Berkeley Heights School Board Delays Vote on Smoking Policy

Superintendent of Schools Judith Rattner delivers her report. At left, Jeane Parker. At right, Helen Kirsch and Dr. Gerard Crisonino. Credits: Liz Keill
Donna Felezzola delivers a facilities report. Board member Doug Reinstein questions smoking policy. Credits: Liz Keill
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In its brief meeting on Monday, July 8, the Board of Education agreed to postpone a vote on the district’s smoking policy in school buildings and school grounds.
“This could have unintended consequences,” board member Doug Reinstein said regarding the phrasing of the policy. He questioned the "balance of smoking needs" in a policy that would apply to students, staff and visitors.  “Is our goal against all tobacco products? If so, this policy would go a different way.”
Board member Paul Beisser referred to electronic cigarettes which, he said, “are all the rage in Europe.”
Helen Kirsch, board president, asked if the board thought that tobacco products should be banned altogether. She suggested the policy be re-drafted and discussed again at the July 25 meeting.

Superintendent of Schools Judith Rattner reported that “the weather, coupled with the tornado, hit the first day of summer school.”  Not all the notification systems were set up, so an alert was sent to the entire school district.  “It was a scary thing. We couldn’t reach the police department and there was no electricity. That was our biggest concern.” She said solar panels were fine, but a large tree came down at Woodruff. An estimate of $16,000 would include removing the tree and some that had been split in half during the storm.
She also mentioned two deaths, including a 2008 graduate of Governor Livingston High School and a student who was involved with the band. She said grief counselors were helping students cope with the loss.
The board discussed parking at the high school, with a large senior class and juniors getting their driver’s licenses. They have been parking in the neighborhood, including a cul de sac, to which residents have objected. Next year, she anticipates smaller classes, which should ease the parking situation. She added that the ruling that a student with a provisional license can only have one other student with him or her has also had an impact.
Donna Felezzola gave a facilities report, noting that wiring for technology had been completed in the high school and the district is now waiting for inspection from the town. Ceiling tiles have been installed at Hughes and a paving contract signed.  Asbestos abatement is in process at Woodruff.  Regarding a generator at the high school, she said, “We’re pushing to get it done.” The state received $425 million and she anticipates a grant would be available.
Board President Kirsch congratulated the staff on the successful graduation ceremony, with ‘perfect weather.’

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