Berkeley Heights School Board Approves Five-Year Receiving Agreement with Mountainside for Governor Livingston

Berkeley Heights BOE unanimously okayed an agreement to continue receiving Mountainside students into Governor Livingston High School through June 30, 2022 Credits: Bobbie Peer
Gov. Livingston senior representative stated their case for open campus privileges.  Credits: Bobbie Peer
Senior Amanda Johnson will continue as the GL student representative to the board and junior James Pitingolo will replace graduated senior Christopher Weeks as a representative.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—The Berkeley Heights Board of Education on Thursday unanimously okayed an agreement to continue receiving Mountainside students into Governor Livingston High School through June 30, 2022, with the likelihood of the automatic extension of the agreement to an additional five years beyond that.

Mountainside students had been attending the Berkeley Heights school for many years when both the borough and the township belonged to the former Union County Regional High School District, and this continued beyond the 1997 dissolution of the regional district through an agreement with the township board of education.

However, a disagreement arose between township and borough school officials over the amount of tuition payments by Mountainside to pay for the arrangements and the continuity of the payments.

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At Thursday’s Berkeley Heights school board meeting, Berkeley Heights board vice president Bill Cassano said the new agreement, effective July 1, 2017, will provide an estimate of the costs of educating Mountainside students at Gov. Livingston at the beginning of each year and that estimate will be “trued up” with state calculations of actual costs at the end of the year to come up with tuition figures.

This process will continue for the initial five years of the agreement, Cassano said, and, if estimates are within 4 percent of the state figures, there will be an automatic rollover of the agreement for the subsequent five years.

On another matter, the board approved a memorandum of agreement with the Berkeley Heights Administrators Association for a contract to run from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2019.

According to Cassano, the pact calls for salary increases averaging a total of 6.6 percent over the life of the contract, increases in stipends for those administrators obtaining advanced degrees, the eventual phaseout of longevity pay and changes in the structure of the merit pay system.

The school body also approved of the attainment by superintendent of schools Judith Rattner of the third and fourth of her five goals that will enable her to receive merit payments if approved by the Union County executive superintendent of schools.

In addition, the board held a public hearing on the contention by former custodian Edwin Rodriquez that the non-renewal by Rattner of his contract this past spring should not be upheld by the education body.

Rodriquez, an employee of the Berkeley Heights district for about four and a half years, contended that the district time clock in the custodians’ area was slow and the time on the clock did not match up either with the clock in the custodians’ area or his own watch.

He said, therefore, that he did check out at the correct time and his timesheets, based on the custodians’ area clock and his own watch, were correct. Therefore, he did not claim compensation for time worked to which he was not entitled.

The former custodian also noted he often had taken care of school matters on his own time without charging the district for it.

However, school business administrator Donna Felezzola said there had been several inconsistencies between the timesheets submitted by Rodriquez and district timeclock records.

The board did not take a vote on overruling the decision of Rattner not to renew the custodian’s contract.

In another action, the school board approved open campus privileges for members of the class of 2017 at Livingston.

Open campus means that seniors may leave the school building and campus without adult supervision during the common lunch period when they do not have a regularly scheduled class or science lab.

Representatives of the students at the meeting, led by class president Tim Donohue, said they realized open campus was a privilege, not a right, and that students must continue to earn it by being a credit to themselves and the school.

They also noted that the privilege taught them individuality, time management and responsibility.

Rattner noted that each student wishing to obtain open campus privileges must apply for it and be approved by school officials, with notice to the student’s parents, and that open campus would be monitored by school principal Robert Nixon.

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