Tinc Road’s safety patrol is back. After years on hiatus, the program was resurrected by instructional supervisor Nicole O’Connell and music teacher Vincent Buzzelli who serves as adviser.
About 40 fifth-graders volunteered to be a member of the patrol. Their duties include holding signs for buses, directing fellow students in the hallways during dismissal, and escorting students to the aftercare program in the cafeteria at the end of the day. Perhaps more importantly, however, the safety patrollers serve as role models for younger students.
“They understand that kids are looking up to them,” Buzzelli said. “They’re very conscious of their own conduct and take their responsibilities as safety patrol members very seriously.”
Before the fifth-graders donned their neon green safety belts, Buzzelli provided instruction on safe school practices, effective and respectful communication with peers, and conflict resolution. The students also role-played various scenarios that could pop up while engaging in their official duties.
The safety patrol meets with Buzzelli nearly every day to discuss practical improvements that could be made to program procedures.
Tinc Road students wrote 300 letters of thanks to veterans, active military personnel, and first-responders. The letters were sorted by the school's Kindness Ambassadors – students who volunteer to take part in community service projects.
Approximately 500 people turned out to celebrate Tinc Road’s Trunk-or-Treat. The event, sponsored by the PTO, was so much more than a safe way for trick-or-treaters to collect candy from trusted adults rather than going door to door; it was a festival for the school community. Held in the evening in the front parking lot of the school, the Trunk-or-Treat featured more than 40 creatively decorated cars and trucks belonging to parents and staff members. The volunteers passed out candy to the children and entertained them with props and gadgets from their vehicle displays.
A grant from the Education Association of Mount Olive, secured by teacher Mary Hund, helped pay for candy and site decorations. Tinc Road families also donated candy during the week preceding the event.
Members of the Flanders Fire Department were on hand to distribute candy and wow the visitors with a tall ladder truck. A food truck from a local caterer was also on site to sell snacks and beverages.
New Jersey’s Week of Respect is annually celebrated during the first full week of October and focuses on the prevention of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. But at Tinc Road, where each month of the school year is devoted to an important character trait, respect is emphasized throughout all of October.
During the month, school counselors Lisa Barba and Alina Szast visited every classroom in the building to deliver to students the message of the importance of respect. The counselors read Laurie Keller’s “Do Unto Otters” with the classes. The popular storybook tells the tale of a nervous rabbit who discovers that a family of otters has moved in next door. The book highlights the ways to be a good friend and neighbor, and shows that treating others with respect is the basis of friendship, cooperation, and sharing.
After reading the book, each student then engaged in a companion activity and wrote or drew something they could do for others.
The counselors also coordinated the school’s participation in Project Connect, an activity made popular by the National Bullying Prevention Center. Students wrote onto strips of orange paper things they do to help make Tinc Road a safer and kinder place for their peers, or qualities that make them unique and proud. The strips were linked into a long paper chain that was hung in a corridor for all to see.
"It's so important to be respectful to everyone no matter their age, appearance, and occupation," Barba said. "We've been discussing with students that this is not only important at their young ages, but also equally important for adults. If people treated others how they would like to be treated, the world would be a much kinder place."
Other respect-centered activities:
• The school’s kindness ambassadors, a group of about 40 fifth-graders which assists with schoolwide service projects, used recess time to chalk the sidewalk in front of the building with messages of kindness and respect.
• The counselors designed a special spirit week celebration that encouraged staff members and students to recognize the importance of respect by dressing according to each day's individual theme. For example, there was “Tied together with Respect” – that encouraged wear a tie-dyed article of clothing and "Being Respectful Is No Sweat" Day that asked everyone to wear sweatpants or sweatshirts.
• Students promised to be kind, honest, and respectful by signing a pledge of respect.
Mark Grilo, Tinc Road’s new principal, brings diverse educational and leadership experience to his role. In 2018 he joined the district as athletic director, planning and supervising the activities of more than 30 teams in grades 6-12. He also simultaneously served as Mount Olive High School’s supervisor of business education.
His first responsibility when he came aboard as Tinc Road principal in July was to oversee the health protocols of the school in preparation for the safe return of students and staff, and coordinate the resumption of regular school operations that had been curtailed during the pandemic-shortened instructional days of 2020-21. He has taken the time early in the school year to connect with parents, students, and staff members.
“This is my dream job, it really is,” he said. “The staff is fantastic. They really make this place so very special. Seeing how much they care about the kids and community inspires me every day.”
Before joining Mount Olive, the veteran educator served in Morris Hills for most of his educational career. He taught business at Morris Hills High School for 16 years where he also served on various school committees and helped design courses of the business department curriculum. A former professional lacrosse player with a multitude of honors, Grilo served as head lacrosse coach at Morris Knolls for eight years. His alma mater, Drew University, inducted him into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019.
The Long Valley resident holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Drew as well as master’s degrees in business administration from Wesley College and in educational leadership from Montclair State University.
With much of the U.S. workforce gradually returning to the workplace, many adults are finding it difficult to adjust to the regular routine. The same holds true of children who are back to school full time and in person, away from the isolation that defined pandemic life.
Teachers of younger students in the district have eased students back into the academic demands of the regular day by building the social and emotional skills of their kids.
Third grade teachers Samantha Darnesto and Michele Schoch emphasized to their class the importance and benefits of togetherness and collaboration. They engaged students in various activities that set tone for the school year and helped build a spirit of community within the classroom. For example, students were posed with four questions:
- How can we make this class feel like a family?
- How can we celebrate one another?
- How can we support each other?
- What does respect look like?
Then the third-graders wrote their answers on Post-it notes and affixed them to a bulletin board in the front of the class. It’s a literal roadmap of concrete steps that students can take to build bonds and nurture relationships.
The class also engaged in outdoor activities in which students modelled ways to play and interact with one another.
“Community-building is such an important part of the beginning of school,” said Schoch. “We want students to feel that our classroom is a safe space to take risks and be comfortable to try new things. Even more importantly, they are coming out of extended periods of virtual learning [last school year] and it is first time that many of these kids have been together in a traditional classroom setting in 18 months.”
Darnesto and Schoch read several books with the class too, underscoring the important interpersonal skills needed to recapture the magic and fun of working together. “Our Class is a Family” by Shannon Olsen stressed ways that students can contribute to making the class a home away from home where everyone can feel happy, respected, and included. In “Say Something,” by beloved children’s author Peter Reynolds, students were encouraged to speak from the heart to make the classroom a positive place to work and learn.
Students planted flags on the school grounds in remembrance of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Sandshore Elementary School
498 Sandshore Rd
Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Mountain View Elementary School
118 Cloverhill Drive
Flanders, NJ 07836
Chester M. Stephens Elementary School
99 Sunset Drive
Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Mt. Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road
Budd Lake, NJ 07828