Education

Despite Alternatives, Milton School's New Parking Lot Proceeding as Planned; Maureen Stryker Retires

CHATHAM, NJ - Ed Santoriello and his son Dave attended Monday night's meeting of the Chatham Board of Education with three alternate plans for the Milton Avenue School parking lot to propose to the Board.

Santoriello thought about the plan the Board was considering and immediately knew he could present a different perspective. For him this meant conjuring up ways of creating 27 spaces to the existing seventeen and including a student drop-off and pickup area, which he said is one of the main complaints that parents had voiced about the school.

He took action to preserve some open space across his Duchamp Ave home, including a meeting with Borough engineer Vincent DeNave and including variations of his plans, as DeNave had mentioned that the baseball field had to be moved west of the approved parking lot. He considered every aspect and came ready to propose different solutions.9 "It is exactly the same size as your plan, only shifted to the east of the ballfield. Two of the three proposals I have provide drop-off and pick-up. If you don't want to do that then just let teachers park there," Santoriello told the Board.

Santoriello petitioned 75 Chatham residents at church, the library and most prominently the baseball field that the parking proposal would be adjacent to, which he mentioned several times during the meeting to let the Board know the community that uses the field would not have any opposition to the ideas he brought forward.

"The other advantage of putting the parking down near the ballfield would be that you can do this at a later date and I feel, not disrupt the school because it's not adjacent to that" Santoriello said.

He also asked his fellow citizens to email Superintendent O'Neill, and the many that did received replies from him regarding the issue and the Board's current plan.

But given the Planning Board had already approved a new contract to begin construction - set for Thursday - and only a last minute halt to the plan would stop it, the three ideas that Santoriello presented to the Board turned into languid hope. O'Neill even called the Planning Board meeting "a lovefest" and one Board member was thrilled no trees would be removed.

Board President Steve Barna raised a question to Superintendent O'Neill about delaying the contractor who is scheduled to start construction on Thursday and, in response, the superintendent voiced the possibility that the contractor would not be available later in the summer or early fall or there would be an additional cost in delaying the process. O'Neill said that he believed in the next two weeks the contractor could do the bulk of this job.

He told the Board that the new parking lot would not benefit from a drop-off and pick-up area as its intended use is to give faculty and any other part-time staff, a number O'Neill set at 25, ample parking so they did not use spaces on public streets. This, he said, would be in accordance with the plans to add sidewalks on one side and eliminate parking on the opposite side of each street and put in additional storm/sewer drainage in the neighborhood of Milton Avenue School.

The Board spent 45 minutes listening to Santoriello's eloquent details of alternate plans but none of its members took a stance and supported a reversal of course. The plan is to proceed with the project and take up only the window of opportunity that summer provides so that children returning to the school in the fall would not be impacted by construction.

Board members also reflected fondly on Maureen Stryker, who is retiring from her position as Library Media Specialist after 38 years of dedicated service. Assistant Superintendent Michael La Susa called her a "terrific person" and said she is universally admired. BOE Finance Chairperson Jonathon Chatinover then made some comments on his children's experience with Stryker's guidance.

"She has so much energy and she inspired the kids. One of the programs she had over the years was soup at lunchtime, where kids could come in on a cold day and have lunch in the library. That's just one example of the great things that she has done and she will be missed," Chatinover said.

Other topics discussed at the meeting were a request to put cinder block lacrosse walls up on Cougar and Haas Fields, which would be funded primarily by the Recreation Department. Board member John Nonnenmacher raised a few questions about whether they could be gifted to Chatham Main and also on the usage of the walls. Superintendent O'Neill, after clarifying that their function would encompass all grades and both boys and girls, then said he has asked for schematics to be ready for the facilities meeting scheduled for August 5th. The Board of Education would have to approve a use and access agreement.

Donations accepted included a total of $20,690.63 from the Chatham High School PTO and vendors for items such as outdoor picnic tables, portable sound systems, furniture for school counseling, Smart boards and water coolers. The Southern Boulevard School PTO has also donated $850 in additional funding for a fence of the outdoor areas.

Fifty field trip destinations for the borough's five schools in the upcoming year were also approved, including a Grade 3 trip to the Bronx Zoo for Milton Avenue School and a Grade 5 trip to historic Philadelphia for Lafayette.

Superintendent O'Neill remarked on installation of field lights on New Cougar and two current projects: the Rain Garden recycling at Lafayette, which started Monday, and the renovation of the main lobby at Chatham High School. He also said that negotiations with ACTS continued but there has not been any agreement reached to date.

Upon recommendation by Superintendent O'Neill the board also approved a new position - Director of Human Resources - for 2010-11, which will be filled by Debra Wilkins at a salary of $85,000.

At the Board's June 14 meeting a PTO donation of 10,232.34 from Washington Avenue School was accepted. In addition, a salary of $135,943.00 for Director of Technology John Abdelmalak and salaries for seven members of Confidential Staff, totaling over $397,000, were also approved for 2010-11. 

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