Government

Summit Full-Day Kindergarten Town Hall Meeting Draws Standing Room-Only Crowd; Educational, Financial, Priority Issues Debated

January 24, 2013 at 6:58 AM

SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Board of Education on Wednesday presented its case for the institution of full-day kindergarten in the city’s public schools before an audience that overflowed the auditorium at the Jefferson Primary Center.

The panel presenting arguments in favor of the new schedule consisted of Summit Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Julie Glazer, George Lucaci, president of the board of education; Louis Pepe, school business administrator; Felix Gil, principal of Summit’s primary centers; school board member Celia Colbert, who chairs the education committee, and Kathie Priestley, an early childhood education consultant.

Lucaci noted the district’s goal to come up with a recommendation on full-day kindergarten by January 2013 tied in directly with the goal of eliminating the achievement gap among the city’s children.

Sign Up for E-News

“The board believes that we should move forward with full-day kindergarten,” he added.

The board president pointed out that 75 percent of New Jersey’s school districts and 50 percent of the districts in I and J factor groups with which Summit is aligned have full-day programs.

The change from a half-day to a full-day schedule, he added, is necessary for Summit to maintain its competitive edge with other local, county and state school systems.

Lucaci noted the school board continues to be concerned with overcrowding in schools like Franklin School, has met the need with temporary classroom trailers and will continue to study demographic reports prepared for Summit’s schools in order to determine the best way to meet these needs in the future.

Reviewing space planning for the schools, Pepe noted it is a comprehensive process focusing on all the city’s school facilities and involving such items as the installation of the modular classrooms at Franklin, demographic studies beginning with that of Ross Haber and followed up by two additional reports and a comprehensive maintenance plan.

He added assets reports for the elementary and middle schools were prepared with the help of district architects, teachers and building principals to determine how space was utilized and how to make the best educational use of all school facilities.

The business administrator repeated the estimated construction cost for the addition of full-day kindergarten facilities to the Wilson and Jefferson Primary Centers would be $10.3 million. This is based on a 15-year-bond and 40 percent state debt service. It would result in a yearly tax cost of $68.17 for the average Summit home assessed at $410,000, he said.

Pepe estimated the annual operating cost of the full-day program at $1 million, with a tax cost of $70 per year to the property owner with the average home.

He said this would include the salaries and benefits of nine kindergarten teachers, 8.5 aide positions, 2.5 specialists positions and additional custodial staff.

Summit Common Council President Richard Madden said, “I personally have no problem with the concept if it’s affordable. I commend those who have fostered the idea.”

Madden, however, had some very different interpretations of the cost figures.

He said the cost of 15 new classrooms, auxiliary space, parking, roadways and cafeterias, with an eventual full-day kindergarten enrollment of 300 would be $20 million with no state aid. Debt service, at 10 percent on 15-year-bonds, Madden said, would result in a total capital cost of $30 million.

Operating costs, according to the council president, with 40 teachers, assistants, other staff and maintenance personnel at $65,000 to $67,000 each, with benefits, would amount to $2.6 million a year for 15 years for a total of $40 million.

Madden’s figures thus show the total cost for 15 years for an additional half day of kindergarten to be $70 million. This, he said, would be 6,200 tax units or $11,290 for 15 years or $753 year or an increase of 4.7 per cent in the yearly tax load.

He suggested the school district consider at pilot full-day program for 40 to 60 students with no capital expenditures.

Parker disputed Madden’s figures, saying the board’s projections of 20 students per classroom would be the same every year and the eventual population would total 300, not double the current kindergarten population. This figure, the superintendent added, was based on the current total first grade population of 320.

Pepe added the construction costs, based on Parker’s projections and estimates by the principals and school architects, would hold at $10 million. The tax impact, he noted, was based on calculations for a 15-year-bond from a bond firm with a long history of working with the city. That figure, of course, could fluctuate with the bond markets, he noted.

Comments about the high expense of the full-day kindergarten program by several of the councilmen at last Tuesday’s council session drew fire from former board of education president Jack Lyness.

Members of the governing body indicated both at the council session and in conversations with The Alternative Press after Tuesday’s town hall meeting that they still wanted to get more information on the board’s cost figures before making a final determination on whether on not they would vote to support the new program.

They said they had spoken to Parker since Tuesday and had clarified some of their questions although they would like to get more information.

Lyness said although most parents do their best to supplement the half-day kindergarten program with “wraparound” programs in the city, many parents cannot afford these programs and, therefore, full-day kindergarten was the best way to bridge the achievement gap.

Although council members quoted the fact that 65 percent of Summit’s residents do not have children in the public schools, Lyness said, they should take into account that 73 percent of the school districts in the state have full-day programs.

“It is difficult to raise taxes on all to benefit a few,” the former school board president said, but the proposed program could benefit 300 to 400 children.

He suggested putting the question of full-day kindergarten on a citywide referendum.

Returning to the educational benefits of full-day kindergarten, Priestley said “Many local officials recognize the importance of a continuum of learning,” although only 10 states mandate full-day kindergarten.

Glazer added that the core curriculum standards, recognized by 45 states and mandated in New Jersey, have significantly increased expectations about what is expected in children in kindergarten.

She noted it is particularly difficult for Summit kindergarten teachers to meet these standards in the limited time of a half-day program.

The assistant superintendent added that, in May, a bill was introduced in the  New Jersey Legislature to make full-day kindergarten mandatory in every school district.

