MILLBURN, NJ - In one of the shortest Millburn Board of Education meetings in recent memory, the Administration and Board heard the concerns of parents from South Mountain School regarding the reported displacement of township elementary students by out-of-district students attending the Integrated Preschool, which is housed at South Mountain. At Monday night's meeting, parent after parent spoke up, asking the Board to postpone a resolution to accept seven Preschool students from neighboring towns for the current school year.
Parents described kids without their own desks, and restricted use of the gym, stage and other facilities. Sue Scheiner spoke of the problem created by having two teachers working simultaneously in the Resource Room where students have to wear headphones to block out the sounds of the other class.
Superintendent James Crisfield responded that postponing the vote “is not a good idea,” as these students are already in school. He added that the Administration is researching the facts, and that a solution could be possible for the 2011-2012 school year.
Robert Zeglarski, Interim Superintendent for Business, explained that the out-of-district students pay tuition, which makes the Preschool more affordable, adding that “We’ve been doing this for seven years.” Mr. Zeglarski went on to say that this income was anticipated in the current budget, that the $300,000 tuition defrays expenses in the whole district and that, “[t]his probably saved some jobs.”
Board member Scott Kamber concurred, saying, “We couldn’t afford this program without the $300,000."
Board member Mark Zucker received applause from the parents when he said that he understood the Board would probably have to approve the resolution, “but what are we going to do for our students in district?” He urged the Administration to “please go back to South Mountain and see about reallocating space.”
Board member Sam Levy, on hearing that no contracts have been made with the other districts, moved to table the motion until the next meeting so the Administration and Board could gather more information. Six of the nine Board members voted to postpone approval.
In his report from the Property Committee, Chairman Eric Siegel announced that projects in the Middle and High Schools have been completed, and came in $3 million under budget.
Board President Michael Birnberg and Superintendent Crisfield announced that they have been “tweaking the agenda” of Board meetings, instituting changes to allow the Board to get its business done early in the evening. They have also eliminated the first Board Member Comments period, and initiated a policy where the first Public Comment period is solely for agenda items, while the public can voice opinions on any subject during the second comment period. These changes may well have contributed to the brevity of the meeting.