WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The Caldwell-West Caldwell School District “fared very well and is in a good position to enter 2021,” according to an audit.

The audit report was presented during the Jan. 11 board of education meeting by Kathi Mantell of Nisivoccia LLP, the district’s auditing firm. Mantell presented the report for the 2019-2020 school year.

Mantell confirmed that the fund balance has increased by $1.1 million, most of which is in the capital reserve account for a total of $3,678,000. Maintenance reserves total $1.2 million and an additional $1.4 million had been left over from the previous budget. There were two recommendations that were procedural in nature. The first that there is a need to obtain county approval of transfers over 10% for certain line items and the second that the student activities account require consistently receipts of goods. Board President Dan Cipoletti thanked Mantell and remarked, “We got a passing grade with glowing recommendations and kudos to the administration and I thank you for that.”

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In the district’s ongoing initiative to solicit feedback from the students regarding the hybrid and remote learning options, two Grover Cleveland Middle School students, Julianna Procopio and Summer Barnett provided feedback to the board from their perspectives noting positives and negatives. Barnett said that “some things we liked about virtual learning was having breaks between our classes and that Zooms for each class are much shorter now.”  Another positive was that the students are now permitted to use their own materials instead of “using school supplies.”

Procopio addressed the negatives, noting “There are a ton of Internet problems and students tend to get kicked off the Zooms and end up missing half of the class.” She then added, “We have not liked having very short and early lunches and also having more homework due to the short time in classes. The workload on some days is more than usual and breakout rooms are usually awkward and sometimes they aren’t very helpful.”

Barnett suggested to “make things better is to have a longer lunch, making classes more interactive and less boring and finding ways of learning and making it fun because most classes all we do  is take notes and listen to presentations which sometimes is boring and overwhelming.” Heinegg responded, “We are glad to hear the good news, and we are taking notes regarding concerns and criticisms. We will follow up with the principal and the curriculum committee.”

Agenda items included accepting with regret the retirement of Lynn Lockard, a fourth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School, and Jean Ferlauto, a Special Education teacher from Jefferson Elementary School. 

"We greatly appreciate Ms. Lockard and Ms. Ferlauto’s dedicated service to our students over the years," Heinegg said. "Ms. Lockard was my daughter’s fourth-grade teacher at Washington, and I look back on that time very fondly and I thank her for that. Ms. Ferlauto is both a colleague and a neighbor and I wish them all the best in their retirement.” 

Board member Julianne Grosso said that Ms. Lockard was her child’s teacher, and she is “just a treasure, a gem as a person and as an educator and I will miss her greatly and thank you for your service.

During public comment, a parent asked for confirmation that the district is “still on track to resume in person instruction on Jan. 19.” Heinegg confirmed that the plan is to return to in-person instruction at that time, noting that "we have not gotten any indication from the health officer, or anyone else that anything has changed.” Heinegg did confirm that winter break is still scheduled for Feb. 15-16, however that may be extended and also confirmed that there is consideration that the school day will be extended as the district prepares to enter Phase 3.