February 7, 2014 at 9:15 AM
SUMMIT, NJ—Kenneth Shulack, ihe man who has been the human resources director for the Summit school district for the last decade, announced at Thursday’s board of education workshop meeting that he will be stepping down from the post on July 1 to pursue one of “a number of other opportunities” that he has been offered.
Shulack praised the city’s schools and thanked all those he has worked with during the past 38 years in education, as a teacher, a principal, a board of education member and as the director of human resources for the Hilltop City’s schools.
His announcement follows by a few months the announcement by Nathan Parker that he will be leaving his Summit post in 2015. The school board is in the early stages of planning a search for a replacement for Parker.
In other news at Thursday’s session, board operations chairman David Dietze announced his committee will recommend that the tuition-based fullday kindergarten program proceed with only two sections of 20 students each -- one at Wilson School and the other at Jefferson School.
He left open the possibility, however, that two more classes, one at each school, could be added in the future,
Dietze said the committee and the board were very pleased with the results of the January lottery for the 40 positions currently open in the program. The lottery drew 155 applicants, about evenly split between neighborhoods surrounding each of the two schools.
He added that tuition for the fullday sessions is $5,500 per year for most students, with a “drastic reduction” in tuition for those students eligible for the federal free or reduced lunch program. The lottery, he said, produced five in the Jefferson area and one in the Wilson area who are eligible for the federal programs.
The operations committee chairman estimated that revenue for the first year of the program would be about $191,000, compared to the original estimate of $165,000.
He added that the first year cost of the program probably will be about $102,000 versus the original projection of $129,000 — chiefly due to the fact that there were far fewer applicants than expected from the federal lunch programs.
The possibility of additional sections of the fullday program in the future was raised, he noted, because of a drastic dropoff — from 192 to 150 — in students registering for the district’s long-standing half-day kindergarten program. This dropoff, Dietze said, also could bring in more of the district’s existing kindergarten staff to work in the fullday program.
He added, however, that the operations committee declined to recommend additional full-day sessions at this tie because of the uncertainty of the outcome of the district’s current labor negotiations, uncertainty about how to measure the success of the pilot program (such as how to guage administrative time for the new program and the “wild card” of how many special education students would have to be serviced), and the fact that certain segments of the city’s population are not in favor of adding new infrastructure for a fullday program.
Dietze also said that parents would be allowed to pay tuition for the new program through use of credit cards and they, rather than the district, will have to absorb the initial four percent upfront charge that credit card companies levy for use of the cards.
On the budgetary front, assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe said that the 2014-2015 budget probably would see an increase in taxes for Summit residents amounting to about 0.98 percent.
Dietze noted, however, that because the city and the school district use two different fiscal years, Hilltop City residents would see their charges for the proposed budget increase by about 1.44 percent because school taxes are billed with half from the current budget year and half from the upcoming budget year.
Pepe, however, had some good news on the grant front. He said the city’s board of school estimate set the price tag for a number of renovations planned for Summit schools at $17.5 million. Of this total, about $1.16 million was expected to come from the fourth phase of state RODs or Regular Operating Districts grants.
While the state originally turned down grant funding for portions of two projects planned for the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School, he added, his office appealed the denial and received approval for $522,000 in grant money that the denial would not have brought to Summit. Thus, Pepe said, the cost of bonding the school renovations now will amount to only about $15.8 million.
Common council board of school estimate member Michael McTernan congratulated Pepe on obtaining the additional $522,000 in funding, but questioned what contingencies the school district had should state school aid come in less than the district anticipated this year.
Pepe, noting the district receives about $1.7 million in state aid, said the aid figures are expected this year about two days after Governor Chris Christie’s address to the legislature. That date is expected to be about February 27, he said.
Although the district expects state aid this year to be “flat,” he added, the district never knows the actual amount until it receives the official figures.
Pepe said a “minor” decrease of $50,000 or $100,000 below the planned state aid amount could be accommodated by further reductions in expenditures or increases in revenues. A total loss of state aid, he added, would cause serious discussions in the district that could lead to the loss of programs or personnel.
He said while the district can bring funds from its $1.2 million fund balance into the budget, this could create a “cliff” in the budget for the following year.
The tentative 2014-2015 school budget, scheduled to be introduced at the board’s next regular meeting on Thursday, Febuary 13, totals $64,104,200 in the general fund that would be supported by a local tax levy of $61,110,767, and total special fund revenue of $804,864. This would mean a total budget of $64,909,064.
The school board is scheduled to present its budget to the board of school estimate on March 6. at 7 p.m.. in the Common Council chambers of city hall, and the school estimate board is scheduled to act on the spending plan on March 25 following a board meeting at 6:45 pm certifying the budget figures.
In its only official action at Thursday’s workshop session, the education body approved the appointment of Summit High School students Connor Donnellan, Trevor Ashmun, Gavin Briggs-Perez, Daniel Kane and Hammad Igbal to be paid $9 per hour to videotape school board meetings beginning with the March 13 session.
Shulack said the nine paid students would be “shadowed” by trainees who would be prepared to stand in should any of the regular videographers not be available.
Board communications chairwoman Katherine Kalin said, in addition to the taping of the board meetings, conference calls would be available at board meetings to enable residents to listen in on the sessions.
She added tapes of workshop and regular meetings would be rerun several times during the week following each board session.
Kalin also said district technology coordinator Douglas Orr was exploring live streaming and other options for broadcasting meetings in the future. She added the communications committee also will study institution of a district Facebook page in the future.
Also at Thursday’s workshop session, board president Gloria Ron-Fornes announced she and Mayor Ellen Dickson would sponsor “Full STEAM Ahead,” a program aimed at attracting more girls into technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, on March 1. Details will follow.
On another item, the district is working on a College and Career Readiness Survey to sign up Summit High School alumni to return to the school and inform currrent students about their careers and prepare them to complete college applications.