Colts Neck PTO awards mini-grants to 3 schools

Staff Writer

COLTS NECK – The Colts Neck PTO is funding more than $14,000 worth of mini-grants in three schools during the 2015-16 school year.

The Colts Neck K-8 School District Board of Education recently announced the grants. The PTO will provide a total of $14,639 to be distributed among the Conover Road Primary School, the Conover Road Elementary School and the Cedar Drive Middle School.

The primary school will receive $3,100; the elementary school will receive $5,744; and the middle school will receive $4,600. Officials said an additional $1,195 will be shared by the primary and elementary schools.

According to PTO Vice President Marian

Castner, who chairs the Mini-Grant Committee, the grants for the primary school will be used to partially fund applications on an Apple TV for a world language teacher; a science presentation for kindergarten, first and second grade; and a Jungle Jumperoo, which is a piece of play equipment for the occupational therapy and physical therapy classroom.

Grant funding for the elementary school will go toward a Battle of Monmouth Trunk Show; a sensory friendly classroom; virtual learning; an icemaker and illuminated magnifier for the nurse; and a performance about Deborah Sampson, a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to fight for the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War.

Other funding for the elementary school will go toward a presentation for third grade pupils by Rob Aptaker that will allow the youngsters to explore the tools, clothing, games and music of the Lenape Native Americans using artifacts Aptaker brings; and science mini grants.

Also, a science and math themed quiz show; supplies for Pi Day for the fifth grade; Monmouth County Park System science programs for grades three and four; a performance from members of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; and a presentation about the human body for the fifth grade.

“There will be an interactive STEAM Day (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) for the elementary and primary schools, with exhibits like ‘Humanoid Robot,’ a 3-D printer, ‘Friction Runaway,’ and stations allowing students to work cooperatively to solve puzzles and understand science and math concepts better,” Castner said.

Grant funding for the middle school will go toward the Colts Neck Heroes Project, in which sixth-graders will nominate people in their lives who are their “heroes” and several of those individuals will be selected and honored in a ceremony; Shakespeare Live, a day-long experience about Shakespeare for eighth-graders; knitting materials; and Spanish and Italian books for classrooms.

“The Colts Neck PTO is always very excited to grant as many mini-grant requests as possible to the three schools in the district,” Castner said. “The grants provide many additional experiences for our children and we always appreciate the teachers and administrators who bring us such great programs and ideas each year.”

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.

Foundation provides grants for educational programs

Grants provided by the Foundation for the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Schools are improving the schools’ programs, projects and resources.

Dotty Porcaro, president of the Manalapan Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education, said the grants are wonderful for the school district.

“I am always excited to see new things coming to the district that are great for the students,” Porcaro said. “The foundation has been phenomenal over the past few years for us and our students.”

Eight grants totaling $34,876 were recently made by the foundation and accepted by the school board. The grants are the following:

 Physics Day, Taylor Mills School, $450

 Lego Story Starter, Milford Brook School, $1,091

 Teaching with Reading Assistant Inspires Literacy, Wemrock Brook School, $3,500

 The Bass Project, Clark Mills School, Milford Brook School, Pine Brook School, Wemrock Brook School, $5,000

 MakerSpace, Pine Brook Space, $8,500

 ST Math, Milford Brook School, Taylor Mills School, Clark Mills School, $12,600

 Leveled Books, Lafayette Mills School, $1,500.

 MakerSpace in Media Center, Clark Mills School, $2,235

Pat Berger, the president of the Foundation for the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Schools, said the foundation consists of parents and community members. She said principals and the superintendent of schools review the grant applications.

“Teachers, supervisors and administrators can submit grant requests for anything involving professional enrichment,” Berger said. “What we look for in a grant is a project, program or resource that will affect a large number of students in a school or in the district.”

Berger provided a brief description of each grant:

 The Lego Story Starter, applied for by Lisa Garnett, requests additional starter kits and curriculum software that serves as tools for literacy instruction. It will be used to kick start creativity and boost reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

 The MakerSpace in the media center at Clark Mills School, applied for by Gail Murray, is an effort to continue to create relevant and rigorous learning spaces where library media specialists and special subject educators can be forward thinking as they design innovative ways to offer students a means to work through real and personally meaningful experiences.

 The Teaching with Reading Assistant Inspires Literary Success project, applied for by Sari Laurence, is a reading intervention program that uses reading assistance to supplement literacy interventions already in place at Wemrock Brook School.

 The bass project, applied for by Victoria June, requests instruments for music education at the Wemrock Brook, Clark Mills, Milford Brook and Pine Brook schools.

 The MakerSpace grant, applied for by John Spalthoff, allows Pine Brook School to expand its MakerSpace classroom with items identified as worthwhile components to the educational program.

 The ST Math Program, applied for by Jodi Pepchinski, Kerry Marsala, Jayme Orlando and Gregory Schmidt, is already being successfully implemented at the Lafayette Mills and Wemrock Brook schools with exceptional results, according to the foundation.

This application focuses on expanding its use to the rest of the grade one through five schools in the district.

ST Math is a web-based software program created by Mind Research and it presents a “unique math education process that engages the learner’s spatial temporal reasoning abilities to explain, understand and solve multi-step problems.”

 The Physics Day grant, applied for by Sharyn Fisher, allows Taylor Mills School to rent an inflatable slide which serves as a hands-on experiment regarding friction and speed.

 The leveled books proposal, applied for by Allison Rogers and Mindy Musillo, requests funds to purchase leveled fiction and nonfiction books for the Lafayette Mills book room.

