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Happy Thanksgiving

Randolph Learning Community,

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for our staff, families, and community stakeholders whose unwavering support is the foundation of our school system. Thank you for continuing to stand with us and believe in our mission. Your contributions and involvement ensure the success of every child. We have had so much to celebrate this school year districtwide. I have included a few highlights from the fall below, but these examples cannot fully encapsulate all of the accolades and achievements our phenomenal district continues to achieve. The full spectrum of opportunities we provide supports each child individually, and our greatest strength in Randolph is our ability to offer a holistic education. The inclusive approaches we take are why we continue to be a nationally ranked school system.

Every school districtwide continues to excel. Some of the articles below highlight specific examples about the strong performance of our school community. While important, the social, emotional, and mental health resources we provide to our students are always our most important priorities. Throughout the year in our buildings and classrooms, we create lessons which facilitate opportunities to foster healthy relationships which are essential for maintaining positive learning environments. Our staff go above and beyond, and the success of the district is a direct reflection of the investment of time our staff devote to student achievement and individual growth. 

Throughout history, society has experienced challenging times. I know that recent events over the past few months have been very difficult for many people across the country and around the world. My thoughts continue to be with anyone in our community who may be struggling, and I hope you will take this brief time off for Thanksgiving break to focus on self-care which is always important. 

As we take this break, I hope you and your loved ones will take the time to set everything aside and focus on what’s most important to you. Prioritize your wellness and remember that it is a priority. This extended weekend is a great time for our students, staff, and families to focus solely on ways to relax, rejuvenate and decompress. In whatever ways you choose to celebrate, I hope that it brings you joy. 

As the month of November closes, we look ahead to December. The 2023 - 2024 school year is off to a fantastic start, and I look forward to what 2024 will bring as it approaches right around the corner. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 


Jennifer Fano, Superintendent of Schools

Randolph Township Schools Ranked in the Top 7% Nationally for 2024

Niche is the market leader in connecting colleges and schools with students and families. With in-depth profiles on every school and college in America, over 140 million reviews and ratings, and powerful search and data tools, Niche helps millions of students and families find and enroll in the right school district for them. 

As a highly rated "A" district, Randolph Township Schools has been ranked 748 out of 10,932 public school districts in America. As one of the top 7%, Randolph was assessed based on the quality of our educators, academics, college preparation, health & safety, athletics, clubs & activities, diversity, test scores, and a variety of other factors. As one example, Randolph Athletics was ranked 733 out of 10,346 school districts to also land in the top 7% nationally. The district also scored high marks in Niche's assessment including academics, the quality of our educators, and college preparation. 

We are grateful for our world-class staff for providing exemplary teaching and learning for thousands of students every day. Not only does the district facilitate a comprehensive student experience that supports every child’s unique needs, all students are given the resources to thrive as unique, responsible and educated members of a global society.

Randolph Selected for Prestigious AP Honor Roll and AP Access Award

The CollegeBoard’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) enables students to pursue college-level studies—with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both—while still in high school. Taking AP courses demonstrates to college admissions officers that students have sought the most challenging curriculum available to them, and research indicates that students who score a 3 or higher on an AP Exam typically experience greater academic success in college and are more likely to earn a college degree than non-AP students. The CollegeBoard recognizes high schools whose AP programs are delivering results for students while broadening access. Schools can earn recognition as an AP School Honor Roll recipient annually based on criteria that reflect a commitment to increasing college-going culture, providing opportunities for students to earn college credit, and maximizing college readiness. Randolph Township Schools has been named to the 2023 AP School Honor Roll with a silver distinction.

Selection for this award is based on performance in three sets of rigorous criteria. This includes college culture where 40% or more of the graduating class have taken at least 1 AP exam, college credit where 25% or more of the exams taken scored a 3 or higher, and college optimization where 2% of the graduating class took 5 or more AP exams in high school. To reference the district’s success shared in September, Randolph Township Schools had an impressive 164 AP Scholars this past year alone and an 89.49% overall passage rate on AP exams. Randolph High School AP programs have not only grown and expanded over the past decade, that expansion has produced tremendous results which continue to grow as a result of the high school's world-class faculty who support student success.

