ON CAMPUS

Jacob German of New Egypt has been named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

Kyle T. Kutz of Howell has been named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

Marisa Ashley Moses of Howell has been named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

Photo

 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The Force was strong at the Plumsted Library in Plumsted Township on Dec. 16 when a celebration of all things “Star Wars” was held in conjunction with the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Michael Cassandra, 3, has fun posing as R2-D2 as his mom, Vanessa, looks on.

Welsh concludes service on Howell school board

By JENNIFER ORTIZ
Staff Writer

HOWELL — Members of the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education thanked board Vice President Chuck Welsh for his service to the panel as work for the year concluded with a meeting on Dec. 9.

Welsh was not re-elected to the board on Nov. 3. He was presented with a plaque from his fellow board members.

Board President Tim O’Brien offered remarks about Welsh and said, “I wanted to recognize the fact that many years ago, when my daughter was in middle school, Chuck was the principal. I had the opportunity to get to know him there as a parent and over the years I was very impressed.

“He was a good person to go to when I was new on the board. I received good counsel from Mr. Welsh from time to time and over the years we had a good working partnership. He has been terrific and I want to thank him for his service. I want to thank him for taking the time to be a part of this board and helping it excel,” O’Brien said.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph

Isola thanked Welsh for his service and said, “You have served this board well, my friend, and we are a better board and a better school district because of your actions. I know how sincere you are about the work and how driven you are about the concepts of meaningful education for kids. Your efforts are commended. This board has really done a fine job and you have been an integral part of that.”

During his career in education, Welsh was a teacher and a coach in the Freehold Regional High School District. He went on to become a principal in the Howell school district. Following his retirement, he was elected to serve on the Howell school board.

Welsh thanked the board and provided his final update from the Education Committee.

“Our gifted and talented kids are going to take a field trip to BizTown in Edison. They have sites throughout the country where children actually participate in a fully simulated community and the purpose is to develop a facility with things like financial literacy, how to serve in a political office and everything that is associated with running a town. The program is free with exception of transportation,” Welsh said.

“Middle school health textbooks are outdated. Even though anatomy certainly has not changed, there are certain things we face in our community today with regard to health that have changed. We are engaging with the Pearson Corporation to provide a textbook as a pilot program. The pilot program will begin in 2016 and a determination will be made after we have experience with that to see if we are going to move forward with (Pearson) as a temporary provider,” Welsh said.

He touched on several other issues, including cheerleading, now that Howell’s three middle schools have been reconfigured into two middle schools.

“There is a concern about the ratio between the number of students involved in cheerleading and the coaches. I think it is a ratio of 25 (students) to 1 (coach) now,” Welsh said, adding that the question of capping the number of cheerleaders should be examined.

There was also a discussion regarding middle school baseball and whether there should be one team consisting of students in grades six, seven and eight, or whether there should also be a team for the younger grades.

“The unfortunate thing is that many of the younger children (in middle school) end up being cut simply because they are not at the level with physical maturity that allows them to compete successfully, for the most part, with eighth-graders,” Welsh said.

Board members indicated there will be further discussion on that matter.

Finally, Welsh reported that recommendations regarding the district’s program for gifted and talented pupils may be made by the end of January.

Meredith Baxter and her ‘Family Ties’ husband enjoy reunion as Christmas’ power couple

By Kellie Freeze,

In Lifetime’s holiday original movie Becoming Santa, Holly (Laura Bell Bundy) brings her boyfriend (Jesse Hutch) to meet her family and reveals that not only are her parents Santa and Mrs. Claus, but also whoever she marries will become the next Santa.

There’s no one better to play the quintessential holiday couple than Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, who played TV’s perfect parents on Family Ties. Baxter offers a little secret about portraying Mrs. Claus. “She may be iconic, but no one knows what she really looks like!” The actress figures, “Whoever we say she is — that’s who she is!”

The actress reveals that she enjoys working on holiday films because of the strong family storylines, but the flick’s biggest draw was the opportunity to work with her good friend.

“As soon as I knew he was attached, I didn’t even bother reading the script,” she jokes.

“The interesting thing about this particular script,” muses Baxter, “is the idea that the women of the Claus family are the ones who determine who is the next Santa.” She adds, “As light as this film is, for my character there’s an undercurrent of, ‘OK, this is serious business.’”

Baxter reveals that her favorite off-set activity was reading, while Gross spent his time with his fans.

