Bright, inspirational banners are hanging from Hillside School thanks to a cooperative initiative between Principal Michael Chiles, Vice Principal Anthony Grosso and the PTA.
Hillside PTA's previous co-president Bernadette Baum (2010 to 2012) and co-president Diane Anglin (2011-2013), and the 2011-2012 PTA board had been considering decorating the school's exterior last year by either landscaping or any alternatives, with a view to "brightening up" the exterior. “We found we had an unexpected surplus of funds around April-May, some of which we wished to divert towards this purpose,” said Baum.
As they sought ideas on cost-effective exterior decoration options, Anglin brought up the fact that Edgemont School had lively banners at the front of its property. The idea of banners at Hillside was enthusiastically received because of their visual impact (via color and visibility) and cost effectiveness relative to landscaping and adding plants (having a four-season value, whereas flowering plants would only last for two seasons.)
Once it was determined that they would proceed with the banners, they had to come up with a concept. “We all wanted something that would resonate and encompass the message of who we are,” said Grosso. “We looked at what words were going to capture the flavor of Hillside in a simple, clear way, yet with a contemporary design.”
To save money and to expedite the project's completion before the start of the new school year, Baum created the design using an online program specifically for flag design, picking colors from a spectrum of thousands of Pantone choices, and spaced in a way that contrasted each one against the last. Theme words were decided upon that would spell out HILLSIDE: Hope, Imagine, Learn, Love, Succeed, Inspire, Diversity and Excel.
According to Baum and Grosso, the response has been overwhelmingly positive from parents, children and staff members.
“The PTA is proud of this project and glad to add a bit of color to the school in a cost-effective and positive way,” said Baum.
Watchung’s external property received a huge facelift this summer. Now gracing the grounds is a welcoming courtyard/patio at the entrance of the building (including dedicated bricks), new sidewalks around the entire building, newly planted grass, an accessible ramp on Fullerton, a new fence, new retaining walls, railings, a wider parking lot, and a restored interior courtyard/natural lab classroom, which students helped design.
According to Buildings and Grounds supervisor Leonard Saponara, the project had been in the works for a few years and finally came to fruition over the summer.“It’s really a great improvement for the school and a much safer environment,” he said.
New Principal Joseph Schmidt is thrilled with the changes. “I officially began on Aug. 1 and saw a huge mound of dirt on the front lawn,” he said with a laugh. “Everyone working on it promised everything would be ready for the opening of school and it was. It is just amazing what was accomplished here in a short period of time. The exterior looks beautiful and I know it’s only going to get better. The 'quad’ in front, is beautiful and functional – not just for gathering before and after school, but teachers will be able to take their students out there for lessons as well. It’s just a great addition to the school on so many levels.”
An effort is underway to revitalize the garden at Mount Hebron which had become overgrown. While much of the front of the school had to be recently cleaned up, fresh mulch has been put down and the external area is now neat and manicured.
The Mount Hebron PTA is looking at ways to help restore the habitat, beginning with a fundraiser at the Upper Montclair Sidewalk Sale on Sat., Sept. 15, selling items including tote bags that say "Go Green." Part of the proceeds will go toward adding additional greenery such as mums to brighten the appearance for the fall season. In addition, Mount Hebron will be hosting a Harvest Festival with al fresco dining on Sept. 27 in the garden from 7 to 8:30 p.m.