Daniel Layton

naPrincipal's Message - 8/4/2021

It is my pleasure to serve as the Proud Principal of Highlands Elementary School for a fourth year. I look forward to having the opportunity to continue moving Highlands Elementary forward in a direction that promotes student achievement, social emotional learning and safety. As we continue to navigate out of these unprecedented times, please know that we will continue to provide high quality instruction as well as a safe and nurturing learning environment. 

Along with the Highlands Board of Education, Dr. Beams and I are so excited to be unveiling the newest additions to our educational plan. This upcoming school year we are going to continue to build upon our STEAM programming, social emotional learning and differentiated education in each of our classrooms.  

The enhancement of our STEAM learning opportunities, lab and materials, will provide all of our students with high quality experiences that reinforce and enhance learning in all content areas.  All of our STEAM programming has been made possible by pivoting federal funding in a meaningful manner. This school year we will be unveiling a newly redesigned STEAM Lab for our students to engage in authentic project based learning. We have purchased flexible seating, 3D printers, robotics equipment, coding software, virtual reality headsets/programming and STEAM kits to support a well rounded approach to project design and learning/experimenting through the use of high quality materials. All of these learning opportunities are available to all students through their weekly STEM Lab class. Additionally, students who are selected to participate in our enrichment program will receive approximately one period a week of pull out enhanced learning opportunities. Enrichment is anticipated to begin in October and conclude in June. If you are selected you will receive written correspondence inviting your child to participate. Participation in enrichment is voluntary and all students will be required to maintain their primary coursework with adequate proficiency throughout the entire school year. 

Social and emotional learning has been thriving at HES. This past school year, we have adopted our new school character education pillars. The pillars were selected by our students and faculty.  As Highlands Ospreys, we felt that embracing an acronym that related to our school mascot was crucial in supporting our culture of pride and tradition. The acronym selected is S.O.A.R (Safety, Overcome, Acceptance, Respect). Adopting a school wide character education program is crucial for students and their consistency as they transition from one grade level to the next.  This past school year and this upcoming school year, students will have one period of instruction weekly and teachers have resources from the Pearson SSIS, SEL program in addition to supplemental resources compiled by our school's social worker.  A new component that we will be adding to our SEL programming this school year will be the implementation of the Zones of Regulation for all classrooms and grade levels to provide a common language and framework to support positive mental health and skill development for all students. In addition to our thriving SEL program, we are partnering with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care to implement School and Community based programs to promote social and emotional wellness for all. 

As more federal funding sources become available, we anticipate that we will be able to provide extended day learning opportunities for our students in need. Participation in these academic after school programs will be invite only and the structure of a students program option will be determined by the severity of need. All students' academic learning will be reviewed at the onset of this upcoming school year using multiple measures. If your student is qualified, they will be invited to participate through written correspondence.  We are hopeful to provide small group instruction as well as 1:1 instructional opportunities for those students determined most “at risk.” The anticipated start dates and length of these programs will be determined by the amount of funding. More information regarding this will be provided throughout the 2021-2022 school year. 

In addition to our academic commitment, we are equally invested in the safety of our students and school community. As we transition out of the pandemic and reunite with our pre-pandemic normalcy we will continue to follow state, and federal guidelines and COVID-19 mandated protocols to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Additionally, we will be implementing an electronic health and safety checklist that will be completed by students and staff daily to help ensure everyone's safety. Information regarding the completion of the health and safety checklist will be shared upon the start of the school year. 

The faculty and I continue to be so very proud of the hard work of our students, and we look forward to seeing continued academic growth.

We anticipate another school year of fun family events sponsored by the PTO as we had in previous years. I know that the events and fundraising opportunities will surely please all of our families. Your support by joining the PTO goes directly back to your children and their teachers through activities, events and supplies.

Highlands Elementary School continues to provide a quality education. Pride, Tradition and Excellence are the tenets, which have made Highlands Elementary the best it can be. We are very proud to be a part of its century old legacy.

Mr. Daniel Layton