Glen Ridge Public School District – Glen Ridge, Essex County, North New Jersey

March 26, 2024

Glen Ridge Public School District

Modern education moving 21st-century learners into the future


Providing a rigorous curriculum supported by equally a social and emotional holistic approach

The foundational principles of Glen Ridge Public School District (GRPSD) in North Jersey emphasize community involvement and college readiness. It aims to nurture the students in its five schools to contribute locally, statewide, and on a national level.

GRPSD provides its 1,831 students with a comprehensive educational path that fosters active learning, cultivates creative thought, and establishes solid foundations in core content. The schools employ 203 full-time teachers who rank 7th in the state.

Phonics First and Level Up Village

Central School takes pride in a robust Pre-Kindergarten-Grade 2 program. It offers full-day enrollment, distinguishing it from other schools with half-day or limited enrollment.

Pre-K learners experience a range of activities and distinctive instruction. The curriculum incorporates related arts courses and enrichment programs.

The Discovery Series allows curious children to explore in a relaxed setting. Free from tests or homework, Discovery emphasizes hands-on enjoyment. Parents and kids sample subjects and activities without committing to expensive lessons.

Two years ago, Central School adopted a method observed in another district. Phonics First taps out sounds, enhancing visual, verbal, and repetition learning for increased efficacy. Dr. Keisha Harris, Principal of Central School, states, “Phonics First is the instructional foundation for understanding sound. It is reading and phonemic awareness.”

Another STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative is Level Up Village. Students interact with children in different countries, completing projects together. Harris says, “Second grade has Mexico and they put together musical instruments with their sister school.”

Central School is grateful to have parents with art, mathematical, and science backgrounds who present to classes. Dirk Phillips, Superintendent of Schools, says, “Parental involvement is crucial. They take part through volunteering and engaging in school activities.”

Extension activities in Pre-K include technology and using classroom smart boards. “It introduces technology early, and kids use the same platforms as they get older,” states Harris.

Technology for Everyone

Access to technology is imperative for children to cultivate essential skills for the future. Timely computer instruction instills creativity and innovation, laying the foundation for a generation adept at harnessing it for positive societal impact.

Students today are 21st -century learners, with endless information at their fingertips. Yesterday’s educational methods are a distant memory. Michael Donovan, Principal of Ridgewood Avenue School, says, “We also pay attention to traditional components. We still teach cursive writing to our third graders.” This develops fine motor skills and signature writing.

Ridgewood has grade 5 and 6 classes in 3D printing, coding, and exciting hands-on opportunities in STEM. The school ranks in the top 10% in statewide testing.

The College Board awarded Glen Ridge High School (GRHS) Computer Science Program the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for expanding young women’s access to AP Computer Science A for the 2022-23 school year.

Acquiring knowledge young fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability. It teaches students how to navigate the complexities of a tech-driven society and prepares them for a workforce where digital literacy is non-negotiable.

A High School to Cheer For

Glen Ridge High School ranks 13th across New Jersey and 119th nationwide. The graduation rate is 95%, with 97.7% attending a 4-year institute, including Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Penn State, Northeastern, and New York University.

With an average SAT score of 1320, GRHS is 64th out of 408 institutions across the state in College Prep and 13th on the College Readiness Index.

The high school broadened its Dual Enrollment (DE) options by partnering with the Neil Gogte Institute of Technology (NGIT) for Computer Aided Design (CAD). John Lawlor, Principal of Glen Ridge High School, states, “Juniors earn DE language credits in Chinese through Rutgers University. Seaton Hall administers French and Spanish.” Seniors opt for the AP version of these languages.

The district earned the 2023 AP School Honor Roll Award for its Advanced Placement (AP) program. Aligning with the state average, 44% of juniors and sophomores enroll in at least one of the 19 AP courses. GRHS boasts a 73% pass rate with 842 exams administered.

Glen Ridge High is proud to offer the AP Capstone, designed for children passionate about social or political issues or specific subjects.

