WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) member Terry Trigg-Scales made a point to educate the community on how the WOBOE and other school boards throughout the State of New Jersey function while reading an infographic entitled “13 Things School Board Members Wish People Knew About Them” during Monday’s board meeting.

The infographic, which is available on the district website woboe.org, addresses topics that people may or may not know about the board and also clarifies some common misconceptions. It states that, first and foremost, school board members are the “best-trained elected officials in the state” because it is required of all board members to take training courses throughout all three years of their term in “topics such as policy, school finance, student achievement, labor relations and school law.”

“No other state official gets training like school board members, so we’re very smart,” said Trigg-Scales.

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Fellow board member Cheryl Merklinger has previously likened the training to going to college, because every year “you have to obtain a certain amount of credits to be an accredited board member,” she said. This also depends on what stage of a term that a board member is serving at the time as well.

Board members are expected to attend a training in Trenton that is sponsored by the New Jersey School Boards Association. Trigg-Scales previously stated that although there are many opportunities for training that board members can choose from, members “can pick and choose what [they] want to attend…so they make it convenient for board members, but there’s a lot to learn.”

Board members are also expected to adhere to a “code of ethics,” which means that they are sometimes not allowed to discuss or freely share information with the public on issues involving personnel or a student suspension, or else they risk violating confidentiality rules,” according to Trigg-Scales.

“When we were sworn in, we have to keep our allegiance, we have to keep our confidentiality and our goal is to make sure that the schools are well run,” she said.

Trigg-Scales also clarified that the board does not have the power to “decide when school is closed for a snow day.”

“That is the Snow Queen, our [acting] superintendent,” Trigg-Scales said in reference to Eveny de Mendez. “We get the call just before you do; we are not part of that decision making.”

Trigg-Scales continued to read: “More often than you’d think, we have to educate people about that fact that being a school board member is an unpaid gig.” Whereas in other states, some school districts pay school board members, this will never happen in New Jersey, she added.

Trigg-Scales concluded that all board members take pride in “having a lasting impact on the education of the children in our community, and helping every child reach his or her full potential.”

In other news, WOBOE President Ken Alper gave an update regarding the superintendent search after resident Robin Isserles inquired about the timeline. While still aiming for a July 1 deadline, Alper said that “the actual timeline really comes once we’ve established who the vendor’s going to be because everyone has their own internal process.”

“So, once we’ve got that selected, we should have a better sense of where we are and on which specific dates which events will occur, in terms of surveys going out, ads being placed, listening sessions and input sessions being conducted, and so on,” he said. “So, we should have a better sense of that next time we talk.”

Alper also commented on a press conference recently held at West Orange High School (WOHS), during which Gov. Phil Murphy promised to allocate $13.9 million in state funds to West Orange Public Schools.

For many years, Alper noted, the amount of aid given to the district had stagnated at around $8 million, but this changed last year when the S2 bill was passed and the district received approximately $12.4 million for the 2017-2018 school year.

“It’s a long process to get to full state funding,” said Alper, but he added that the district should receive the full amount of state aid, about $26 million, by 2025 or 2026.

Alper thanked Murphy as well as Senator Sweeney, the Fair Funding Action Committee, the 27th District team, former Governor Richard Codey, Assemblyman John McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey “for everything they did to that make that work.”

WOBOE Vice President Sandra Mordecai also took the time to recognize Donna Cocchiere, Kristine Massari and Raquel Feliciano upon their retirement after 23 years, 40 years and 15 years of service to the district, respectively. Mordecai thanked them for their service to West Orange students and their dedication to the community.

The next WOBOE meeting will be held on Monday, March 25 at 8 p.m.

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