“It was very, very hot where we were shooting and Michael was wearing a big fat suit,” she recalls with a laugh. “We had a huge fan in the green room and while we weren’t working, he would just position himself in front of it. He was this large, lumpy personage, just trying to stay cool.”

As for if she remains in touch with her other Family Ties cast members, particularly her TV children, Baxter shares: “Not on a regular basis, no. That’s why I covet those times when we can get together, which is really so sweet to see them. They’re such good people and good parents. I love that we raised good children who are good parents.”

That’s the most common question she gets from fans, too. “They want to know how’s Michael Fox. They want to know if we see each other, we talk to each other. I often hear, ‘I wish you’d been my mother.’ That’s a woman who’s strong and loving and has the time to sit down and spend time with her kids the way many parents don’t have a chance to.

“The fact that all the characters seemed to have some longevity in people’s hearts and minds is just lovely. It’s rare I think that that happens, and when it does it’s really glorious. I think people liked our family because we liked each other so much.”

Lifetime airs an encore performance of Becoming Santa on Dec. 25 at 10 p.m.

You can go home again

In theaters now

Sisters lets two women we absolutely love bring their comic genius to the screen. Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) are tasked with the responsibility of cleaning out their room at their childhood home as their parents are moving to a condo. But in rehashing the memories made there, the two decide there is only one thing to do: throw one last party with their old friends.

As the sisters dig through memories, we realize quickly that Maura has always played it safe, while free spirit Kate has always loved to party. Neither can wrap her head around why their parents want to get rid of this house, but both can agree on throwing the party.

So the sisters do all the prep and invite many of their old friends — who in no way resemble the pictures on Facebook or who they can remember them to be. They set out to be the perfect party hosts, only this time Maura gets to be the free spirit while Kate keeps everyone together.

Amy and Tina are funny. At times they are very funny as this is a raw comedy that doesn’t make any apologies. It is a pleasure seeing these amazingly talented women work and they tend to wow viewers with their quick wit and delivery.

The supporting characters, however, are a mixed bag. Some — Ike Barinholtz and John Cena in a bit role — made me laugh and enjoy the addition to the story. But roles for Bobby Moynihan and Maya Rudolph felt tired in Moynihan’s case and misguided and forced for Rudolph’s character.

The unevenness of the supporting characters does NOT take away from the fact that Amy and Tina — yes, I can just use their first names — are the real stars here. Together they are a breath of fresh air on the comic landscape with everything they do. These two sisters prove you can go home again — just be careful if you plan to throw a party there.

Sisters
Rated: R
Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz
Director: Jason Moore

Grade: B

The Big Short
Rated: R
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
Director: Adam McKay

Adam McKay’s peek into the credit and housing bubble collapse shows an industry full of corruption, extravagance and the willingness to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public. A startling discovery by a number of seemingly ordinary individuals sets them up financially as they short the banks during the booming housing market of 2005.

Nat King Cole

By Ali Datko,
ReMIND Magazine

Among the many joys of the holiday season are the classic, beloved songs that have been passed down from one generation to the next, bringing together listeners young and old. Among the most notable and nostalgia-provoking is the delightfully ubiquitous “The Christmas Song,” subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe (and the baritone voice of Nat King Cole) help to make the season bright.

Nathaniel Adams Coles was born on March 17, 1919. The son of a Baptist minister and a church organist, he was immersed in a musical lifestyle at a young age. By the age of 4, he was performing for his father’s congregation, and by age 12 he had begun classical piano lessons.

Although Nathaniel was born in Montgomery, Ala., he grew up in Chicago, where he was influenced by such club performers as Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. In his mid-teens, driven to pursue a career in music, he dropped out of school to play full time.

He landed a gig with the nationally touring revue “Shuffle Along,” but faced a standstill in Long Beach, Calif., when the act floundered abruptly. In Long Beach, he formed the King Cole Trio (by that time, he’d adopted the nickname “Nat King Cole”), a jazz group that toured extensively throughout the late ’30s and early ’40s. In 1943, the trio signed with Capitol Records, with whom they released the breakout hits “That Ain’t Right” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”

In 1946, they recorded the now-classic tune “The Christmas Song.” Cole later recorded three alternate versions; the fourth, recorded in 1961, is the most famous and the one still played on the radio today.