Gil, who taught in a district with full-day kindergarten before coming to Summit, said the full-day program leaves more time for targeted learning and more contact with teachers, who will be in charge of 20 rather than 40 students per day.

He added that 75 percent of families with students in the Summit schools now how children in the half-day kindergarten program and “scramble” to supplement these programs with “wraparound” programs.

“We need full-day kindergarten to expand educational opportunities for all children,” he said.

Parent Nancy Gorman said, however, she was aware that full-day kindergarten supposedly returns $3 for every $1 spent, but was concerned that full-day sessions would offer too much academics when children were not ready for it, especially those coming from different learning levels.

Glazer and Gil replied that the greater amount of time in full-day kindergarten levels would enable teachers to offer more time for play and interaction among children of various levels.

Answering parent concerns that Gil and others were calling the existing wraparound programs inadequate, Gil said public school officials don’t consider the outside programs inadequate, but believed they did not properly coordinate with the rest of Summit’s elementary school programs.

Addressing concerns of parents, particularly those from Franklin School, who felt their needs would not be addressed if full-day kindergarten is approved, Pepe said the board takes a “holistic approach” on capital outlay and proposed improvements to all schools are placed in a mandated five-year plan that the Summit district must present to the state.

He did say, however, items such as improvements dealing with overcrowding at the high school and some proposed staff additions that would be addressed in the current budget would be presented to the city’s board of school estimate at a separate session from that dealing with the five-year plan.

If the full-day kindergarten plan is approved by the school board it must pass final muster with the city board of school estimate, which includes Lucaci, Ed Mokuvos, chair of the board operations committee, council finance chair, Dave Bomgaars, Councilman Robert Rubino and Mayor Ellen Dickson.

Pepe estimated, if the school estimate board approves the proposal in April, construction could begin in the summer with completion the following summer and the first classes in September 2015.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Summit

January Update

January 19, 2017

Dear Summit Neighbor,

I hope you are having a wonderful start to the New Year. With 2017 in full swing, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a progress update on some activities in town. 

1. The Winter Farmer’s Market has arrived. Held at Calvary Church every Saturday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., there is a great selection of fresh produce and locally prepared ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_48d23eb86351e2d19b2e_1cc0c318b3b034e1e033_winter_storytime

Thu, January 19, 10:00 AM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

Storytime

Community Calendar Education

Carousel_image_4b779468f3928b0c3891_b00c18ffedd6ebd2db5e_a4aa4fb3d8fc8103f56f_touch_tennis

Thu, January 19, 12:00 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Touch Tennis

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_76e86e05ba3de6933d17_d7980562ac834970b6aa_a706a9d9ac7bcb768eab_2be2a000c1ed41262bbd_mah_jongg

Thu, January 19, 12:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Mah Jongg

Arts & Entertainment Education

Summit Fire Department Blotter

Dec. 1, 2016 0233 - Units responded to a motor vehicle accident with injuries and an overturned vehicle with possible extrication. Incident located at mm 10 Route 24, West.  Springfield and Millburn FD also on scene.  Summit provided a safety block, and for scene safety and assisted with securing vehicles.  

Dec. 5, 2016 at 12:25 - Units dispatched to a PARK AVE apartment for a ...

Summit Police Blotter

January 9, 2017

12/24 - Nelson Collazo-Moreno, 25, of Summit was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Mr. Moreno was released with a pending court date.

01/01 - At 1323 hours a report was taken for a theft from a Springfield Avenue apartment complex. The maroon colored “Exit” sign had been removed sometime between 1800 hours on 12/31/16 and 1300 hours on 01/01/17. The approximate value of ...

Christine Murphy Welcomed as Newest Sales Associate at Lois Schneider Realtor

January 19, 2017

Lois Schneider Realtor’s top producing sales team welcomes Christine Murphy, our newest sales associate. Christine started with Lois Schneider Realtor in 2013 as a licensed sales assistant to one of the company’s top producing teams. She and her husband have been residents of Summit since 2001 with their three children, all of whom attend or have graduated from Summit Public Schools.

Video: Point View's Dietze Tabs Pharma, Energy, and Consumer Product Stocks Among Top Picks

Point View Wealth Management's Founder, President and Chief Investment Strategist, David Dietze, discusses his top picks in the wake of the Trump election:

bnn.ca

Point View Wealth Management, Inc. works with families in Summit and beyond, providing customized portfolio management services and comprehensive financial planning, to develop and achieve their financial ...

Closed Fund Open Mind

Closed-end funds (CEFs) can play an important role in a diversified investment portfolio. They offer benefits similar to those of an open-end mutual fund, but also sport unique advantages.  

Unlike a traditional open-end mutual fund, CEFs have a fixed number of shares available to trade. Their price is not tied to the value of the underlying portfolio. The only way the number of shares ...

Raising The 'Bar' When Celebrating Life's Milestone Moments

The renovation of the event space at the historic Grand Summit Hotel in Summit was directly aimed at creating a lighter, brighter, more welcoming space that would promote a party atmosphere inherent to the wedding and Bar / Bat Mitzvah and wedding celebration. The results have been embraced by the Hotel's very loyal clientele, as indicated by the strong repeat activity in the large social ...

Man vs. Waze

A lot of strange cars are traveling through my quiet neighborhood these days.  They are not driven by my neighbors.  Some mornings I even have trouble getting out of my driveway.  

Waze.

Ever since bridge repair closed a major thoroughfare near my house, the traffic on my sleepy street has increased dramatically.  And it is not by accident that commuters have figured out ...