Berkeley Heights School Board Opts to Move Elections to November, End Public Vote on Budget

Parents listen to a presentation by Principal Anne Corley-Hand on the new kindergarten program at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center during the Board of Education’s Thursday, Feb. 9 meeting. Credits: Deb Dawson

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – School board elections will be moving to November and the public will no longer be voting on the school budget, unless it goes over the two percent cap. The board voted on a resolution memorializing the law recently signed by the governor at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9.

One board member voted “no.” Paul Beisser said, “Taking away someone’s right to vote should be weighed… I just can’t get past stripping away someone’s right to vote on something so important.”

Other members of the board and public all spoke in favor of the measure, which will go into effect immediately. Board member Dante Gioia, who represents Mountainside, was not able to vote because he represents a sending district.

Sign Up for E-News

Also at the meeting, Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center Principal Anne Corley-Hand talked about the new kindergarten system started this year.

Superintendent Judith Rattner said the district had promised last year to institute a curriculum that is research based.

Children remain in the same classroom all day, except for a short recess at the end, rather than being taken out of the class for “specials” such as art, gym and music.

Parents present objected to the loss of specials, saying their children who had previously been in kindergarten at the school felt the “specials” were the highlight of the day.

Corley-Hand said there are many benefits to the program.

  • There are opportunities for sustained projects and large blocks of time available;
  • Common planning time for teachers to be together and share ideas;
  • There is an uninterrupted instructional block which is more productive because kids aren’t stopped in the middle of something to be taken out of class for a special;

Transitions are minimized, which produces a more relaxed classroom environment; and stress is reduced.

She said this year had a smoother transition to kindergarten with fewer “criers.”

Next year, she said the kindergarten will promote opportunities for the art teacher to “push in” to regular classes and take part in the regular lessons. And, the gym teacher will be a part of recess.

Currently, the children have a sing-a-long with a music teacher one day a week before they leave to go home in the case of morning classes, or before they start the regular day in the case of afternoon classes. Corley-Hand said this is a “natural transition.” On those days there is no recess.

Feedback on the program has been received from parents in the form of a survey to which 54 percent responded, largely positively, and through parent interviews.

“Parents suggested that parents be brought in to do some programs and share their skills,” said Corley-Hand. “A number suggested a full-day program.” Other suggestions include enhanced communication and shorter bus rides. She said many said the “hands-on learning is good.”

Next year, she said, “The plan is to add in periods of time to ‘push in’ art class, maybe not every week, but every other week.” Children will not be “pulled out” of class for the specials. These teachers will “push in” to add expertise into the classrooms. “We do not want to disrupt the children’s day,” she said.

Staff find it difficult for the children to be in the classroom during prep time, she said, but overall “I see a calmer environment.”

“The hope is that fewer children will be in intensive instruction in first grade,” she summarized.


Board President John Sincaglia said the board will discuss the budget at its next meeting at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Columbia School.

“We believe there is a good plan in place. There are some areas where we have had to put off maintenance for several years. This year we think there’s an opportunity to do these things. I think we’re going to have a budget that will do a lot of good things at a rate that is better for the taxpayers.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

'Tired of cronyism? Yeah, us too'

July 21, 2018

The Union County Freeholders’ decision to appoint State Senator and newly-elected Union County Democratic Chairman, Nick Scutari’s chief of staff, Ed Oatman as County Manager smelled of corruption from the start. To place a political consultant like Oatman in the role of overseeing 2,800 employees and running the day-to-day operations of the $500 million county budget suggests ...

TAPinto Spotlight on Business Features New Providence Dentistry

July 17, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - TAPinto "Summer Spotlight on Business" features local businesses and their owners who are important to our communities. Follow this column to receive a fresh perspective on small business owners and their unique needs while shining a spotlight on their stories.

This edition features New Providence Dentistry, operated by Dr. Beth Herko and her staff of ...

Avoiding 10% Tax Penalty

Do you want access to money from your retirement accounts but aren't sure of the real costs involved?

Most retirement accounts have a set age requirement you must reach before making penalty-free income distributions, which is usually 59.5 but can sometimes be as early as age 50. If you decide to access your accounts earlier, you could face penalties ranging from 10%-25%, which is not ...

Drive for Autism Foundation to hold Seventeeth annual Drive for Autism Golf Event

July 23, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Drive for Autism Foundation is pleased to announce that its annual golf event Drive for Autism XVII will be held at Royce Brook Golf Club in Hillsborough, NJ on September 17, 2018.

The Drive for Autism Golf Outing which has been held since 2002 has raised and distributed over $700,000 to local school programs. Previous beneficiaries of grants were ...

Step Up and Build a Stronger Union County

Union County residents who are seeking a meaningful, high-impact way to volunteer in their community can sign up as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties.

The organization is currently seeking volunteer mentors for its best-known program, Community Based Mentoring. The program involves individual mentoring with a local child or teen, age 6 to 18, with a ...

Shakespeare in the Park(ing Lot)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — The Shrewd Mechanicals from the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre will perform Shakespeare Gumbo in the parking lot of Berkeley Heights Public Library, 110 Roosevelt Ave.,  on Friday, July 27, at 7:00 pm. 

Bring lawn chairs.  Change of location will be announced in case of inclement weather.

Mayors Push for Law Permitting Driver's License for Immigrants

July 22, 2018

PERTH AMBOY, NJ - Five mayors from northern and central New Jersey today called for passage of a state law permitting immigrants to get driver's licenses even if they are undocumented, saying it boosts public safety as well as the economy.

"This is important for every resident for a better life and a better life for the state of New Jersey," said Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda ...

Upcoming Events


Tue, July 24, 3:00 PM

Grillestone Restaurant , Scotch Plains

Hear the Story of Amelia Earhart, America's Most ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Tue, July 24, 5:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Tryouts July 24th

Health & Wellness


Tue, July 24, 5:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Tryouts July 24th

Health & Wellness


Wed, July 25, 1:30 PM

Trailside Nature & Science Center, MountainsidE

Trailside’s Annual Summer Wednesday Matinee ...

Arts & Entertainment Education

Wed, July 25, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sings Conclude with Verdi ...

Arts & Entertainment


Wed, July 25, 7:30 PM

Memorial Park, Berkeley Heights

2018 Berkeley Heights Summer Concert Series

Arts & Entertainment

And Over Here is the Dining Hall 2

My very first job in admissions was while I was still an undergraduate myself as a tour guide.  Very early on they indoctrinated us with some tricks of the trade.  It’s a dining hall, not a cafeteria.  A residence hall, not a dorm.  If you have to divulge some negative bit of information, sandwich it between two positives.  There were instructions for glossing over ...

Women Have Special Financial Needs That Advisors Overlook

Women have special financial needs that advisors overlook in two ways: 1) advisors don’t always acknowledge the different planning needs women have and 2) advisors don’t always communicate well with female clients – especially if the client comes to a meeting with her husband. It’s very common for a male advisor to spend much or most of the face time in meetings talking to ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...