To the Editor:

I am writing to express my sincere disappointment in the Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education. I have been involved in a movement that was started over a year and a half ago by a group of community members to work to bring full day kindergarten to the district.  This effort reached out to all board members.  Although some private support was offered by members, no substantive public action has been taken to help move our community to full day kindergarten. 

While I am a mother of two young children, I am also an educator in a neighboring town where full day kindergarten has been a way of life for the past 15 years. The learning opportunities, both academically and socially, that full day kindergarten provides far exceeds the current two-and-a-half hour program that is offered in the Bridgewater-Raritan School District. In this age of advancing mandates from the state and federal government as well as standardized testing, we cannot allow our students to be at such a huge disadvantage against their peers throughout the state. For a community that has always prided itself on the quality of our schools, it is virtually impossible to think we can continue to be viewed as a top notch district when we are failing to provide an academic advantage to our students that a good portion of New Jersey school districts are already providing.

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Over the past year and a half, I have been attending the board of education meetings and I have spoken at many of them. Like others from our group, I have posed questions to the board both in meetings and via email, but they are not answered and in most cases the inquiries are not even responded to. Repeated requests for an open dialogue and simple requests for basic demographic information and facility usage information have gone unanswered. It is true that a task force was formed and meetings were held. The agendas or meeting minutes from these task force meetings were never made public. Additionally, the task force had made some recommendations which were revealed in a public board meeting. Although there was no open discussion on these findings, the board has apparently adopted the recommendations without even holding a public vote. Last year, the board of education thought that they were meeting our needs by setting a board goal for full day kindergarten implementation in two to three years, which would be the 2016-2017 or 2017-2018 school year.  When the question was asked about what a board goal really means, the response was that it is just that, a goal. If the goal is not met, then it is just not met. This week, the board amended these goals, again without a public vote or discussion. The possible implementation for full day kindergarten is now 2018-2019 according to the updated goals. I find this to be unacceptable. This board of education needs to start conducting themselves like elected officials and to serve the community and all of its constituents they are elected to represent.    

Full day kindergarten needs to stop getting kicked like a can down the street! This topic is not going away and waiting for the state to mandate full day kindergarten so that the township can get funds for it is not ethical. As a district, we seem to be able to find money to fund a slew of special interest activities whether it is extracurricular activities, initiatives focused on students needing extra help or an extra challenge, or wants of the administration. We must be sure the same diligence is used to find the resources needed for full day kindergarten, a program that will serve each and every student who passes through our district. Time and time again, I have heard the concept of transparency discussed by the members of the board at meetings along with the obligation to help all of our students. It is time for the Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education to practice what they preach!

Sincerely,

Marianne Larson

Bridgewater