The Chester School District is a fully accredited elementary district responsible for the education of students in kindergarten through eighth grades. The district is composed of Dickerson Elementary School (K-2), Bragg Intermediate School (3-5), and Black River Middle School (6-8). Dickerson and Bragg Schools are located on Route 24, east of Chester Borough; Black River Middle School is on Route 513 (North Road), north of Chester Borough. The school district serves two municipalities, Chester Borough and Chester Township.
Dickerson Elementary School (K-2) – is an elementary school with approximately 400 students in 21 sections. Dickerson School offers a strong philosophy of educating the whole child by emphasizing the academic, social and emotional child. In this way, children develop an enthusiasm for learning and foster independence. We believe that critical thinking and problem solving are a necessary component for learning. Children use The Six Pillars of Character Education coupled with our anti-bullying program to solve their problems with an interpersonal cognitive problem solving approach.
The curriculum is aligned with the New Jersey Core Content Curriculum Standards and the Common Core State Standards and the staff is committed to a multi-sensory approach to learning, where children use their different intelligences to make learning meaningful. Children should work together in pairs and groups for building cooperation in hands-on learning and cooperative learning.
We believe that the language arts, science, social studies, and math should be introduced in an interdisciplinary format so children can make critical connections to ensure that they understand the meaning. Writing in every discipline is a goal for every child. In mathematics, there is a wide range of active learning. A myriad of manipulatives are used for developing mathematical concepts and confidence through problem solving. The mathematic program has a strong technology component and all teachers utilize technology to deliver instruction. Our language arts program is a balanced literacy approach. We used the guided reading, guided comprehension and writer’s workshop instructional strategies for differentiating instruction. Our teachers volunteer to attend workshops to improve student achievement in reading and writing. All teachers belong to a Professional Learning Committee to examine student achievement in all areas of the curriculum.
Children in Dickerson School have a wide range of specialized areas to ensure they become well-rounded learners. Art, physical education, music, Spanish, and media/library instruction is provided in addition to a full technology lab equipped with 25 computers and a fully automated library. Teachers are provided with training and access to streaming video in the classroom and Smart Board training. All teachers and students have access to a Smart board. Other services offered include a full-time nurse, part-time counselor, a pre-school for identified children and the Child Study Team.
Developmental assessment as the key determiner in our reporting system. Teachers report the child’s progress and the rate of consistency within any given set of skills. Another assessment tool is our Dickerson School goals. They were achieved and even exceeded. The vast majority of our students improved their overall grade when administered an open ended, problem solving question from the Exemplar series using a holistic rubric broken down into Understanding, Strategy and Communication.
Bragg Intermediate School (3-5) – is an exemplary school accommodating approximately 460 students. It is the mission of the faculty and staff to establish a learning environment that challenges students, while working within each student’s individual strengths and learning styles in order to help each child meet with success. An important aspect of this professional learning community is the school’s dedication to using multiple instructional strategies, consistent grade level meetings, and data usage to determine students’ needs. This approach, coupled this with the district’s dedication to consistent articulation and ongoing curricular and professional development, makes for a special place for children to learn. Students at Bragg are immersed in an education that allows them to work independently and cooperatively, while focusing on academic, social, and emotional growth. Our dedicated faculty and positive atmosphere at Bragg allows our school to meet the diverse needs of our 21st century learners.
Bragg is dedicated to infusing units/lessons with researched, best practices in instruction. Furthermore, the facility at Bragg is dedicated to the process of common formative assessment using it to guide instruction, while consistently monitoring student understanding, further assuring that all students meet educational objectives.
In addition to our academic subject offerings, students are also offered instruction in the areas of technology, art, music, physical education, health, library/media applications, and World Languages. Students are also offered extended learning opportunities for students who demonstrate particularly strong skills in problem solving and critical thinking an opportunity to further expand and strengthen their academic abilities in a variety of curricular areas. Our faculty strives to tailor students’ instruction to their learning preferences and ability levels through a combination of enrichment and acceleration activities. In keeping with our efforts to meet the needs of all of our learners, Bragg offers a Gifted and Talented Program to help further differentiate instruction for our students. In addition, our students in need of special education services continue to benefit from our inclusion model, which involves ongoing training and professional development for our regular classroom and special education teachers in order to best meet the needs of all students.
In helping to further enact our mission statement of educating children academically, socially, and personally, we place great emphasis on forging a healthy and positive home/ school connection for our children. This is accomplished through a number of parental involvement forums including our School Leadership Team, our Principal’s Roundtable Meetings, our Special Education Parent Support Group, our Additions Volunteers Program, and the many proactive student, teacher, and community based initiatives of our PTO and our Educational Foundation of the Chesters.
Black River Middle School (6-8) – is a middle school with 498 students and is a community of learners. The staff are part of professional learning communities where teachers engage in dialogue about strategies to improve student achievement and support the needs of young adolescents. Peer coaching and mentoring allows for staff to share current best practices and continue their self improvement process. Connections are made with students through the implementation of a house system, where a core team of teachers teach only one hundred students. Core team planning time allows for interdisciplinary units and coordination of student supports. Personalization is enhanced through their advisory program, where each teacher in the school has a group of twelve students (four students from each grade level) that stay together for the students’ entire career at Black River Middle School. Team building activities and structured time during advisory help to enhance a sense of community and ensure that each student is well known and supported by an adult in the school.
The school uses a block schedule with class periods of fifty minutes for core subjects and thirty-seven minutes for related arts. Black River Middle School has introduced a new related arts writing class in order to increase integrated language arts educational time. Recent changes to increase math and science class time and the opportunities for one-on-one help for all students have resulted in improved student achievement.
