LIVINGSTON, NJ – March 4th’s Board of Ed meeting started with camera flashes, smiles and flower bouquets as Superintendent, Brad Draeger introduced the teacher of the year for each Livingston school. Teachers honored this year included Julie Bachrach of Burnet Hill Elementary, Angela Selnick of Collins Elementary, Jeannie Murray-Connell of Harrison Elementary, Rachel Ehudin of Hillside Elementary, David D’Addozio of Mt. Pleasant Elementary, Allison Winka of Riker Hill Elementary, Laura Gordon of Mt. Pleasant Middle School, Dan Traglia of Heritage Middle School, and Lucy Lee of Livingston High. As each teacher approached the council to be recognized their respective principle talked about their achievements. Brad Draeger also added that “a great teacher with a child makes a difference that can never be undone.”
The Board also recognized Heritage Middle School’s Model UN students for their recent achievements. In a competition sponsored by the New Jersey Consortium for Gifted and Talented Programs, team Tunisia earned “Best Delegation” for their discussion on Global Education.
After teacher and student recognition, the Board proceeded into discussion about the operation budget where Treasurer and Board Secretary, Steven K. Robinson clarified all of its working parts. He explained that even though there was a one dollar increase in general fund state aid, Livingston Public Schools will actually see a decrease from New Jersey in debt aid and grants that are paid back with operating budget funds. LPS will see a reduction of $11,414 in debt service state aid, and an assessment of $124,278 for debt service for grants Livingston Public Schools received by the School Development Authority.
A draft of the new budget is to be posted on March 5. Community forums on the budget are scheduled for 7 p.m. March 18, and 10 a.m. March 20. A public hearing will be 7:30 p.m. March 21.
Following general budget discussion, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assemblyman John McKeon of the 27th Legislative District were announced as guest speakers. Jasey explained that she and McKeon were touring the 14 towns in their district to introduce themselves to each BOE as an accessible resource. Jasey also congratulated the board for recognizing the teachers and said that she “is always thinking about the teachers.” McKeon followed up by saying, “I commend all the board members. Being a board member is a tough job.” He also complimented them on the results of their budgeting decisions and said that “the fact that you are under cap just goes to show how efficient you are.”
In return, the Board took full advantage of their presence by expressing some concerns about rapid change and the superintendent cap. “My concern is that we had a deal with the public and now the terms are changing” said board member Leslie Winograd. Board member Ronnie Spring added that “a lot of districts are realizing for the first time what a detriment the cap is having. If you don’t have strong leadership at the top, it’s hard to run a school district.” Draeger added by saying “The next two years are going to be like none other. I’ve been very frustrated. A lot of reform and fast paced change but are we adding any value?” Jasey urged the Board to combine their voices with other districts by saying “there is strength in numbers”. The Assemblyman and Assemblywoman thanked the board for voicing their concerns and for “educating us” on these matters. “We’re having a drain on talent in the state. We hear this in every one of our districts and it’s going to take an administrative change of heart by the government. We agree with you,” said McKeon to the Board.
In closing, members of the community had a chance to comment on the referendum which was heard in a unified voice of support. Community member Robin Kollin stated “I support the referendum. We have an excellent school district and we will cripple our ability to attract buyers without it. Coming from the Livingston School District means a lot on a college application.”