Dear Parents/Guardians and Students of the Morris Hills High School Community,
Was it not just yesterday that we were waiting with bated breath for the weather god to decide between sending us rain or sunshine for graduation proceedings, 2019? The stars must have aligned on that wonderful morning as we dodged the rain and celebrated, on Gifford Field, saluting the Class of 2019. With echoes of pomp and circumstance still feeling close behind, we welcome yet another academic year, facing a new September with deep promise and enthusiasm. As the summer months rapidly give way to fall, I welcome your return to the 2019 – 2020 school year, eager to join our parents, our students, and our community, in partnership, collectively writing a new script, one filled with forces and challenges that keep us moving toward higher ground and higher skies.
In my role as building Principal for the past several years, I have chosen to identify a school-wide theme to connect to our initiatives and to underscore the values and principles that define this exemplary high school. Toward that end, in the interest of continuity, I have made it a practice to directly link that school-wide theme to our district’s summer read, hoping the message within the read rings true to students in a way that makes lasting sense. I once again continue that practice this year by connecting our school-wide theme to the summer read, national best seller, I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives, a heartfelt, dual memoir written by Caitlin Alifrenka, Martin Granda, and Liz Welch. The memoir is the true story of an American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe who develop an incredibly special friendship as an outgrowth of a 7th grade pen-pal assignment, a friendship grounded in the “milk of human kindness.” From their global friendship emerges the poignant story of two lives and two human beings drawn together in a rare and enduring bond of kindness and mutual respect, leaving us all to acknowledge that the gift of human connections just may represent the single, most nurturing force on earth.
It is against that tapestry that I announce the 2019 – 2020 school-wide theme for Morris Hills High School and encourage us all to embrace the challenge inherent within it: “In a World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind.” Whether that challenge speaks to you in the classroom, on the playing field, within student activities, or through the community, I encourage all students, faculty, parents, and administrators to seize the moment, to make it your own, and to share with others the reasons why KINDNESS drives the better angels of our nature, setting the standard for a softer world for all to know. As in the past, the authors of the summer read will visit Morris Hills High School on October 3rd to speak directly to the student body in an assembly program.
Each September, one of the highlights of a school opening is welcoming new staff to our professional family. Joining our exemplary professional family this September are the following:
- Stacey Feiss – Title 1 Reading Specialist
- Michele Melendez – Teacher of Special Education
- Jenna Miller – Teacher of English / AVID Tutor
- Nicole Occhipinti – Teacher of English – Maternity Leave
Collaboration being a key to any school’s success, I encourage all parents/guardians to make the effort to attend our fall Back to School Nights (September 17th – Last names A – L / September 25th – Last names M – Z) and meet these new professionals personally. Additionally, I encourage all students to extend a hand of welcome in your classrooms and show our new faculty the face of the student body here at Morris Hills High School.
Capital improvement projects continue to occupy a central place in yearly planning, allowing us to maintain our facilities with seriousness of purpose. Approaching 2019-2020 is no exception. The following is a list of our most recent initiatives: the completion of the roof project, two years in the making; the installation of new carpet in the chorus room; the refinishing of the main gym floor; the installation of new wall mats in the main gym; the beginning process of painting of the main gym ceiling; the upgrading to all lighting in the entire building and the upgrading to the HVAC system through our Energy Incentive Program; the beginning process of the installation of new bleachers on the away side of Gifford Field; the installation of multi-sport practice cages in the main gym; the upgrading of both female and male bathroom facilities in the gym foyer; and the creation of a new classroom on the second floor due to growing enrollment.
Campus improvements also receive a spotlight at Morris Hills High School, staying mindful of both safety and aesthetics. These are just some of the current areas receiving attention: the purchase of additional benches for the addition of two new seating areas for students; new campus banners and signs; new benches for the Gifford Field concession stand area; new benches for the auditorium hallway; lighted way finder located on the front circle; new drafting tables; new shades and window art in the cafeteria; new vinyl link floor mats for both the band and Fox hallways; new Morris Hills folding chairs; and a new sign on the Gifford Field scoreboard. The building continues to defy its 1953 inception because of our district’s commitment to maintain it. We are fortunate and grateful.
It is with significant enthusiasm that we look forward to three specific initiatives to punctuate the opening of the school year: First, the district welcomes the introduction of the MHRD Mobile App, enabling everyone to receive the latest school information by accessing the app on one’s mobile device. Second, the district is eager for the introduction of MHRD TEN. The MHRD Teacher Education Network is a fusion of our former Staff Development model with a more organic experience based on the needs of teachers and the recommendations of our coaches. It is structured to meet the instructional needs of the students, pedagogical needs of the teachers, and transformative needs of the district as we continue to advance in today’s society. Third, The Morris Hills Regional District Transportation Department is proud to announce the release of the District Transportation Center for the 2019 - 2020 school year. The DTC is a web-based help desk for all transportation inquires. This system has been implemented in order to streamline requests, improve response times, and organize the department’s workflow. To contact the DTC, please click dtc.mhrd.org and select “New Support Ticket.” Finally, the district continues to maintain its proactive stance with respect to addressing bullying. This year, we welcome a new bullying prevention and intervention program for all 9th graders called "Stand Up - Speak Out - End Bullying.” The program was selected by both the MH and MK Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying Committees.
If it sounds busy within the walls of Morris Hills High School, yes even in the summer, that perception is correct. The world is far too demanding for us to rest on past achievements, so pushing on is imperative for us all. It is with pleasure that I share with you our staff’s enthusiasm to welcome you back to begin the important work we do together, in partnership. May this year be no different as we navigate new waters and discover new challenges and experiences, grounded in “KINDNESS” and mutual respect. Please enjoy the remaining days of the summer holiday and know we are ready and eager to begin a new year with you all.In the Spirit of Partnership,Todd M. Toriello