HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Hasbrouck Heights Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Helfant found himself on the defensive during Thursday night Board of Education meeting, explaining the proposed shared services agreement where he would be Superintendent of South Hackensack Schools, and fielding questions from those in attendance. The meeting was held online via Periscope in keeping with Governor Murphy's executive order.
Helfant opened his Superintendent's Report by highlighting some of the college seniors will be attending in the fall, including American International, Johns Hopkins, NJIT, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Manhattan College, and Seton Hall, and some of the majors include criminal justice, international business, neuroscience, accounting and physical therapy. He also said the Hitchcock Field, Depken Field, and the tennis courts will be open as of Monday, June 22, with signs outlining the social distancing guidelines. He then pivoted to the shared contact agreement.
"I'd like to clarify a few things," said Helfant, in addressing the recent social media debate about the topic. "The opening of my contract wold be to enter into a shared services agreement for Superintendent services with South Hackensack."
The contract, scheduled for a three-year period with a six-month escape clause, would be for $80 thousands dollars, with $55 thousand going to Hasbrouck Heights, and $35 thousand to Helfant. He said the money would go to "fill the gap that the governor proposed removing from our budget, which is approximately $57 thousand" saying the agreement would offset loss. Hasbrouck Heights would not receive any students from South Hackensack. Helfant said he would spend approximately a half-day a week, or one hour a day for four days a week and meetings in South Hackensack.
"They (South Hackensack) sought us out in an effort, knowing there are going to be some cuts, knowing that they have a strong principal there," he said.
Helfant said South Hackensack has about 270 students and 27 staff in their district. He also explained that Hasbrouck Heights has other shared services agreements with South Hackensack, including for the Business Office, Technology personnel, and Special Services, saying "it's something that the county and state look positively on because it helps both districts financially."
The agreement is awaiting state approval from Trenton.
Once the Open Public Hearing began, Helfant was peppered for over 45 minutes by questions about the agreement. Questions included about it being a first phase of regionalization (Helfant said no, it is only for Superintendent services, if approved); how the agreement benefits Hasbrouck Heights children (Helfant said it helps with "dollars and cents to help fill the gap"); does Hasbrouck Heights receive payment for the other shared services (Helfant said, yes, the district splits the tech person and with the Business Office agreement "the district makes money"); will the taxpayers have a vote in this (Helfant said any type of joining "requires many steps" and "voters and taxpayers would certainly be involved"); what are the plans for the $55 thousand dollars (Helfant said the money would be used to fill the gap for cuts from Trenton, and South Hackensack was going to lose about $100 thousand dollars); when will the Hasbrouck Heights Board vote on approval (Helfant said they have to wait for state approval, give public notices, with the earliest being the July meeting, Dina Messery said they would have to give 30 day notice and 10 day notice again); will this impact education in Hasbrouck Heights (Helfant said, no, he would just put in the extra hours needed); why weren't parents surveyed (Helfant said they weren't required to survey parents and that questions could be asked during the Board meeting, but it was an option);
Several parents said that Hasbrouck Heights needed a fulltime Superintendent in-district to focus on Hasbrouck Heights students, one saying it was "bad timing."
Hasbrouck Heights will be receiving over $113 thousands dollars as part of the CARES Emergency Relief Grant, but those monies will be allotted to PPE needed and $4 thousand dollars to assist with mental health services in the fall, and monies must also be shared with Corpus Christi School and Montessori School.
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