BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Bad weather postponed two Board of Education meetings this month, but on Thursday, Jan. 11, the board held its first meeting of 2018. Only six people attended the meeting.

School Business Administrator and Board Secretary Donna Felezzola, who was sitting in a place normally occupied by Board President Doug Reinstein, asked Bill Cassano and Dr. Gerard Crisonino to step forward to take their oath of office. She quipped that she was “administrating the oath of office to two new, returning board members.’ They were re-elected during the November elections. The men read their oaths of office at the same time.

January is School Board Member Recognition Month and Superintendent Judith Rattner used her Mission Moment to recognize all the board members. She said the job is “time consuming,” and takes a lot of energy. “Thank you so much for doing this for us.”

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As part of the reorganization meeting, the board re-elected Reinstein president and Cassano Vice President.

The board accepted a donation from Larry Cohen. Reinstein said Cohen, whose children are older now, has “been a very generous supporter of the Berkeley Heights School District, got in touch and was looking to make another donation.”

After consulting with Cohen and Rattner, “We determined that upgrading the GL TV Studio to HD would really be a significant upgrade,”  Reinstein said. All the equipment in the current studio will be given to the Middle School, “like a feeder program, so people can get a TV studio experience,” he said. The $25,000 donation will allow the studio to produce HD programing and “everything you see, probably after another month or two, will be inHD. Graduation will be in HD, the play will be in HD … Thanks very much to Larry for his donation,” Reinstein concluded.

Before Student Representative James Pitingolo made his report to the board, the superintendent said she wanted to “share some incredible news … Jimmy actually received his early decision acceptance to Johns Hopkins. Congratulations, we wish you the very best. I can’t recall the last time I heard somebody that excited,” she said. Her announcement was met with enthusiastic applause from the board and residents.

During the Superintendent’s Report, Rattner updated residents on what’s happening in the district.

It’s concert season, still on the calendar are:

GL Band Concert will be Tuesday, Jan. 16, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. – the snow date will be Thursday, Jan. 18.

The CMS Choir and Orchestra Concert will take place from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at the High School, in the auditorium.

The CMS Band Concert will take place from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 25, at the High School, in the auditorium.

Other upcoming activities include:

The district is involved in PARCC Trials now and Assistant Superintendent Scott McKinney posted the “Final PARCC calendar,” Rattner said.

The survey results are in and the board will touch upon them “at our next board meeting when we look at our strategic planning update,” said Rattner.

The only public meeting on the budget will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31.

Non-AP Physics II Course Requested

Two Governor Livingston High School students, Francesca Cade and Juliann Lopes, asked the board if it would consider adding a non-AP Physics II course to the schedule.

Both are currently taking Physics I and want to take another year of Physics, but not at the AP level. They said they represented a larger group of students, including honors physics students “who don’t want to take on an AP Physics course,” said Cade.

McKinney said, “I suggest the next step is to sit down with Mr. Nixon and Mr. Finley,” to discuss this. McKinney said he would talk to Mr. Nixon, so he will be expecting to have a meeting with them.

Board members said they were impressed by their presentation and initiative. Pitingolo said he thought this might be a “good option for some students.”

Subscription Busing

The survey on subscription busing is finished.

Reinstein said the board will form an ad hoc committee on transportation which will include Chris Reilly, Helen Kirsch and Jeane Parker. The committee will work with Felezzola and, “they will bring back a proposal to the first meeting in March” as well as a recommendation, which will be discussed at the meeting, he said.

Felezzola reported that the survey went out to all parents of students in first through eighth grade. Of the approximately 1,000 surveys sent, there were 295 responses and of those, 153 were positive. Those parents were interested in using a subscription bus service for 190 students, at a cost of between $600 and $800 a year/per student, she said.

The highest number of students came from the Middle School, “about 100,” Hughes was next at 57, while Mountain Park and Woodward each had 16 students whose parents were interested, she told the board.

Safe Routes to School

Felezzola, in answer to a question by Reilly on the status of the Safe Routes to School program, said Berkeley Heights is eligible for Silver Elite Status and is working on being awarded that status and on a grant application to further improve the various routes to school. They qualify for that level because the district held specific events over a multi-year period, including regular walk to school or bike to school events and a bike rodeo.

The town will apply for Silver Status and do a survey to determine why people walk to school and, if not, why not. There is a committee in place to work on how to make their routes safer.

Reilly said she knows why people aren’t walking to school, “All you have to do is walk through some of those paths. There are big trees blocking the way … I can’t imagine we would have allowed this.”

The purpose of the grant will be to make improvements to those paths, Felezzola said.

The district will continue to work with the township on this.

Rattner said one of the reason the school district is so involved, is it wants its voice to be heard.

This year one of the projects has been to name all the paths in the township, of which there are some 22 or 23. The task was assigned the schools and now they are all named, even the paths that aren’t near the schools. Each school had a different theme – in one case it was animals, so one path is named “Owl” another is “Red Fox.” Cassano said township officials have said if the paths are named, they will provide signs.