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  • Madison School District:
    A Tradition of Community Partnerships
    by Michael A. Rossi, Jr., Ph.D.
     community photo

    Madison has a long history of community partnerships and outreach.  Madison High School students, teachers and administrators participate annually in a “Day of Service.”  Last year dozens of interactive projects unfolded within our borough, county and beyond.  Projects ranged from community food bank donations, clothing drives, to a talent show at the Covenant House in Newark among many, many others.  Community connections are a hallmark of the school district and the Borough at large.  Throughout the school year at almost any time some segment of our student population, led by our talented faculty advisors, working cooperatively with community leaders and organizations are connecting with and serving the needs of society.

    In response to the devastation wrought by Sandy, our students and staff at Madison Junior put forth a tremendous effort to help those in need.  Working in cooperation with the Borough of Madison, stakeholders from the school, including teachers, peer leaders and administration, raised $1,600, which was presented to the Mayor of Union Beach during a field trip to Union Beach.  During the trip, which took place on December 18th, 2012, our students participated in a clean-up effort coordinated by AmeriCorps. 

    Our three elementary schools regularly pursue “green initiatives,” whereby we focus on trash reduction, recycling, and have established a Friday walk to school day.  Additionally, we have established one day per week where we try to bring only ‘reusable items’ to lunch.  These efforts are part of a wider program entitled, Sustainable Madison.  The school district has partnered with this municipal organization and has planted hundreds of trees around town, retro-fitted lighting in our buildings, and hosted a Green Forum January 24th to develop a long-range plan to make Madison a leader in sustainable practices.  Toward that end I am working with our high student government and members of Project Aware to reduce electricity consumption at Madison High School by 5% and fund-raise for a composter.  Both of these campaigns are being rolled out with the cooperation of Borough officials.      

    An annual event that connects our community is known as Bottle Hill Day.  Choreographed by our Board President, Ms. Lisa Ellis, this event is a combination of local commerce, student extra-curricular performances, Madison’s bravest and finest and the hero’s that have kept and keep Madison a safe and viable community.  On the first Saturday of May all schools participate in May Day, a town-wide cleanup effort where students parents teachers and a civic leaders  engage in horticultural maintenance around the town, cleaning of sidewalk areas, small restoration efforts, all in annual effort to display the pride with which Madison residents and our school district exudes on a daily basis.

    Each year our Madison High School students organize a local version of Relay For Life.  Held at each of our five schools, the funds that we have raised were able to give rides to cancer patients to and from their treatment appointments. We were able to help provide wigs to women who have lost their hair as a result of cancer treatment. Benefits also include Reach to Recovery Program, receiving a comfort kit of pertinent information and supplies for post-surgery, plus supportive contact with women who have been through Breast Cancer and want to help others through this experience.  These student efforts are coordinated through the Madison and Florham Park American Cancer Society. 
    Another wonderful example of community partnerships is Project Community Pride, a community based non-profit agency which serves the families of Madison, Florham Park, and Chatham Borough. Staffed by licensed therapists, the program offers local families clinical mental health services including individual and group therapy.  Working in cooperation with local schools, and through school based and municipal funding, Project Pride addresses the behavioral and emotional needs of youth who became involved with the law. Project Community Pride is a family-centered counseling agency which provides a unique and valuable service to the children and families of our community. Children between the ages of 5 and 18 may voluntarily seek therapy with their parents at Project Pride.  (www.projectcommunitypride.org)  Our schools regularly make use of their services and we work as partners in an effort to help our students overcome difficult issues.

    As indicated by the various examples cited, the school district and community of Madison has a long and rich tradition of community cooperation aimed at the greater good.  From cleaning up streets and beautifying our neighborhood, to raising money for cancer and disaster relief, to the on-going clinical needs of young adults, we are here for each other.  It each corner of our school district and on every street corner, visible signs of a united and caring people are on display.  It is a proud and progressive community, one that is unique in many ways.  The best accolade I can find for it is that the majority of those that grow up here, stay here, and raise their children.  That is a wonderful sign of a community and a school district supporting each other.