Diwali and Contract Dispute Headline HVBOE Meeting

Photo credit: Harry Becker

The Hopewell Valley Board of Education discussed closing schools for Diwali and continued to hear from the public on the ongoing teachers’ contract dispute at their mid-February meeting.

The Board was first given a presentation regarding the Hindu holiday of Diwali by Central High School students Dhruv Kapadia and Rehan Yadav, who argued it should be considered for a day off. Kapadia and Yadav crunched the numbers on increasing Asian demographics in the District, which includes India, Pakistan, and other south Asian nationalities, and found that the Asian population in Hopewell Valley could increase to over 15% by 2025, using demographic information from the New Jersey Department of Education, the school’s OnCourse database, and yearbooks. In comparison, other New Jersey schools such as Glen Rock and Clifton, which close schools for Diwali, have a 14.66% and 7.02% Asian populations respectively, according to Kapadia and Yadav’s report.

“If we had data from [1989] onwards, the trend of the Asian population wouldn’t be linear, it’d be exponential,” Kapadia said.

Superintendent Dr. Thomas Smith noted that this presentation was a “passion project” for the students, with no school assignments prompting the presentation.

Board President Alyce Murray called the presentation “impressive,” and while no formal action on the issue could be taken on scheduling until the school calendar is discussed in March, the Board said they would take it into consideration.

The Board continued to hear from the public on the teacher’s contract dispute, as the room filled with both parents, students and teachers alike.

Jack Elliott, a seventh grade student at Timberlane Middle School, received a standing applause from the room as he went through the history of his education in the District and what his teachers have taught him.

“I understand that budget and curriculum are important, but the impact on a student’s life far outweighs any budget issue,” Elliot said.

Elliot additionally recalled a conversation he had with a friend, saying “these teachers should be paid more, they have to deal with us.”

“We do want to be different and we do want to settle this differently,” Murray responded. “We will do our best to come to an equitable agreement as soon as possible.”

The Board, according to their issued statement in late January, said that they must either wait “six to eight weeks” for a report from the Fact Finder and/or continue talks with the Teacher’s Association.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 11.

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