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.

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.

Christmas is a day to share the love


Lori Clinch

It is coming. There is an excitement in the air, you can feel it in the very depths of your soul. There are many preparations that go along with the family Christmas. Shopping lists, United States Postal Service tracking, and hopefully someone will remember the coffee supply is running on the low side.

You raised these children in the very same house you live in today. Yet you never gave much thought about how they felt about the bathrooms, the dust on the coffee table or the way leftovers have taken over the refrigerator. Yet, all of a sudden, you want it all to be nice. You turn on the Christmas lights, light the candles and fluff the tree so it all looks perfect.

You want to make sure the towels are all Downy fresh to remind your children how good they had it when they were home.

You make sure there is at least one Christmas decoration in each of their rooms to give it a special touch and you buy all of their favorite foods so they will all know how loved they truly are.

You have spent weeks preparing for this moment and you want to make certain it will be as good as it gets.

Then it hits you, these are your children and although they have grown up, some things have not changed. They are going to dump their wares on your freshly cleared kitchen counter where they will remain until you nag them enough to get them to put those things away.

They are going to dominate the TV, get the puppy wound up to a state (the likes of which we have never seen) and they will wonder out loud why our drinking glasses no longer match.

Worse yet, they are going to steal your phone charger, switch the remotes around and leave your iPad out for the puppy to chew on.

Christmas morning will be nothing like it used to be. They will let you sleep in, have a cup of coffee before opening their presents and the frenzy that used to fill the air will be a distant memory.

Because they gave a Christmas list with stipulations that you purchase them nothing without prior written consent, they will have more excitement watching you open what they bought for you than opening the presents they picked out for you to purchase for them.

Extended family will come, hugs will abound and conversations will flow freely. Too much food will be consumed, laughter will fill the air and memories of Christmases past will be shared.

The day will wind down and as nightfall closes in there will be a sadness you feel, right along with a relief that Christmas Day is over and you did it well.

Life will go on, folks will return to work and those darling offspring will return to their campus homes with your phone charger tucked neatly into their backpacks.

Looking back, you will know that you would not change a thing. Christmas is about the baby Jesus who brought love into the world. For over 2000 years we have celebrated his birth by letting our families know how much we love them.

We work harder this time of year to share that than any other. We pardon, we forget and we give. We go to great lengths to make people feel special. We wish a Merry Christmas to folks we don’t know and if we do it right, we lend a hand to those in need.

I will go outside on Christmas Eve, as I have done for many years, and look up into the heavens and give thanks for it all. It is a quiet moment I give to myself and to God for all He has done.

This year I am going to add a tradition following that special moment. I am going to march right back inside and hide my phone charger.

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

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.

Grateful for service to the community

We wish to make all the readership of the News Transcript aware of the superlative contribution made by Dr. Lawrence Weiner and Dr. Gregory Jewell and all their associates and staff at Town and Country Veterinary Services in Manalapan.

The best way we can describe how they work is tirelessly, efficiently, sensitively and neighborly. They seem that way no matter what new hire joins their team, no matter what task they take on. They take a personal interest in your pet’s welfare. They take care to be thorough about your pet’s needs and delicate as to how your pet care experience affects you.

They make those little, but significant gestures beyond the expected that endears them to you enough that you want them as your neighbors. They know why they are there and you come away all the more grateful for their contribution to the community. For 15 years we have seen all that we have stated about them to be true.

We highly recommend you stop in and give these folks the chance to show you how wonderful an experience pet care can be for you and your pets. You will get great pet care, but also likely make great friends there. Thank you, Town and Country Veterinary Services.

Lance and Leslie Cox
Freehold Township

Increased assessment is difficult to accept

The new Monmouth County assessment program has been signed into law in New Jersey. The concept is to appraise land on an annual basis to allow municipalities for fewer costs on appeals and more budgeting stability. On the surface, this sounds reasonable. The problem is that the execution has been tainted with increased annual costs and (alleged) nepotism.

We have lived in Freehold Township for 25 years. We own an adjacent lot that is landlocked. It is rough terrain, in a deep ravine, essentially unbuildable. This lot has no access and no utilities. The 2016 tax assessment is a 325 percent increase in value in one day.

All past assessments since 1957 have treated this lot as a low quality, low value lot, which it is.

The prospectors are on task to find those hidden gems of untapped wells of cash; a speculator panning for gold with tax maps via computer.

The assessor responded via email to my initial inquiry stating that the owners have “control” of an easement; therefore his point is that the new projected inflated value is based on improvements that do not now exist. No road frontage, no engineering, no easements, no utility access, planning, zoning or approvals are in place, nor have ever been on the table.

(This is) an appraisal based on future speculation of improvements and approvals. Our position is that the lot should stand on its own merit, as it is. If you buy a rusty unrestored 1968 Chevy Camaro for $4,000, I cannot sell it for $65,000 until it has been restored and money has been invested. Wishing don’t make it so.

It is painful to be stewards of this land, doing the right thing for nearly a quarter of a century and getting pushed out of this state with kaleidoscope eye taxes and valuation opinions, not sales comparison and fact.

The problematic Assessment Demonstration Program is a train wreck. The Monmouth County ADP is layered with extra cost, contracts and (alleged) nepotism. This needs to be reversed. The county should have rolled out a municipal consolidation pilot program for cost savings, not a new tax program. The well is dry.

Joseph and Anne Marie Ferdinando
Freehold Township