Last Modified on December 20, 2016)
Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Editionby
November 18, 2016
It is with great enthusiasm that we share with you the inaugural publication of the Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Edition. The genesis of this project began nearly two years ago as a focused endeavor to convey the progress of our collective efforts in our strategic plan. The goal of this publication is to showcase where and how the district is moving forward and recognize the efforts of all involved; to reset ourselves to the next level of a standard so we constantly see the logical next steps to pursue; and to keep us grounded in the commitment to our community through our strategic plan. We hope you enjoy reading what makes the Verona Public Schools so very special.
This digital publication is distributed to the Verona community through our website, email, and social media to celebrate our progress and momentum. Please click here to read the Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Edition.
There exists incredible purpose and passion in the work we do with our students. I marvel at the devotion of our staff who are dedicated to a cause greater than themselves. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.
All my best,
Superintendent of Schools
Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field Rededication Ceremony Welcome Addressby
Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field
by Rui Dionisio, Superintendent of Schools
October 14, 2016
(The following speech was written with the intent of the spoken word, and does not necessarily follow the rules for grammar and written essay.)
Good evening. I would like to welcome everyone tonight to the official re-dedication of the Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field at Verona High School.
Our facilities have undergone an incredible transformation, including new athletic turf, energy efficient lighting, and numerous upgrades to support the needs of our students, athletes, and the entire Verona community. We are fortunate to call such a space our home, where our students will compete in interscholastic athletic events and marching band performances, as well as participation in physical education classes, and district and community activities.
As always, nothing in life can be accomplished without teamwork and the support of individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide the students of Verona a rewarding and positive experience in our school district.
These first rate facilities would not be possible without the dedication and incredible efforts of many people, including the support of our residents.
We are fortunate to have many key stakeholder groups with us this evening who played an active role in making our beautiful facilities a possibility. The fruits of our labor could not be enjoyed by our community if it were not for their contributions. This evening we recognize members of our Verona Board of Education, both past and present. We also recognize the tremendous efforts of our previous district administration, as well as the Verona Field Committee and numerous parents and residents who played an integral role in the design, collaboration, communication, and approval of the referendum project that included facility upgrades to our athletic complex, music room addition, technology and security upgrades, and much, much more.
I would also like to commend our building and athletic administration, as well as the numerous coaches and parents, who provided invaluable feedback throughout the entire process over the past 3 years, including the members of our Boards such as the Fifth Downers, All Sports Booster Club, Verona Music Parents Association, and individual sports boosters.
I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge our custodial and maintenance staff whose amazing efforts are recognized and immensely appreciated.
We would also like to express our gratitude to the Verona Township, including the Town Council and Township Manager, the Verona Planning Board, as well as the Verona Police Department, Public Works, Maintenance, and Recreation Departments for their support and flexibility in working closely with us to help meet our student’s needs.
And finally, I would also like to recognize the Hillbilly Muscle Fundraiser for Turf Field Initiative which helped raise nearly $48,000 a number of years ago with the support of our entire community. This generous financial donation has been accepted by our Board of Education and has allowed the district to allocate the funds for improvements to our athletic facility. For that, and the support of the many different people who made this project possible, we are eternally grateful.
Many of the people I have just acknowledged are with us on the field this evening. Please join me in giving them a warm round of applause for their incredible contributions and tireless efforts.
We are extremely fortunate to have some very important people with us this evening. With us tonight is Tom Sellitto’s beloved wife, Alice, and his daughter’s: Margo Perl, Sharon Daley, Mary Sellitto Curcio and Amy Sellitto. Also with us this evening are Tom’s adored grandchildren, great grandchildren, and extended family.
The name of this field, by which we stand on this evening, is rededicated to an incredible man who left his mark on our small, close-knit community. Thomas J. Sellitto earned his Bachelor and Master Degrees in Education at Montclair State University. In 1956, he began his professional career with the Verona Board of Education as a high school teacher and football coach. Coach Sellitto, as he would come to be known, went onto an amazingly successful career, most notably coaching the Verona High School football team to State Championships in 1960, ‘61, and ‘62.
In 1963, Coach became the deputy superintendent of schools in Verona where he initiated such programs as distributive education and developing a vocational program for students with specific needs. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1993. In addition, Tom was also an adjunct business professor at Seton Hall University Graduate School for over 25 years.
Tom was also selected by the Essex County Coaches as Administrator of the Year in 1976. Coach Sellitto was also named a "Distinguished Coach" by the Essex County Chapter of the National Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and was inducted into the Verona High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004.
Tom was an optimistic person, and a kind, reserved man with a passion for athletics and all of the joys that come along with sport and team. He was a man who understood the value of a good education, and worked tirelessly to insure all students in the Verona Public Schools were provided the best educational experience possible.
At this time, I would like to take a moment to read a passage to you that was shared by one of Coach Sellitto’s former players:
“Many of us have fond memories of a coach, teacher or mentor that left a positive impression on us. For me, that person is my 1961 & 1962 VHS football coach, Tom Sellitto. He is well known for leading the Verona Hillbillies to 3 State Championships in 1960, 1961 and 1962; however, my lasting impression of Coach Sellitto is how he taught me that winning in life is just as important as winning the game. Coach Sellitto was the perfect blend of fierce competitor and true gentleman. His integrity was second to none and he held his players to that same high standard on and off the field. He instilled in me the importance of respect, discipline, fairness, and sportsmanship. These skills transcended the game of football, helped me be a better player on the field, and gave me the ability to tackle any obstacle that life has sent my way. Coach was great at motivating his players, and he had the ability to know what his players were capable of, even if those same players lacked the confidence in themselves at the time. He always led by example and was ahead of his time in knowing what team sports are truly intended for: for building character and that the real value of playing on a team is learning the importance of being part of something bigger than yourself. I still keep in touch with some former teammates and we share the same great memories of playing for Verona under Coach Sellitto. May his legacy continue to inspire the future generations who use the "Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field.”
Those words encapsulate just what Coach Sellitto meant to so many people. Tom gave back to our community as an educator from 1956 to 1993. But above all else, he was a loving husband to his wife of 57 years, Alice Sellitto. And he was the doting father to his children Margo, Sharon, Amy, and Mary.
Tom Sellitto shared the following acceptance message after his induction into the the Verona High School Hall of Fame:
“My advice to young people is to surround yourself with people you admire. Learn from them. Stay determined and work hard. And remember, when challenges arise–and they will–you must keep moving forward. Take the high road, rise above things. Know that you are strong enough to do that, capable enough to meet every challenge life throws your way. And once you have lived enough to know that what I am telling you is the truth, take what you have learned and pass it on.”
Thomas J. Sellitto left an indelible mark on the people of Verona during his illustrious career. Please join me in giving the entire Sellitto Family a warm round of applause as we present them with a token of our appreciation.
To the Sellitto Family, thank you for joining us this evening in this very special occasion and for sharing your husband, father, grandfather, and friend with all of us. And to our community members who joined us this evening, thank you for showing your appreciation to a wonderful man for which this field has been named after for many years to come. Enjoy the game and thank you.