Chatham Board of Education to Spend Some State Aid Give-Back on Capital Expense

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CHATHAM, NJ - The Board of Education met this week and unanimously voted to spend $250,000 of the $517,000 that the district received in additional state aid last summer. The money will be used to replace a 57-year old boiler at the Lafayette Avenue School.

Business Administrator Peter Daquila said the aid was received from the state in late summer and school districts were give some options as to how to use the money such as rehiring teachers, capital projects or to save for the 2012-2013 budget. 

“The boiler was the original one in place since the school was built in 1954 and has seen better days,” he said. “The costs to repair and maintain the boiler have become too costly so these funds will be used to gain efficiencies with a new one to be installed this summer.” The remaining $267,000 will be used to offset costs in the upcoming budget. 

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In his superintendent’s report, Interim Superintendent Dennis Fyffe commended both the staff and students at the Lafayette School and the High School for their actions in last week’s evacuation that was not a drill. 

“On Friday morning we were alerted that the construction company had punctured a gas main and we made the decision to evacuate those schools,” he said. “The emergency evacuation plan came off exactly intended with the staff and students making their way to an alternate location quickly and without issue.” 

The evacuation was short-lived as the fire departments, police departments and a PSE&G crew were on scene very quickly and determined that the building was safe to occupy. Fyffe explained that parents were alerted by a Honeywell Instant Alert message directing them to check their email.

“We did this because there is a limited amount of information we can share on Honeywell and we wanted to get out as much information as possible,” he said, adding that the district will never be as quick as children with cell phones. 

Also on the agenda was the district’s annual audit report. For the fourth year in a row the district received an award for excellence in financial reporting – one of only 22 districts that received this award out a total of 600 eligible districts. 

“Your district does a great job in keeping records and you should be happy to have them,” said auditor Scott Clelland of Wiss & Company. “The opinion given in the audit is  the highest level that can be given to a district.” 

Clelland further stated that the district has very good financial standing, the fund balance is strong and there were no red flags or significant issues to report.

Finally, the board gave some much-deserved recognition to long-time PTO volunteer Miranda Cosgrove for her 13 years of service and as the founder of the district’s New Parent Welcome Committee. The recognition was prompted by a letter written by Chatham Middle School Principal Robert Acardi, which was signed by all the school’s principals.

“The challenge of moving one’s family into a new community is time consuming and stressful.  Miranda Cosgrove found this out 13 years ago when she moved into Chatham. At that time, there wasn’t a New Parent Welcome Committee to help Miranda and her family get settled,”  he wrote. “Miranda decided then and there that she would take on the job herself. And what a difference that has made for every new family that has transferred into our schools over the past 13 years.”

Cosgrove established the committee and has since overseen the creation of a welcome committee at each school in the district.  “Many tell you that they have experienced nothing like it in all their travels. All of our schools make a tremendous effort to welcome new students and the parents are quick to acknowledge this and express their gratitude,” Acardi said. “But it is truly the combination of efforts with those of Miranda and the other parent volunteers that surrounds our new families with a welcome unlike any other school district in the state.”

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