BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education has finally named its advisory committee to work on the matter of potentially pushing back school start times.
The committee, which was approved at the board’s Feb. 25 meeting, will consist of 20 members, 17 from the public and school district, and three from the school board itself. The final members were culled from a recent application process that featured over 80 applicants.
The committee is made up of Bridgewater-Raritan school district staff, local parents with children in various grade levels in the district, parents of athletes, parents of special needs children and other local residents.
“They worked to find a true balance,” said vice president Jill Gladstone said.
She thanked all who were involved, and said the first meeting of the start times committee would be held in early March. It is hoped that a full recommendation from the committee will be presented to the board in June.
The members of the public who were named to the committee are Thomas H. Brown; Daniel Finder; high school business teacher Keriann Fry; Kellyann Gallagher; elementary teaching specialist Susan Harwick; Rebecca Hassouna; Joseph Kirk; Keith Korsun; Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association President Laura Kress; Debra Marzulli; Adamsville Primary School staff member Angelina Pecoraro Natale; Teresa Schmeiszer; Paul Silva; Shubh Srivastava; Corby Swan; Erica Taylor; and Jenn Winchock.
The board members involved will be board president Jackie Barlow, and board members A.J. Joshi and Ann Marie Mead. The committee will be chaired by business administrator/board secretary Peter Starrs, while the administrative advisor is Superintendent Russell Lazovick.
This team of board members and administrators had reviewed the applications to decide who would serve on the committee.
Prior to the board’s vote, Mead said she had concerns about the committee “for such a large change,” as the district will require a new superintendent in several months time. Lazovick announced at that same board meeting that he will resign his position, effective July 1, to become principal at Ridge High School.
Mead said she has no problem with the committee itself, but was simply cautioning the board.
Board member Lynne Hurley also expressed concerns about the committee, especially with the sudden need for a new superintendent.
The start times committee was approved by a vote of six affirmative votes of the school board, with an abstention by Hurley.
At least one member of the public expressed dismay at being left off the advisory committee.
“I was upset to not be included,” said local resident Jessica Levitt, who has long spearheaded the public movement for later school starting times.
She elaborated that there was “no single valid reason” why she had been excluded, and added that her perspective on the matter was just as important as anyone else’s.
“I’ve shown my hard work and dedication in the last year,” said Levitt, who has brought up the start times matter at practically every school board meeting for over a year.
She said there is no one more educated on the topic, that she had done nothing wrong and that she had simply communicated and shown up. She further stated that she had not attacked anyone on the matter, but had been the target of attacks herself, and believed that was still not a reason for her to be left out.
Levitt also said that excluding her was more about optics than substance, which she found “disappointing,” and added that critics who were loud in nature were getting more attention than those who cordially followed the rules. She thanked the board for forming the committee, but cautioned them that time was of the essence.
“Please do not delay,” she told the board, “or allow perfection to get in the way of real progress.”
No one on the board responded publicly to Levitt’s comments.
Bridgewater resident J.P. Levin later said he had actually suggested that Levitt not be on the advisory committee, for several reasons he did not go into. He also said that Levitt should still be an advisor on the school start times matter.