The Hopewell Valley Board of Education honored six teachers and three support staff members, discussed the tentative budget, and heard from a retired teacher about the ongoing contract negotiations at their mid-March meeting.
One teacher from each of Hopewell Valley’s six schools, as well as three support staff members, received standing applause from the Board and the audience as they were recognized for the Governor’s Teacher and Educational Services Professional Recognition Award.
“Today is a wonderful celebration of public education,” said Superintendent Thomas Smith. “You make a difference in the lives of our children.”
The Governor’s Award was given to Christina Virtucio, from Bear Tavern, Helen Corveleyn, from Hopewell Elementary, Lynn Angelus, from Stony Brook Elementary, Nicole Sebastian, from Toll Gate Grammar School, Donna Cariola, from Timberlane Middle School, and Lauren Cell, from Central High School.
Additionally, three support staff members, David Raduzycki, head custodian at Central High School, Patti Armstrong, a paraprofessional at Timberlane Middle School, and Jay Lenarski, the campus safety officer at Stony Brook Elementary, received the award.
The Governor’s Award, according to Assistant Superintendent Anthony Suozzo, was given to staff members based on a number of criteria, such as instructional techniques, respect, and their ability to inspire, with nominations coming from a combination of students, staff, and parents.
“It really just highlights the best things about our District,” said board president, Alyce Murray.
The Board also presented its tentative budget, which may come with reductions in programs and services, according to Smith.
A number of cuts — in excess of $400,000, according to Smith — potentially include the reduction of five full-time elementary school teachers, elimination of undersubscribed classes at Central High School, and a 50 percent reduction of non-mandated summer hours.
“I want to make this clear – I don’t want to do it,” Smith said. “But, if we’re in a situation that we must, this is what we’re looking at.”
While the Board approved the budget, Board Member Adam Sawicki remained the only dissenting vote, stating that he could not support the “immediate, severe reduction of surplus this year.”
Additionally, the Board heard from Nancy Greener, a former Timberlane science teacher and current substitute teacher, who spoke on the ongoing contract negotiations for the District’s teachers.
“One of the reasons I felt I needed to leave this profession was the fact that my salary was getting lower every year,” Greener said. “My medical benefits were over $8,500, while my raise one year was $112. That was $3 a week before taxes – not even enough for a cup of coffee.”
Greener noted that with the implementation of Chapter 78, which requires school employees to pay a portion of health care premiums, most teachers now must take second or third jobs.
“When I started teaching, many women I worked with were there for pocket money.” Greener said. “This is no longer the case.”
The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 8.