Millburn Board Property Committee Recommends Against Referendum—For Now

Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Millburn Board of Education candidate Jyoti Sharma raised questions about the Common Core standards at Monday's board meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

MILLBURN, NJ—The chairman of the Millburn Board of Education Property Committee reported at Monday’s board meeting that, at this time, the committee was recommending against pursuit of a ballot referendum on future capital projects.

According to the committee chairman, John Westfall-Kwong, “We remain concerned about longer-term facilities needs and have requested a list of core potential facility-related needs that may need attention within the next few years.”

Westfall-Kwong also said the committee remains interested in the school district’s options for again taking possession of the Millburn Day School, which previously was owned by the district but, for the past several years, has been operated by the Bergen County Special Services School District as a facility serving the needs of children with severe disabilities. The Bergen County organization will be leaving the day school and has offered the Millburn district first refusal on the property, located on Spring Street, Millburn.

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He added the committee has requested more information regarding options to lease or purchase the property and corresponding prices.

On the referendum, the Millburn board, several times over the last several months, has discussed whether facilities questions should be submitted to township voters in the light of projected facilities needs brought up by board architects and other professionals.

On another facilities related matter, the board acknowledged receipt of an audit of energy usage in district buildings by CHA Companies and authorized advertising for bids for companies to propose specific energy savings.

Former board member Josh Scharf noted the school district, in the past, had authorized installation of a geothermal energy system in the middle school but the public had not been apprised of the status of that system. He said the board, before committing funds to attorney and architectural fees to pursue energy-saving projects, should give the public a more complete picture on expected return on investment for such projects.

On another matter, Westfall-Kwong reported that 735 student residencies were verified through the required re-registration process for incoming sixth and ninth graders, “with three remaining students who are not yet enrolled due to outstanding documents.”

He added, “This process also confirmed a number of sibling residencies—the committee has asked that the exact count of additional siblings be provided. Staff has interviewed two companies that provide online registration software, and they are closed to providing a final recommendation with the hope of rolling out grade-by-grade registration and safety verifications beginning in January 2015 with incoming kindergarten registration.”

The property committee chairman added, “The committee takes the residency issue very seriously. Multiple statements communicating the process have been issued to the public. If you are aware of a non-resident student attending school in district, report it to the district registrar or busines administrator. While respecting the privacy of the student, every reported case in investigated.”

On another matter, the arrest last week of Millburn Middle School custodian Andrew J. Reilly for allegedly exposing himself to a child under 13 years of age, personnel committee chairwoman Rupali Wadhwa said, while it was not proper for the board to comment on a personnel matter in public, the school body continues to cooperate with Millburn police and other authories and will keep parents and the community informed.

She emphasized the board’s commitment to the safety of all students.

However, Milton Resnick, who is a candidate in the November board of education elections, said he had heard that this was not the first incident involving Reilly and that there had been other incidents in the schools.

He said there should be more careful hiring procedures and more careful monitoring of those making these decisions so incidents like this do not reoccur.

School authorities denied that Monday’s hiring of Elizabeth Watson Gramigna of Short Hills, who is an expert in workplace investigations and solving workplace conflicts, was precipitated by the Reilly matter.

On another personnel matter, the school body approved the hiring of Michael Ryan as director of curriculum and instruction at an annual salary of $120,000.

On another matter, school board candidate Jyoti Sharma urged the board and school authorities to carefully reconsider their support for the Common Core Standards and PAARC testing.

Sharma, who said she has a PhD in electrical engineering and more than 20 years’ experience in the field, recently took a mathematics PAARC test as a concerned mother and found it difficult to determine what the test was asking her to do.

She asked how students, with far less experience and far less knowledge, could be expected to complete the tests successfully. Also, she wanted to know how parents with less knowledge and background could be expected to measure student progress in Common Core and in the tests.

Sharma said the school district should not be “just jumping on the bandwagon” for Common Core and PAARC testing just to help obtain federal Race to the Top funds.

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