BLOOMFIELD, NJ - In the final part of TAPinto Bloomfield's continuing coverage of the Bloomfield Board of Education candidate forum at Bloomfield Middle School, we are sharing the final segment. The forum itself was nearly two hours long, this allows us to report in the most reader-friendly manner possible.
Part III of TAPinto Bloomfield’s series Board of Education Candidates Forum held October 30th includes candidates’ responses to audience questions 7-9.
“How do you plan to address the disparity between the eight elementary schools in terms of test scores and achievement?
Smith: ‘That’s been a subject brought up since I have been on the board… You need to understand what the test scores represent and how to evaluate them… the different ends of town have a very different socio-economic component. In the south end of town you have far more apartment buildings and therefore transients. Transients are the biggest disruptor to educational achievement when it comes to testing… I think… the district is doing everything they can by offering after school programs to students whose parents are working and test scores are suffering…the issue a lot of it has to do with transparency…consistency of the programs has been solidified…Our superintendent has, I believe, has consolidated the consistency so there isn’t a difference in programs.’
Rogers: ‘Being a south-ender and my children attended the Watchessing School… the board; we make a concerted effort to say ‘they are all our children.’… area preference over another…that’s not true… Socio-economic is a component… I remember a few years back the NJASK test was given…a school at the south end scored higher…there was a Saturday enrichment program involved that was quite successful…but we consider them all our students.’
Salinas: ‘…I lived in Florida for two years and testing was the only way to move from one grade into another. I think we should look into programs that will help each school… ’
Heller: ‘…with standardized testing you want to take a look at what the growth indicators are for the children at from one school over another. Some of the curricular innovations were not spread across the district. Now, under the current Superintendent we are doing the same thing at every school… We had different schedules that were in place in the elementaries…. [this year] We have a common schedule across all districts. We have standardized the report cards in the elementaries… we have a much better indicator of what is happening than when there were different approaches. I think in the last 2 years or so there have been efforts by the administration and this board to make sure there is equity across the elementaries… I hope in time we will see the test scores reflect that’.
Heaney: ‘My children benefitted greatly from the enrichment programs...difference in report cards and eagerness to go to school… I believe we can do some kind of mentoring, tutorship enrichment programs that will help the children equally across the town. I believe we also do this High school students looking to earn credits or points. That’s my short answer. I would like to research this further.’
The citizens stated she was asking the question for parents of many kindergarten moms, some in attendance and others that were unable to attend: “What do you think are the TWO most pressing issues for the upcoming year and what concrete steps will you take to address them?
Heaney: ‘I’m a kindergarten Dad… A strategic plan is something we need to address that we don’t have. Increasing student achievement and ranking of our schools in the state. If elected I can see things from a different perspective… from my vantage point now… Bloomfield could do a lot better, not that they are doing bad… there’s room for improvement. As a board member, I would find collaborative ways to work with members of our board and members of boards across the state to increase student achievement… To develop the whole individual… not just the academics of the child but the spirit of the child as well… teach up not down.’
Heller: ‘I think we have a communication problem in the district.’ The second item is a strategic plan for the next 5 – 7 years… broad based participation with stakeholders. We have a class size policy that needs to have revision… We need to look at the demographics including new development… Finally… we need a board that works better together than it has been.’
Salinas: ‘I put six children through the school system I see one thing lacking is parental involvement… I hear concerns from parents that involved…that there are not enough parents to help with their own children... There are ways that parents can get involved with the teachers, like parent/teacher workshops… talking with the teachers about problems with the school… We just need parents to get engaged…’
Rogers: ‘Actually I agree with Ms. Salinas. Something I have been on board with… It’s called a Parent Academy and it’s reaching out to the parents to have sort of their own support group… It’s been done in other districts… has not happened [here] and can be looked at again. I agree also with Mr. Heaney about enrichment programs…certainly the demographics…looking into right class sizes… Something the Board is proposing… 12 pre-fab classrooms, not trailers, at no extra cost to taxpayers, to address the overcrowding… ’
Smith: ‘One of the issues is to look at 6th graders, taking them out of the elementary schools and putting them in the Middle school... Doing that will free up a lot of space for the issue of rising students levels in our schools… I know there are incredible things you can do with architecture… to enable more floors to be added to the top of the [Middle school]… We do have a mechanism that is tax payer friendly to accommodate growth and overcrowding… should it occur. According to our Superintendent we are not at that level yet…’
Note: Regarding the 12 prefab buildings Heller added ‘…there is no urgency at this point and it hasn’t been discussed by the full board and supported by the full board that we would go forward with the 12 new modular constructions.’ Smith responded: ‘…We did approve at a board meeting that the extra funding that we were getting…could be used to fund this.’
The citizen stated they were revisiting something they had brought up to the board 7-8 months prior regarding definition of jobs within the district, particularly in the administrative ranks. From the state report card, it was noted that 10% of the $102M [budget] is devoted to administration. The citizen requested that to enhance accountability the district website contain job descriptions so that if there is an issue, parents know who to go to.
“Would you commit to publish job descriptions on the district website and if not why?”
Smith: ‘I would not be opposed to that at all.’
Rogers: ‘‘To address the new supervisors that have been hired…we are very excited because I think the teachers need that…someone in between to help advise…so let’s give them a chance.’
Heller: ‘…yes. We approved two new positions…If you want to find those job descriptions you are going to have to search… I think what Montclair has with regard to job descriptions on their website is an aspirational thing that we should be doing in the district…’
Heaney: ‘I would certainly commit to making job descriptions publicly available, therefore we could hold people accountable to their job descriptions.’
Continued Coverage Bloomfield BOE Forum: Audience Questions 1-3 and Candidate Responses