As an even more prestigious recognition, Randolph also earned the coveted AP Access Award. This award honors high schools that demonstrate a clear and effective commitment to equitable access to advanced coursework. Schools earn the additional award if the percentage of AP Exam takers who are underrepresented minority and/or low-income students mirrors the high school's overall student demographics.

Director of Secondary Education Dr. Jonathan Olsen is grateful that the district received two very challenging distinctions to earn. “Being named to the CollegeBoard’s AP Honor Roll is a wonderful accomplishment. We are proud of our students and staff who continue to impress with their success in our AP program,” Dr. Jonathan Olsen said. “Building leadership and counselors have also worked hard to ensure all students have access to and feel welcome in any class they choose to take while at high school, including Advanced Placement. We view being named a recipient of an AP Access Award as an important honor that recognizes our efforts to ensure equitable access to advanced coursework. The entire high school community should feel proud of what they were able to accomplish to win these two prestigious awards.” Randolph High School Principal Jessica Caruso Baxter added: “I am so proud of our students, and I am happy to see our teachers and programming recognized for their accomplishments. Increasing access to Advanced Placement courses is something we have worked on to not only increase college readiness for students, but to potentially make college more affordable for our families through earning college credit. We celebrate this recognition and continue to look for ways to increase access, programming, and provide such wonderful learning opportunities for our students.“

Boys Cross Country Wins 1st State Sectional Championship Since 2009

The Randolph High School Boys Cross Country team captured the NJSIAA North 1 Group 3 State Sectional Championship this past Saturday. This is the team’s first State Sectional Championship since 2009. The Rams ran a commanding race significantly outpacing the 19 competing teams with 86 points. Morris Hills finished in 2nd place with 111 points followed by Sparta in 3rd place with 128 points. Varsity team members include Thomas Amato, Kennan Byers, Preston Gumann, Ryan Barnett, Advay Rajesh, Giacomo Lenge, and Andy Michelin. The team will compete this week at the Group 3 Championships at Holmdel Park.

7 Randolph High School Cheerleaders Honored as UCA All-Americans

The Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) is the largest cheerleading organization in the world. UCA trains over 180,000 cheerleaders and offers over 50 regional events across the country including the National Championship competition at the Walt Disney World Resort. Individual team members attending UCA camps can perform and train for the honor of being named a UCA All-American. An All-American distinction is an incredible achievement, as each selected student athlete demonstrates tremendous athletic ability and showmanship. Recipients of the UCA All-American status have the opportunity to participate in the Citrus Bowl, the Varsity Spirit Spectacular, the London New Year's Day Parade, and the Varsity Spirit Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade. Randolph High School is fortunate to have 7 students who earned the distinction of All-American. 

Our Randolph High School Sideline UCA All-American recipients this year are Junior Alexa Capriglione, Junior Ella Peretz Gonzalez, Freshman Ana Sharkey, Freshman Mila Peretz Gonzalez, and Junior Gigi Ciottariello.

The Randolph High School Competition Team UCA All-American recipients are Senior Sienna Alexander, Junior Ella Peretz Gonzalez, and Freshman Juliana LoCascio. 

The Randolph Cheerleading Sideline team attended a UCA home camp in June while the Competition team attended the coveted UCA Pine Forest Cheerleading Camp in late August this year. Sideline cheerleaders train to keep fans engaged during athletic events such as at football games. Competition cheerleaders focus on competing at competitions against other teams. Both require the same amount of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Cheerleading is a highly technical sport which requires student athletes to learn a variety of different techniques including standing tumbling, running tumbling, jumps, dance, and many other skills. In competitions, judges evaluate performances based on motion, sharpness, placement, timing, spacing, and difficulty including the types of jumps and other skills that cheerleaders are doing as well as overall showmanship. It is broken down to the tiniest components and multiple judges are looking for different things. The culmination of all these variables is very challenging, and it requires a tremendous amount of precision and ability to be able to do well on the sideline and at competitions. 

We are excited that we not only had 7 student athletes earn All-American status, but also that Junior Ella Peretz Gonzalez received this distinction for both Sideline and Competition cheer. We are incredibly proud of our student athletes who both entertain and compete throughout the year. Their hard work and dedication to the sport helps support all of our student athletes, and contributes to both an enthusiastic and positive culture in our schools.

