WOOD-RIDGE, NJ -- After the student presentations, the Wood-Ridge Board of Education got on with regular business at the March 25th meeting.
Keith Lisa, Wood-Ridge Intermediate School principal, reported on the Student Safety Data System with numbers for the first half of the year, running from September 1 through December 31. The numbers are reported by school and incident:
Catherine E. Doyle School: 0 incidents of violence/vandalism, 1 alleged HIB; not confirmed
Wood-Ridge Intermediate School: 2 incidents, 1 for Violence, 1 for Theft leading to suspension
High School: 60 incidents, 1 for Violence, 1 for Threat; 53 for non-specific incidents including Internet violations, cellphone usage, class cuts, vaping, etc.; 5 alleged HIBs, 1 confirmed.
The Board also approved the Art Kids Academy program open to students in Kindergarten through third grade, which will be available in late April through mid-June. The program is offered at no cost to the District as registration fees will be paid by each family. The Board also approved the Wood-Ridge Lions Club Amblyopia Screening to students in Kindergarten through third grade on May 6 at Doyle School.
In his Superintendent's Report, Nicholas Cipriano congratulated the students recently inducted into the Italian National Honor Society, asked for support for upcoming fundraisers including a chocolate sale and Mr. Wood-Ridge competition.
Before the floor was opened to the Hearing of Citizens, Board President Albie Nieves addressed some issues which had come up at recently Board and Council meetings. He said he wanted to "highlight and give visibility and transparency" to three areas: the budget process; district size, and the District's three to five year plan.
He explained the budget process was "long and arduous" and heard that "there was confusion because we had a meeting at five o'clock" instead of the regular 7:30pm meeting time. He explained the meeting was moved so the Board would have a quorum, a minimum number of members to hold a meeting. He said the budget cannot be released to public yet as it is "sent to the county for their approval." He did highlight some numbers including $11.6 million for salaries, including $2 million for Special Education; $3.78 million for benefits; $1.5 million for buildings, maintenance and infrastructure; and approximately $4 million for Special Education. There will be a 2.49% on the year, and that "outside the General Education Pre-K3, there was not a cut in any of the programs or services from this year."
Nieves discussed district size and student enrollment. He announced the total enrollment numbers in the district over the past three year:
"We need to re-assess the way our buildings are set to make sure to keep the class sizes as what we're committed to keeping them low," Nieves said.
He also outlined a three to five year multiple point plan for the district which included:
- Resilency plan, to accommodate late entries or surges in population;
- Yearly building re-assessment plan
- Balanced budget preview;
- Pre-K yearly assessment;
- Quarterly assessments of buildings, grounds, and, enrollment, and
- Early childhood learning center.
During the Hearing of Citizens, several parents pushed back on the enrollment numbers, citing differences mentioned at the most recent Borough Council meeting, and those listed on the New Jersey Department of Education website. It was explained that the district files student enrollment numbers twice a year, in mid-October and end of May. Cipriano said he have given enrollment data to the mayor. Nieves again reiterated that the Board would be more open in reporting numbers more often, and that Cipriano meets with the Mayor and Council to discuss the district.
One parent asked about Kindergarten registration numbers, Nieves said that it averages 70 students per year, but the current numbers for the next year are 95.
Another parent expressed concern as to whether the district holds active shooter drills that involve teachers and staff, as she had seen a recent news story where a district in another state used nerf pellets on teachers during drills. Cipirano said he will "never have staff in active shooter drills." He explained those drills are conducted in conjunction with the administrators, Wood-Ridge Police Department and county police and they have "protocols that they have to follow." She also asked the Board to consider updating the summer reading list to provide more contemporary offerings for students.
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