Morris School District’s Sees Shining Year With Forward-Thinking Strategies

By Ashley Bouwense

Morris School District’s (MSD) progressive and forward-thinking community has made great strides this school year in academics, technology, the arts, music and athletics.

“We celebrated great things this year,” Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast said. “This was my first year as the superintendent of the Morris School District, and the whole year was so memorable.”

Morristown High School (MHS) added a state of the art technology center which will open the first day of school, Sept. 1. Construction started June 1, 2015.

“The first day I started as superintendent was the first day they laid the foundation for the addition,” Pendergrast said.

This outstanding addition is equipped with new classrooms and learning commons, which will be used for a variety of technological capacities. It is a forward-thinking design which matches MOHS’s forward-thinking strategies.

Nine high school students were honored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for outstanding performance in academic achievement: Julia Flores, Rebecca Lalk, Tyler Meli, Karel Raska, Ryan Skoletsky, Wesley Tan, Kirsten Traudt, Winston Liu and Rohan Walker. Winston Liu and Rohan Walker are MHS’s National Merit Semifinalists.


According to 2015 Niche report for Best Public High Schools, MHS was ranked number one in extracurricular activities; number three in sports; graded “A+” for educational outcomes; “A+” for educational programs; “A” for teachers; and “A” for sports and fitness.

Frelinghuysen Middle School’s (FMS) Principal Joseph Uglialoro had a successful first year. The Home and School Association (HSA) thanked Uglialoro in its end-of-the-year letter, “We are quite impressed with Mr. U’s first year at FMS. We have witnessed an administrator who truly values the input from our community and is willing to adapt and make the changes that we need to continue to improve our school.”

The middle school won two first place awards at the Morris Country Regional Debate Tournament, Thurs., May 26. In total, the eight debate teams—four varsity (grades seven and eight) and four junior varsity (grades five to six)— took home a trophy of fourth place or higher. The varsity team debated the national resolution, “Be it resolved that the United States should establish a National Primary Day to replace the current system of staggered primary elections and caucuses;” the junior varsity team debated the national resolution, “Be it resolved that the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) should be banned in the United States.”

Art students competed in the Morris County Teen Arts Festival and won the trophy for most honors and distinctions bestowed upon student work of all schools in Morris County. FMS won awards in Best in Show, High Distinction and Distinction.

There were big technology strides made at FMS. This year, the middle school introduced an after-school Robotics Club and, next year, they will enter robotics competitions; FMS officially became recognized by Common Sense Media as a Certified Digital Citizenship School; and FMS successfully implemented a one-to-one Chromebook program for 6th grade this year in addition to seventh and eighth grade.

“When technology is used in the right way, it can empower students and teachers,” Pendergrast said. “We use technology to enhance the teacher-student relationship, and that’s why our kids are growing by leaps and bounds.”

Baseball, wrestling and girls’ soccer teams had undefeated seasons. All three teams were county champions; baseball had its third-consecutive year as county champions and girls’ soccer had its second-consecutive year as county champions.

The district’s elementary schools celebrated a year of innovative learning experience. Hillcrest Elementary School hosted its first STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) event in May. Students in first and second grade displayed their homemade science projects, while students in preschool and kindergarten showed in-class projects. Families could pass by student-made artwork displays, such as pottery and jewelry, as well as participate in grade-specific math games. This event directly relates to the District’s Theory of Action initiative, which is meant to inspire students as well as develop their art, math and technology skills.

Woodland Elementary School’s community of learners planned and planted Woodland’s Healthy Foods Garden throughout the year. This was the third year the school worked on the flower, fruit and vegetable garden— “the ever-evolving outdoor classroom,” as the school’s e-news letter reads. The garden helped students understand the importance of sustainability, healthy living and responsibility— lessons connected to the District’s Theory of Action initiative.

All MSD elementary schools were certified in Digital Citizenship this year. The Common Sense Education website explains, “…receiving Digital Citizenship Certification demonstrates [a] school’s commitment to teach students to use their devices in enriching and responsible ways.”

Pendergrast concluded, “The Morris School District is so committed. Everyone— parents, teachers and administration— cares about each student. Morris School District is a very progressive and forward-thinking community.”

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