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.


 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

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.

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.

St. Veronica School reaches 50th anniversary milestone

Staff Writer

 Sister Cherree Power and pupils at the St. Veronica School, Howell, display the papal blessing the school received from Pope Francis on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.  JENNIFER ORTIZ/STAFF Sister Cherree Power and pupils at the St. Veronica School, Howell, display the papal blessing the school received from Pope Francis on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. JENNIFER ORTIZ/STAFF HOWELL — Sixth-grader Faith Wittstruck was able to easily express her feelings when asked what she likes about attending St. Veronica School, Route 9, Howell.

“I like St. Veronica School because it feels like a second home to me, but also because we are allowed to talk about our faith, which you are not allowed to in other schools,” she said.

St. Veronica School is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The school enrolls 205 pupils in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We are celebrating the changes we made to make our school a better place,” Faith said.

Principal Sister Cherree Power said the changes were made possible by the teachers, parents and wonderful spirit of the children, allowing the school to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

“I have the most wonderful parent-teacher association in the world. I ask for the stars and they give me the moon,” Power said. “But also the kids. This year in particular we had a school near us that closed and we have children who came from that school and we are trying to meld two schools together.

“Holy Family School in Lakewood closed this year and it was hard. The students lost their school, they lost their friends, they lost their teachers, and it was hard coming into a new school,” she said.

Power said the St. Veronica pupils opened their hearts and welcomed the youngsters from Holy Family into their new home.

“We have a very generous group of students. We talk about social justice and they do a lot to help the community in many ways,” the principal said. “Within our diocese we have the Propagation of the Faith where our students raise money for missions and this year we had a Mass in Trenton.

“Representatives from each school went and the bishop was there … and at that Mass we received a plaque because our students have given the most money for the missions. That was a big deal. The money is sent to poor countries to help, so they are very generous,” Power said.

St. Veronica will celebrate its 50th anniversary with events that include a dinner dance and an alumni reunion.

“I like how for 50 years we have fostered reverence, respect and responsibility,” sixth-grader Michael Lamastra said.

Power said is the motto of the school.

The school has received a papal blessing from Pope Francis.

“I am one of the Sisters of the Resurrection and I belong to an international community so our motherhouse is in Rome. I asked one of our sisters to go to the Vatican to request one and she went to get it for us,” Power said.

A typical day at St. Veronica includes prayer when students arrive and prayer at the end of the day.

“Once a month the students go to Mass together and we are so lucky because the church is connected to the school. At other times during the year we will have a special Mass or prayer service,” she said.

Sixth-grader Samantha Jose said she enjoys attending Catholic school and added, “It is just so nice to have Mass every month …”

Sixth grader teacher Carole Howell said a student who exemplifies a certain virtue is selected each month and recognized at the Mass.

Power said the St. Veronica students enjoy being a part of Catholic Schools Week.

“It is a special celebration of who we are as a Catholic school. It is a lot of fun, but it is also a celebration of our Catholic identity, of the fact we are Catholic, and it is something that does set us apart because it is different in a Catholic school,” she said.

Power is in her 24th year as the school’s principal. She taught at St. Veronica from 1980-90 and then left for two years to serve as a principal in New York. She returned to St. Veronica in 1992 as the principal and remains in her post today.

She said the dedication of the teachers, pastors, parish and parents has brought St. Veronica School to this milestone.

“Financially, it is a big strain on the parish and it is a big sacrifice for parents. They live in a town like Howell where the schools are excellent and they are making sacrifices and choosing to send children to our school. They have to pay (for private school) when they are paying hefty taxes as it is. It is the dedication and commitment of parents. Together, we make St. Veronica School a big family,” Power said.

— Contact Jennifer Ortiz at jortiz@gmnews.com

Jackson School District tightens security rules

JACKSON – New protocols describing how parents and guardians are permitted to visit schools were recently introduced by Jackson School District administrators.

In November, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco sent a letter to parents outlining the changes and calling them a necessary step for security in the district’s 10 schools.

“These changes were developed in collaboration with our district security staff, receptionists and the Jackson Police Department,” Genco wrote. “[They] represent our continued effort to evaluate our security needs and make changes when necessary.”

According to district administrators, the changes were made to allow staff members to pay more attention to who is entering Jackson’s schools during the day.

In the morning, school personnel, including teachers, stand at the main entrance as students arrive. In order to make the task of watching people entering the school less distracting, administrators are asking parents to wait at least 20 minutes after the students’ arrival time before entering the building for whatever purpose brings them there.

An exception will be made for parents who have an appointment that has been approved by a teacher, a counselor or the principal.

“We realize parents of some younger students are accustomed to walking their child through the doors in the morning,” Genco wrote. “This new procedure allows our staff to better focus on the students during this busy time.”

Genco said parents are also being asked to refrain from taking their child out of school when there is less than 20 minutes left before the dismissal time. He said an exception will be made if prior notice regarding a pick-up time has been provided by a note or email to a teacher or principal.

In the event of an emergency, parents may contact administrators by telephone prior to arriving at their child’s school.

“Please know we are not limiting a parent’s ability to sign his or her child out of school when necessary. We simply want to allow our staff to focus on the safe and orderly dismissal of the student body,” Genco wrote. “This advance notice helps us make arrangements to have your child ready for release without interfering with dismissal times.”

Parents were also notified of new entrance procedures at the schools. Each visitor will notify a receptionist of his or her arrival by using a buzzer at the front door. Each visitor will be asked why he is at the school.

If an individual says he has an appointment with someone in the school, the appointment will be verified. At that time the visitor will be allowed to enter the school and asked to report directly to the receptionist, where he will have to present a valid photo identification card. A visitor’s pass will be provided and the individual’s identification card will be held until he leaves the building.

If an individual says he does not have an appointment and seeks entrance, for example, to drop off a student’s lunch, he will be permitted to enter the building to do so.

All visitors are asked not to come to the school in the 20-minute period following the opening bell and in the 20-minute period prior to the dismissal bell.

Genco said small actions by all visitors and staff members can further bolster school security, such as not holding a door open for other visitors and limiting student drop-offs and sign-outs.

“With hundreds or thousands of students in a particular school, each unnecessary diversion draws our staff members’ focus from their assigned tasks,” the superintendent wrote.

In addition to the changes in protocol, the district implemented security upgrades during the summer, including the installation of additional cameras and newly keyed locks, according to administrators.

— Andrew Martins