Teachers challenge students with higher-order questioning and integrate technology into instruction. The school uses the VBrick video streaming system for virtual field trips and incorporated it into their zoo project presentation. Math and science students participate in their school’s annual science fair, the largest K-8 fair in New Jersey, where they conduct science experiments, analyze data and present their findings to experts in the field.
Students have an opportunity to participate in over thirty clubs and extracurricular activities throughout the school year, many of which are academic and service oriented. Peer Leaders is a program developed by the Princeton Center for Leadership Training, designed to help students develop their leadership skills. Eighth grade students are trained to help their peers understand the dangers of substance abuse and make healthy decisions. Peer leaders also conduct workshops throughout the school year which focus on the difficult issues facing young people, including peer pressure and emotional stress.
West Morris Mendham High School (MHS) – is part of the West Morris Regional High School District which was established in 1958. The district operates two schools, West Morris Central High School (WMCHS) and West Morris Mendham High School (MHS). The district serves the students of five Morris County communities, Chester Borough, Chester Township, Mendham Borough, Mendham Township and Washington Township (Long Valley) in grades 9 through 12. Students from Washington Township attend WMCHS, and students from the Chesters and the Mendhams attend MHS. The regional district covers an area of just under 100 square miles and its population was 470,212 persons in the 2000 census. As part of the West Morris Regional High School District, MHS enjoys a reputation for excellence in all areas, is a college preparatory institution with approximately 1,250 students and is located at 65 East Main Street in Mendham Borough.
ACADEMICS: 2009-10 marks the 12th year that the International Baccalaureate program is being offered to students. Completion of the 2-year program will lead to either a full IB diploma or individual certificates of accomplishment recognized internationally. Sixty IB diplomas were awarded to members of the class of 2010. The program of studies features a wide range of International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement offerings. Mendham High School was admitted to the International Baccalaureate Organization in 1998 and was one of the very first public high schools in New Jersey to offer this program. This internationally-monitored curriculum provides a rigorous course of study for highly focused students. Such students may elect to be candidates for the IB Diploma, widely accepted as the finest secondary program available.
The MHS class of 2010 achieved an average SAT score of 1150 and an average ACT score of 26. Several students earned perfect 800 scores on the SAT Reasoning and the SAT Subject tests. Other academic achievements include: 3 National Merit Finalists; 1 National Hispanic Program Scholar; 12 National Merit Commended Scholars; 26 Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholars; and 35 students were recognized by the College Board for Advanced Placement test results.
Part of the academic program is the Special Education Department, which enjoys statewide recognition. MHS is preparing students for further study as well as transition into other post secondary options. The district was one of the 18 original pilot districts selected for training in inclusive educational practices and continues to emphasize providing student support in all mainstream programs.
ARTS: West Morris Mendham High School distinguishes itself in the area of the performing arts. Students in the music program distinguished themselves by being selected to All-State, All North Jersey Area, All North Jersey Region, All-Eastern, and National competitions. Students may join band, orchestra or choir or their offshoots – jazz band, marching band, wind ensemble, show choir, select choir, quartets, and string ensemble. MHS produces two dramatic productions each school year which are hugely successful. Mendham High School has an outstanding art program taught by practicing artists. Students have enjoyed recognition in local, state, and national competitions. Some MHS art students have been awarded scholarships to the best art schools in the country. The high school gains a new student-generated mural each year and the walls feature regularly changing displays of student and faculty artwork.
ATHLETICS: We had a great year athletically in 2009-2010. We currently offer 22 interscholastic sports with most of those having sub-level programs. Over 65% of our students participate and in 2010 we added boys and girls swimming. We began 2009 in the newly formed Northwest New Jersey Athletic Conference and in that year won a remarkable 11 conference championships. We also won our 3rd county title in a row in boys basketball and a sectional title in fencing. 2009-2010 also saw Mendham win 3 state championships in boys basketball, boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse. While championships are important, we feel interscholastic athletics teaches students life lessons and helps contribute to making them good citizens. We are very proud of our program and see great things in the future.
ACTIVITIES: The Activities program supports 50 clubs from technology to photography. The largest and most popular activity is the Service Club. This group of students is actively involved in volunteer work and fundraising for local charities. Also noteworthy: the International Club, which promotes understanding of various diverse cultures; Future Business Leaders of America, which molds young people into business leaders; Peer Leadership, which supports students in their assimilation into the high school; the Drama Program, which showcases young actors; academic teams from biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. The Mock Trial team, which showcases students in a courtroom setting, has been successful over the last few years on the county and state level. The Gay/Straight Alliance continues Mendham’s commitment to the development of a diverse and tolerant student population.
FACULTY: The “Commitment to Growth” thrives in a building where faculty members model the behavior of academics for life-long learning. Five members of the faculty hold doctorate degrees, and 63% of the faculty has earned master’s degrees. Teachers continue their training in the lB program. Throughout the year several faculty members attended subject-related seminars at institutes of higher learning or traveled abroad to enrich their professional knowledge.
ARTICULATION in a 9-12 regional high school district is vital to success. There is ongoing communication with our sibling school, West Morris Central. Vertical articulation occurs with four elementary schools (Black River Middle School, Mendham Township Middle School, Mountain View Middle School and St. Joseph School) to foster a K-12 curriculum and a smooth transition between 8th and 9th grades. Our Counseling Department has also instituted a Freshman Transition Program to help assimilate 9th graders into the school community.
It is a school in which inquiry is fostered, intellect is challenged, and skills for lifetime success are developed. District efforts in staff development, technology, and curriculum revision, coupled with motivated students, positive parents, dedicated teachers and administrators, will prepare the way for even stronger innovative educational programs in the 21st century.
Chester NJ Public School Links