Brendan Angilello and Carolyn He Join Highly Selective State Student Leadership Board

The Speech and Debate program at Randolph High School is consistently nationally recognized as a leader in producing top performing students. With a tradition of excellence in fostering articulate communication and critical thinking, students in the program can compete at the highest levels with tremendous success. On November 18, the Speech and Debate program will host its 35th Annual Fall Classic at Randolph High School which will host students from high schools from across the nation. As a national tournament, it serves as a qualification opportunity for high school competitors to compete in the Tournament of Champions which, within the realm of Speech and Debate, is one of the nation’s highest honors. Students will be able to compete in several categories including Speech, Congress, Parliamentary Debate, Public Forum, and Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Among the many accolades our students have achieved, students Brendan Angilello and Carolyn He have both been named to the New Jersey Student Leadership Board of the New Jersey Speech & Debate League (NJSDL) which is a highly competitive and selective honor with only 9 members representing the entire state. For two of our students to be selected for this opportunity speaks highly to their personal achievements individually, as well as the overall history of the program’s success. 

As members of the New Jersey Student Leadership Board, Carolyn and Brendan will play a critical role in the governance of Speech and Debate opportunities both at the state level and nationally. They will be able to use their voices to advocate for the growth of opportunities currently provided to New Jersey student competitors, as well as contribute ideas for the growth of Speech and Debate programs in New Jersey high schools. Outside of their newly appointed leadership roles, Brendan typically competes in Parliamentary Debate where students compete in "improv debate." Students competing in this area will receive their topics during that round and will only have 15 minutes to write and plan a case. Carolyn He also competes in several events, and recently placed 7th at the Yale University Tournament in Informative Speaking. She was also a Quarterfinalist in Original Oratory.

“I have been performing in theater since the 3rd grade at Brundage Park Playhouse here in Randolph. I heard about Speech and Debate through Ms. Burke, who was my history teacher, who encouraged me that I may be interested in joining the program. I thought it was a good opportunity to explore because Speech and Debate, in my eyes, is a more intimate form of acting. In Speech and Debate, you can connect with a smaller audience. When I joined the program, I really enjoyed learning about competing in both areas. There is a lot of collaboration that is both interesting and educational, even when competing individually, and I have really developed a passion for the program. I have really enjoyed competing in Parliamentary Debate because it is very impromptu. The event challenges me and is fun because it tests your public speaking skills. It is like a performance because you have to respond so quickly with only 15 minutes to prepare, and it requires a firm understanding of rhetorical skills. When I am competing in this event, I really like to debate pop cultural topics,” Brendan said. “In my role on the New Jersey Student Leadership Board, I hope to contribute a fresh view of the program. I believe there are a lot of disparities on Speech and Debate teams between novice and varsity competitors, as well as schools who have highly funded programs in comparison to schools who have underfunded programs. There is a lot of potential to bring innovative ideas to Speech and Debate, and I am very honored to have the opportunity to serve in a leadership capacity. The program has really helped me grow personally, as well as a performer, and it’s a privilege to now be able to contribute at the state level.”  

Carolyn He added: “If you were to talk to any of my childhood friends and ask if I would ever speak competitively, they would be completely surprised. I have always been a very shy person who doesn’t raise their hand in class. When teachers would call on me, I would also respond in a very quiet voice. I saw Speech and Debate as an opportunity to amplify myself both inside and outside of the classroom. For me, that meant sharing my thoughts more. At first, I didn’t love the program because I was very intimidated. After my first impromptu round, I slowly began to enjoy competing. It has been incredibly rewarding to look back on where I used to be and reflect on how this program has changed how I am able to share my thoughts, ideas, and perspective,” Carolyn said. “As a member of the New Jersey Student Leadership Board, I now can use the voice I discovered I had in me all along to amplify how other students are able to find and use their own voice. I was originally not planning to apply, but I reflected on the experiences I had personally, and I knew I had ideas to be able to advance programs including improving attendance on a local level but also NJSDL statewide. The people you meet through Speech and Debate are so incredible and uplifting. I really wanted to join a cohort of like-minded peers to share ideas which could create a very productive and successful environment for other students who compete in Speech and Debate.”