In year one, AP Seminar guides participants through academic arguments. “Kids research their topic, and then present proposals to a faculty review board. They design survey instruments and gather and analyze data,” Lawlor explains.

AP Research in the optional 2nd year provides the opportunity to conduct and present independent investigations to a research review board. Lawlor says, “This aligns with our vision of nurturing lifelong learners proficient in critical thought, perspective evaluation, and evidence-based communication.”

The school system is creating an Option 2 program where students will earn credits by participating in work experiences. Staff members mentor and conduct site visits.

Recruitment and Workforce Development

​Recruitment is difficult, let alone defining diverse candidates. “For us, it meant becoming more aware, discussing what that meant, and how to move forward. And then, putting an action plan in place,” explains Phillips.

The Central Jersey Program for the Recruitment of Diverse Educators (CJ Pride) is a consortium of NJ School Districts that prioritizes diverse applicants. School administrators completed professional development and heard presenters offer different viewpoints. Phillips adds, “I am eager to say Glen Ridge diversified our staff over the last seven years and will continue to work in that direction.”

Another tactic is bringing power professionals or permanent substitutes on board and mentoring them towards a teaching certification. John Lawlor, Principal of Glen Ridge High School, says, “We offer training to our teachers to expand their role, whether acquiring a different certification or other education.”


Security, Police, and Online Safety

When Phillips became superintendent eight years ago, the district consulted a security firm. An audit of the five institutes prompted upgrades to exterior security. “We want to catch potential problems before they get in the building,” says Phillips.

Safety measures include limiting which entrances and exits get accessed and implementing swipe card locks. Phillips states, “We installed a notification system in the event we have to go into lockdown and empower our staff to initiate one if needed.” One unique initiative is having parents show identification, and then running a background check before allowing them into the school.

Protecting children includes keeping them safe online. GRPSD partners with outside companies to monitor issues, getting alerts for threatening messages or concerns for a child’s well-being on social media, chat, or a website.

The schools collaborate with the local Police Department (PD), inviting them to build familiarity with floor plans and staff. “The police chief, Sean Quinn, is a former student of mine. He graduated from Glen Ridge High,” says Phillips. Three of the five schools are within two blocks of the police station.

Mental Health

Glen Ridge boasts a district-created mental health program administered during school hours. Services available at Ridgewood Avenue (grades 3-6) include individual and group counseling, parent training, and support groups. Donovan says, “Besides our guidance counselors, we have a psychologist, social workers, and social-emotional counselors.”

Effective School Solutions (an independent mental health provider) implements a similar option for Grades 7-12. Designed in-house, the high school retains outside therapists who dispense more intense therapy.

GRPSD is exploring an alternate program that will continue to help students, but equip educators with necessary mental health tools, training, and strategies. “You have to capture a child’s heart before you capture a child’s mind,” states Donovan.

Glen Ridge wants a successful progression between schools and into the adult world for its students. Aligning with that mission, Phillips’ philosophy is to provide experiences that ensure success beyond the instructional years. “That means strong academic and social-emotional programs. That means getting kids involved outside school.”

Witnessing, contributing to, and celebrating a student’s accomplishments motivates Harris. “To see a little person start one way and grow into someone who is academically sound and supported keeps me going.”

Older students at GRHS are strikingly pleasant and involved in extracurricular activities or athletics. Lawlor’s inspiration comes from successful conversations with them. “After school yesterday, I sat with a group of kids and talked about how to incorporate artificial intelligence.”

Often, graduates return to refresh their connections with teachers, coaches, and administrators, an aspect of the job Donovan appreciates, “They reach out, they return, they stay in touch.”

Every educator understands if you work at a school long enough, the children of previous students will eventually sit in the same classrooms as their parents, awaiting your expert instruction. Every educator should also understand they played an immeasurable part in the success of that child’s parents.


Glen Ridge Public School District

WHAT: A highly rated school system…

WHERE: Glen Ridge, Essex County, North New Jersey



Conner Strong & Buckelew –

Martin O’Boyle Landscaping –

You may also like