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Lisa Wolff introduction: The board gave direction ny the district – they want to provide the high level priorities but also take time to digest some of the items already laid out in previous years but keeping numbers at a conservative level.

Superintendent Thomas Smith:  (PARCC testing had a smooth roll out last week.) Crafted a discussion this evening in advance of our formal budget presentation next week which is when the board will be asked to adopt and then in advance of the budget approval in April. Next week the board will be asked to vote on the proposed budget and then the board will be asked to approve the final budget that will be submitted to the County.

Slide show presentation offered by Dr. Smith:

  • Overall district VALUES including long-term planning for academics and staff/staffing
  • PLANNING for academics (great strides providing similar experiences and outcomes for all elementary schools, developed consistent benchmark assessments, kindergarten extension and readers/writers workshop, STEM and performing arts, robotics, recitation programs, AP & honors); student development (anti-drug/alcohol programs and healthy choices, mental health supports, intramural and extra/co curricular); and facilities (3 buildings than at 90+ years old, plan to put new HVAC to elementary schools, baseball field, turf, rain water harvesting system, improved security systems in all buildings — in a good place for all the buildings but planning is still required along with roof-work)
  • PLAN for 2015-2016
    • Talked about planning from years 2-4 regarding magnets, 1:1, upper level access recitation, readers/writers, STEM expanded to high school and performing arts into the middle school
    • Capital projects are minimal in this budget
  • FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN
    • Challenge to put together this program balancing everyone’s interests and needs
    • Background – put together the kindergarten extension in which 50% of kindergarteners participate in; Right now 135 students are registered for kindergarten and 7 requested 1/2 day only –> the level of interest for 1/2 day only has not panned out as the district had thought and if costs were not a factor the number of 7 might be lower
    • Costs: not feasible to run a program for 1/2 day
    • Budget outlook: positive feedback about the state aid numbers
    • Looking at all the options, the 1/2 day program is not an option at this point. The actuals indicate there is little interest in this program and the district cannot condone running 2 programs at this point. Based on this and the board’s guidance, the district plans to remove program cost. Full day kindergarten is included in this budget.

BUDGET Discussion

  • .9% increase and is the first increase below 1% in the district
  • State funding was flat and the district received money as a flow-through grant and the estimate was increased…

Questions/Comments from board members – talking about specials, honors and AP, debt service.

Wolff: Dr. Smith made it pretty clear but in addition that 1/2 day kindergarten would be impractical for that few students, the whole district taking full-day kindergarten means that the district cannot charge for the program.

Markulec: Has concern about the condition of the buildings and thinks that long-term the problem must be addressed and the repairs will not fit within one budget. This is adding a program down the road. There is a long list that needs to be addressed that is not addressed in this budget.

Paterson: We acknowledge there are many projects that need to be done. With all that we’ve asked the tax payers in the past few years, the board thought that this was a good year to take a breather and there was not room in the budget to make much of a dent. (For roofs 6-8 million worth of work). Need to think more strategically.

Dollard: It is to the administration’s credit. We can program it correctly. My compliments.

Gunther: Asked about the %’s on the budget history; cap related to the general fund; the debt is fixed and the general fund has only gone up .9%

Wolff: The purpose of this meeting is to have a budget discussion.

Discussion about 1:1

Lewis: Talked about the 1:1 project; would like the board to consider whether they have enough data to understand the impact of 1:1 on inquiry based learning vs. those who do not have 1:1 devices; wants to know whether there is enough data to add more 1:1 or to follow this another year and collect all the data to see what the technology impact is.

Tony Suozzo: Wrapping up a successful year 1 for the 8th grade students, as far as data we haven’t been doing it that long. All the feedback has been extremely positive and the momentum moving in the right direction.

Lewis: The project seems to be moving in a good direction but it make sense to follow that cohort one more year.

Sawicki: Realize there is coordination in the middle school but wonders if it makes sense to pilot the 7th graders this year (Response is that they are hoping that the 1:1 rolls out in 7th grade and the teachers have had the change to hear about it at departmental meetings)

Tony Suozzo: There were some comparison classes with district evolution to determine the difference; saw that the collaboration and critical thinking was higher in the 1:1 class rather than the one without the technology.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Andreski: Thanked the board and district for include full day kindergarten in the draft budget and looks forward to seeing this in the final budget. “We have appreciated you listening to us in this whole process. Thank you.”

Simpson: Thanked the board for putting the full day kindergarten in the budget. “I’m so glad we moved here — this is such a student centered budget.”

Pashman: Thanked the district for making this a priority and following through on that commitment.

Singa: Thanked the board and the presentation. Has the same concerns as Lewis regarding the 1:1 and wants to make sure that the district has data to support the 1:1 devices truly encourages the results they hope to make sure they have the data before they invest in more technology.

PUBLIC COMMENT CLOSED.

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with mild germaphobia, excessive self-reflection, enthusiastic television viewing, and misguided adventures in random hobbies.

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