Cole’s other popular hits included “Mona Lisa” (1950), “Unforgettable” (1951), “Love Is the Thing” (1957) and “L-O-V-E” (1965). During his wildly successful career, he also hosted NBC’s “The Nat King Cole Show” (the first African- American-hosted variety show), and appeared in numerous short films and sitcoms.

Cole married twice and raised five children, among them Grammy-winning artist Natalie Cole. He passed away in 1965 due to lung cancer, with wife Maria by his side. In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, and in 2000 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Did you know …

 Ryan Seacrest  ABC/LOU ROCCO Ryan Seacrest ABC/LOU ROCCO Global super-group One Direction returns to headline the Billboard Hollywood Party on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2016” beginning Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. on ABC and broadcasting non-stop until 2:13 a.m.. One Direction will perform three songs throughout the show during a bi-coastal celebration. They join Carrie Underwood, who will be performing for over 1 million fans in Times Square moments before the ball drops. With over 38 performances and 5 ½ hours of music, this is America’s biggest celebration of the year.

Author Michael Pollan’s global journey to rediscover the pleasures of healthy food will be shared with us when PBS premieres “In Defense of Food” on Wednesday, Dec. 30, from 9 to 11 p.m. (check your local listings). Busting myths and misconceptions, “In Defense of Food” reveals how common sense and old-fashioned wisdom can help rediscover the pleasures of eating and at the same time reduce our risks of falling victim to diet-related diseases.

In January 2016, ABC Family will be renamed Freeform. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the network will premiere its new series “Shadowhunters” at 9 p.m. One young woman realizes how dark the city can really be when she learns the truth about her past in the first episode. “Shadowhunters” is based on the bestselling young adult fantasy book series “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare, and follows Clary Fray, who comes from a long line of Shadowhunters — humanangel hybrids who hunt down demons.

Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison joins Investigation Discovery as new host of “Dateline on ID,” beginning January 2016, along with “Front Page” specials throughout next year.

Parent University offers workshops in Jackson

JACKSON – Parents who want to learn how to assist their children with an increasingly digital school workload will soon be able to attend workshops that will help them do just that.

The workshops will be sponsored by the Jackson School District.

Between January and April 2016, the district will host a series of workshops titled Parent University: Breakthroughs in Learning as a way to help parents and guardians become more acquainted with modern learning methods.

“We want to address some of the frustrations our parents may be having in trying to communicate with their child, especially when trying to help them with their schoolwork,” Jackson School District Title I Coordinator Lisa Koch said. “Even the best parent in the world can benefit from learning new ways to work with their child to get the best results, in both academics and behavior.”

According to district administrators, each workshop will consist of four sessions to be held in various schools. Each session will be open to parents with students in any grade level.

To accommodate parents’ schedules, Koch said workshops will be held during the day, on evenings and on weekends. Free child care will be provided.

Each session will be presented by author Sharon McCarthy, whose work focuses on parenting and its role in supporting child growth and development.

Koch said a light meal will be provided at each session to give attendees a “casual atmosphere,” as well as an opportunity to discuss challenges and experiences with their children and the digital age.

“This is not sitting and listening to someone talk to you about what you should be doing. These are fun, interactive and handson workshops designed to help parents develop better ways to reach their children and other approaches they may not have tried to help keep children organized, focused and inspired to learn,” Koch said.

Funding for the Parent University workshops was secured through the federal Department of Education’s Title I grant program, which aims to provide “local educational agencies and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families help to ensure all children meet challenging state academic standards.”

Ultimately, Koch said, administrators hope parents from all walks of life will be able to better understand how pupils are receiving their education, while learning valuable skills of their own.

“The whole theme of Parent University is that learning never stops, this applies to parents, too,” Koch said. “We want to help our parents understand what is going on inside our schools and we want to help them so they can be better equipped to help their children.”

For information on dates and how to register, visit tinyurl.com/ouq9lya

Did you know …

 Eva Longoria Eva Longoria NBC will premiere its new half-hour comedy series “Telenovela” on Monday, Jan. 4, at 8:30 p.m.

Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”) stars in this big, fun and flashy comedy as Ana Sofia, the star of a popular Spanish language soap opera. One problem, she doesn’t speak any Spanish.

Other problems: Ana must manage a new boss, jealous castmates and high-maintenance friends — and that’s all before her ex-husband is hired as her new on-screen love interest. Just like a real telenovela, this comedy is full of all kinds of drama. The cast includes Jencarlos Canela, Diana Maria Riva, Jose Moreno Brooks, Alex Meneses, Amaury Nolasco. Jadyn Douglas, and Izzy Diaz.

“Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Featuring Santino Fontana and the Sesame Street Muppets” will air Monday, Dec. 21, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check your local listings). This holiday extravaganza includes a rendition of the classic carol from Sesame Street, “Keep Christmas with You,” “Sing a Christmas Carol” from Scrooge and much more.

Brighten up the holidays with “The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special,” airing on CBS Friday, Dec. 25, from 8 to 9 p.m.. Featured are two newly colorized episodes of the classic TV series. truTV will premiere its new half-hour comedy series “Almost Genius” on Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 10 p.m. This self-contained comedy celebrates the people, places and things that try so hard to succeed but come up just a bit short.

Hosted by April Richardson and Chris Fairbanks, the show features comedians and performers digitally inserted into viral videos to comment on and congratulate people for their bravery and ingenuity in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Sons return home bearing gifts – loads of laundry

ARE WE THERE YET

Lori Clinch

Ah, it’s Christmas time. The smell is in the air, the music fills our ears and the lights dazzle us with gleaming beauty. Bounties fill the carts, love fills our hearts and if you do it right, quickly from the supercenter, you shall soon depart.

Our little Charlie, who isn’t so little anymore, begins counting down the days to Christmas on or around the first day of spring. For him, it’s not about the presents or the material things, it’s family and joy that makes it the reason for the season.

Just so long as he doesn’t get a lump of coal, Charlie loves every Christmas minute. At church last Sunday, Charlie looked at me as the congregants lit the third Advent candle and said with the same wild-eyed amazement he has had since he was little, “It’s Christmas.”

And it is.

As Charlie marvels at the lights and the joy the season brings, my mind races. I have to purchase this, wrap that, and heaven help me, will I ruin the Christmas brisket for the third time in as many years?

This weekend our three older boys will be returning from their campus homes for Christmas break. Their presence will bring a smile to my heart, joy to my ears and (as I take in their bounty of dirty laundry) it will take my breath away.

I’m so grateful. Yet, I still shake in my snow boots because I know what’s coming. It will be big, it will be smelly and reminiscent of Vernon’s first Christmas break from his college home back in 2007.

Sadly enough, I wasn’t aware at the time that when children come back home, they bring upwards of 18 loads of soiled laundry with them. Is it just me, or do you think this should have been explained in advance at college orientation?

Quite frankly, I had never seen anything like it. I was in the middle of my fa-la-la-laing, when I heard a beeping noise in front of the house and thought that perhaps a semi truck had mistakenly taken our front porch for a loading dock.

I ran out the door just in time to see our illustrious Vernon standing on the lawn holding two glow sticks in the air as he helped a buddy navigate his rig up to the front door.

Faster than you can say, “Shout it out!” three young men hopped out of the vehicle, loaded large black bags of soiled laundry on their shoulders like jolly old elves and were making their way to the washing machine post-haste.

It was like a bad Christmas movie with sinister Santas.

“For the love of mistletoe, Vernon!” I screamed as I trailed behind. “What are you doing?”

“Oh,” he said as he turned to greet me with his award-winning smile. “Merry Christmas, Mo-there.” It was then that I noticed he was dressed in his Sunday best and looked as if he were running for Congress.

“Dude,” exclaimed one brother as he changed into in a freshly laundered shirt. “What’s with the suit?”

“Yeah,” said another as he changed his socks. “Are you in a wedding, or attending a Christmas pageant?”

“Nah,” explained Vernon as he pulled his Sunday best off his body and added it to the smelly pile. “These were the only clothes I had that were still clean.”

“Perhaps it was a big misunderstanding on my part,” I said as I clutched an evergreen for strength, “but I could have sworn that university brochure said the dorms had washing machines and matching dryers strategically placed for easy use.”

“Oh, they do,” Vernon said as he pulled off his dress socks. “But I thought I would bring my laundry home anyway.”

Over the years, Vernon’s brothers followed suit. Upon every return from their campus homes, I am gifted with love, hugs and enough dirty laundry to choke a reindeer.

At least they think of me in their absence. They make sure they bring me something and as I ponder their return home this weekend, I know my Christmas stocking won’t be empty because they will be bringing me enough work to make Santa’s workshop look like a day spa.

Quite frankly, I think I would settle for a lump of coal.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.