The district is excited by the achievements and new leadership roles that both Brendan and Carolyn will now assume. Randolph Township Schools is also grateful for the leadership of award-winning Randolph High School teacher and Head Speech and Debate Coach Katherine Burke who has grown the program into the powerhouse it is today. 

Randolph Middle School Opens New Life Skills Classroom

Randolph Middle School held a ribbon cutting ceremony to reveal a newly renovated classroom space with the purpose of teaching life skills such as household tasks, organizing a home, social skills, and collaboration. Through generous community donations from both individuals and Suburban Furniture, the middle school staff was able to fully furnish the new apartment space. The RMS apartment replicates a kitchen and living room for students to practice life skills. Our teachers are looking forward to teaching lessons in this new space as well as the middle school’s culinary arts classroom. Students will then have the opportunity to generalize these skills through community-based instruction. “The newly renovated classroom showcases a modern and vibrant learning environment, fostering creativity and enhancing the overall educational experience for our students,” Randolph Middle School Principal Dave Kricheff said. Teachers Krista Mennella, Rebecca Lory, and Joan Cirella added: “Our dream for creating this space came from a belief that social and emotional learning, as well as life skills are essential for our students. We hope to give the students life-long skills and memories that will extend beyond RMS. The look on our students’ faces as we teach meaningful life lessons makes the development of this program so rewarding. We can’t wait to see what our students accomplish in our new space.”

Thank you Suburban Furniture and all the individuals who donated for your support of our schools and this initiative!

Thankful for our Veterans

Shongum Elementary hosted an exciting early recognition of Veterans Day prior to when it is formally observed on Saturday, November 11. The ceremony saluted and honored the brave individuals who have selflessly served our country. In addition to honoring individuals from the Shongum community for their service, Veterans Day is also an important opportunity to educate students about the importance of sacrifice, commitment, resilience, collaboration, self-discipline, a strong work ethic, and other SEL competencies which are fundamental for achieving success. The rights and liberties we have today are a privilege, and we are grateful that our students and staff can recognize and be inspired by the heroes who have and continue to protect our country.

As part of the celebration, several important community and state stakeholders attended to provide their remarks about the importance of Veterans Day. The district is grateful for the words of wisdom shared by Angel Soto from the Randolph VFW, Senator Anthony M. Bucco, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, Deputy Mayor Christine Carey, and Constituent Advocate Casey Doss who represented Senator Booker. After the short speeches, the students learned about some of the veterans in attendance, many of which being the proud relatives of Shongum students and staff. In addition to photos captured of the event, slides featuring the honorees provided by the veterans’ families were presented to all students to learn more about each veteran. At the conclusion of the ceremony, students had the option to participate in boot camp style exercises during recess as a fun activity to further educate students about the training that members of the military undergo to be fully equipped to serve and protect our country.

“Shongum Elementary continues to pride itself on displaying gratitude to the many people who make our school, community, and world a better place. Today’s event was an opportunity to thank all veterans, including just a portion of those with direct connections to our school community. With the support of our fantastic PTO, as well as the local VFW, students were treated to a great assembly highlighting the members of various branches of our nation’s military. I, along with the rest of our staff, do not take these sacrifices for granted. It was such a privilege to be able to honor their service today,” Principal Michael Scott said. “This year, our students also had one on one opportunities to talk with veterans during lunch, as well as participate in an optional boot camp/drill session hosted during recess by several veteran parents. These experiences help to inspire our students to be proud of those who have or continue to serve our country. It was wonderful to have a day filled with patriotic activities, and I am proud of all those involved in making these opportunities possible for our students.”

Shongum Elementary and Randolph Township Schools is thankful to Sergeant Brian Capo and Shongum PTO Vice President of Programs Jeni Simms for their work to organize the incredibly successful celebration. In addition to Shongum, all schools are participating in activities and/or hosting celebrations in November to recognize the contributions which have protected the freedoms we value so much. Along with our veterans, the district also extends its gratitude to our current armed forces who serve our country selflessly and bravely. Their sacrifices are a testament to the values that make our nation great, and their courage continues to serve as an inspiration to us all.

Close the Gap

Sandal Gap Studio in Houston, Texas was founded with the mission to “fill the gap of knowledge and understanding between society and people with disabilities. Sandal Gap Studio exists to share the beauty of inclusivity through art. The organization intentionally exposes society to the disability community in a comfortable environment where art is used as the common language among the verbal and non-verbal.”

