Sparta Board of Education Fails to Support Full Day Kindergarten

New board member Todd Muth voted not to fund full day kindergarten at the meeting on Thursday night after voting to support full day last time the issue was on the agenda. Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Scott Turner, in his third year as a board member, voted not to amend the budget to fund full day kindergarten next year. Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ- Sparta Board of Education failed to approve full day kindergarten at the budget hearing Thursday evening.  President Karen Scott, Vice President Kelly McEvoy and Frank Favichia were the only yes votes.  New board member Todd Muth changed his vote to no after voting to support a full day program at the March meeting.

Scott Turner also voted no despite his impassioned statement at the board meeting last month when he defended his absence at the prior meeting for the first vote on full day kindergarten.  Turner said he had missed the meeting because he was bedridden due to complications related to his multiple sclerosis.  He said further that his vote "didn't even matter because it was 5-3" so his vote would not have caused it to pass.  Additionally, Turner said that he "would drag himself to the next meeting even if he had to be in a wheel chair."  In that statement he indicated that he supported full day kindergarten and that this would be an important vote for Sparta.  Turner did not explain his change of heart.

Brenda Beebe, Jack Surdoval and Kim Yoemans all voted no, just as they had the first time this issue was on the agenda.

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Muth and Beebe caused the vote to be delayed when they contended such a vote would require a two-thirds supermajority vote.  Superintendent Dennis Tobin and Business Administrator Linda Alvarez had to investigate this issue.  That assertion proved false and they proceeded to a vote.

The preliminary budget that had been submitted in March did not contain funding for a full day kindergarten program.  The discussion to change the budget came as a result of Favichia asking to revisit the votes on that issue at the March 26 board meeting.

The process for making such a change was investigated and it was determined that the board would have to vote on a resolution to modify the original budget.  The modification was to use the banked cap funds to pay for full day kindergarten.  There were only three yes votes to support the modification to allow funding for full day kindergarten. 

Instead, the original budget will submitted to the state.  In addition to funding salaries and benefits, special education, transportation and facilities, the budget uses $700 thousand in banked cap funds together with Capital and Maintenance Reserve funds for capital projects.  These projects include parking lot repaving, refinishing gymnasium floor and security upgrades.  A portion of the banked cap funding together with some of the Capital  and Maintenance Reserve funding will be used to resurface the tract, even though there is currently no estimate of how much that project will cost.

Sparta is now one of only two districts in Sussex county that has failed to support a full day kindergarten for the 2014-2015 school year.  Current statistics from New Jersey Department of Education say more than 82% of school districts in New Jersey currently offer full day kindergarten.  In Sussex county alone, three additional districts have included funding for  a full day kindergarten  program in their budgets beginning next year.  

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for  Monday, April 28 at Mohawk Avenue School beginning at 7:30.

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