At the April 16th Board of Education meeting, Board member Sal Arnuk stated: “I am ashamed to see the district at the bottom of the list in per-pupil spending.” On the contrary, Board member Arnuk should be exceedingly proud of how our Board of Education is able to consistently be ranked as the top school district in our state at the cost it currently spends per pupil.
Spending more per pupil doesn’t guarantee additional or enhanced success. One has only to look at the biggest spenders per pupil in municipalities such as Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Camden and many others. None of those municipalities even come close to cracking the top 20 school districts. Yet, in Chatham, we get the most “bang for the buck.”
Board member Matthew Gilfillan was absolutely correct when he noted that with this year’s Trump Administration’s tax changes, residents of the Chathams are about to get whacked. Especially whacked will be seniors, like myself, now living on fixed incomes. I was also glad to hear Board President Jill Critchley Weber note we have many on fixed incomes.
My Dad, who had all of a 3rd-grade education, would always say “we need the best schools money can afford, not the best money can buy.” These are words to be guided by. The residents who want the Board of Education to exercise their full taxing authority and raise taxes by 3.62% because it is “legal” to do so need to balance the needs of those less fortunate and on fixed incomes with their “wish lists,” which are wants, not needs.
As a mental health advocate, I do want to address the mental health issue of proposing to hire additional mental health professionals. I believe a better way is for the Board of Education to vet mental health professionals and have a panel of professionals to which they can refer students whose issues must be dealt with. This will give the student in need or in crisis the help he/she needs and parents can obtain reimbursement through their medical plans.
In addition, despite the Chathams being declared “Stigma-Free” communities, the fact remains that there is still stigma attached to those requiring mental or emotional resources. Referring a student to counselors out of the school building gives the student a measure of privacy he/she needs and would desire. The last thing we want to see is a student bullied because he/she is seeking psychological help.
Again, kudos to the Board of Education for keeping us in the top 5 of school districts in New Jersey and doing what the vast majority of other school districts can’t do: getting the biggest bang for the buck.