The organization started a special program for elementary schools called “Close the Gap” which connects individuals with and without disabilities through art. Students in the district's transition program taught students at Ironia Elementary art lessons as part of the special program.

Learn more about Sandal Gap Studio and its mission:

RMS Students Create Abstract Painting Influenced by the Lyrics of Taylor Swift

Students in Stacy Wess’ 7th grade art classroom were working on independent projects when one of the students in the class began to sing the song “Lover” from Taylor Swift’s 2019 album with the same name. The students in the class, recognizing and loving the song, started to sing along in unison. The special moment led to a discussion where Ms. Wess discovered she had a classroom full of Taylor Swift fans, also known as Swifties, which prompted her to design an art integration lesson connecting the music of Taylor Swift with the work of Jackson Pollock. The lesson taught students about abstract art, realistic art, and why artists create their pieces.

After learning about abstract expressionism and the work of renowned American painter Jackson Pollock, the students were asked how the visual art of Jackson Pollock and the performing art of Taylor Swift were different as well as the same. Through discussion, the students learned about how artists use different artistic mediums to express their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Regardless of whether the medium is paint or the medium is music, both visual and performing art have the same intention to share a message.

Together, the students created an action painting in the style of Jackson Pollock while listening to some of their favorite Taylor Swift songs they selected. Prior to starting their painting and listening to their favorite songs, each student was asked to think about their own feelings including things that bring them joy as well as things that may cause them to worry. Each student wrote down some of their worries on pieces of newspaper which they shredded symbolically to include as part of their collaborative work. After painting, the students sprinkled their “worries” onto the art piece as further representation of ways art can be used as a vehicle for expressing one's feelings.

The students had an amazing experience connecting, creating, and responding to the world through understanding both abstract and realistic subject matter in painting.

RHS Percussion Hosts Nationally Recognized Timpanist for Hands-On Masterclass

Randolph High School Percussion Coordinator Anthony Eskin invited Professor Bryce Leafman from San José State University and musician for the San Francisco Symphony to teach a timpani masterclass for our student percussionists. The San Francisco Symphony is regarded as one of the best symphonies in the world. Professor Leafman is one of only five individuals in the United States to hold the title of Associate Principal Timpani/Section Percussion. Most orchestras do not have this title as each individual section has a dedicated expert. As a dual title, Professor Leafman is an expert in two sections and is the only person in his symphony with the capability to play within these sections interchangeably. His distinction makes him one of the undisputed leaders in his specific field. Our students benefited from Professor Leafman’s valuable lesson about the timpani, also referred to as a kettledrum, and different methods for playing the instrument well. The students learned about different techniques, types of mallets used to play the timpani, and had the opportunity to play for Professor Leafman to receive feedback.

“I teach at San José State University and I perform in the San Francisco Symphony, however before that I was teaching in middle and high schools all over the country. From that experience, it became obvious to me that band directors and percussion specialists have so much on their plates that there isn’t a lot of opportunity to discuss the highly technical details of performance. I love being able to share my feedback because there is so much information, especially with the timpani, and it gives the students the ability to learn about information that may have never been presented to them before. From my experience, that increased awareness supports the growth of their musicianship and capabilities. For me to be able to do that in one hour and allow them to leave with so much value has always been very rewarding,” Professor Leafman said.

Center Grove Principal Goes Viral

Center Grove Elementary Principal Mario Rodas couldn't resist dancing to the catchy "Baby Shark" anthem as students began the school day on Halloween. The video has reached over 32,000 people and continues to grow!  

Engineering to New Heights

Fernbrook Elementary 3rd grade students in Mr. Todd's classroom started their introduction unit on engineering with an engaging activity. Students were tasked with building a paper airplane prototype with the criteria of flying it as far as possible. After building and testing their airplanes yesterday, they analyzed what could be improved to increase the flight distance and made adjustments. Today, they flew their planes and tested to see if their improvements increased the distance.

“This task was very rewarding for the students. They were self-motivated to improve their designs and persevered through the challenges along the way. In addition, they were all very supportive of each other and celebrated each other’s successes," Mr. Todd said.