Education

Madison Board of Education Re-elects Ellis President, Rowe Vice President; Discuss School Budget and Possible Cuts

MADISON, NJ - School board members in Madison once again chose Lisa Ellis to lead them and Patrick Rowe as Vice President as the borough Board of Education re-organized on Tuesday evening.

The April 20th election victors, Mr. Rowe and newcomer Samuel Cavaliere, also were sworn into office.

This year also will see a new School Business Administrator/Board Secretary take the reins as Gary Lane of Sparta replaces retiring Administrator Charles R. Milewski on July 1.  Mr. Lane currently is the administrator of the Paramus Schools in Bergen County and previously served in that capacity in Northern Highlands, also in Bergen County, according to Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Richard Noonan.  The new Administrator also serves as President of the Bergen County Association of School Administrators, Dr. Noonan added.

Board members at Tuesday's meeting also approved a salary of $165,000 for the 2010-2011 school year for Mr. Lane, while Mr. Milewski is making $158,000 for the current school year. The superintendent said Mr. Lane took a salary cut from his former district because he wanted to join the Madison staff.

The April 20th School Board Election, which resulted in "the highest numbers ever seen" voting in borough Board of Education balloting, according to Dr. Noonan, resulted in the defeat both of the proposed $32,144,525 school operating budget and $198,693 which was to finance retention of the interscholastic sports program in the sixth through eighth grades at the Madison Junior School and the position of district performing arts supervisor.  This means the Borough Council must meet with the Board of Education to hammer out a school tax levy that the borough must certify to the state by Wednesday, May 19.

The Council, Dr. Noonan said, is likely to recommend an amount to be trimmed from the 2010-2011 school spending plan and suggest areas where it thinks cuts should be made. The Board of Education then works to meet the suggested cut amount but does not have to follow the Council's suggestion as to where to make the reductions.

"We believe we presented the most reasonable budget we could in challenging circumstances, and we eliminated many items," Dr. Noonan said, "but we share the concern of the taxpayers."

A committee of board members, along with Dr. Noonan and Mr. Milewski, has met with the Council and a formal meeting of both bodies is expected to be held shortly, the Superintendent noted.

Responding to a question from resident Thomas Haralampoudis, Mr. Rowe said school custodians have agreed to a wage freeze and the board has had "substantial discussions" with the administrators.  Teachers thus far have not agreed to a freeze, he added.

Dr. Noonan said he has voluntary taken a pay freeze for the last two years and has asked all school staff members to do the same.

Although salary figures which could serve as a basis for a settlement with the Madison Education Association were included in the board's proposed budget, Mr. Rowe would not discuss the exact settlement figures the board was aiming for because, he said, this could compromise the board's bargaining position with the teachers.  Formal negotiations with all bargaining units are scheduled to begin tomorrow, he noted.

In a related move, the board on Tuesday, approved a new bargaining unit, separate from the Madison Education Association, to represent administrators and supervisors in the borough schools.  Dr. Noonan said the teachers and supervisors agreed to the separate bargaining unit because they felt a separate unit would eliminate the potential conflict of supervisors being represented by the same organizations which represents those who they evaluate.

Steve Wells of Green Avenue said borough police, firefighters and Public Works Department employees should be willing to take a wage freeze if teachers are being asked to freeze their wages.  "We can afford a few less traffic cops, but we can't afford to too many fewer teachers," he said.  Mr. Wells added he saw a willingness among Borough Council members to work with the school board to come to a budget agreement that would be satisfactory to all sides.

On another matter, Dr. Noonan promised Cecilia Kennedy of Kings Road he would explore the need for a school physician and assistant at football games and report on the matter at a future board meeting.  Mrs. Kennedy felt perhaps the physicians were less needed at football games because fewer concussions are suffered in that sport than in other sports.

Responding to Karen Szotak of 9 Oak Court, Dr. Noonan said the board would prefer to fill the vacant vice principal's position at the junior school and was considering having a similar position at Central School continue as a more teaching than administrative position, as it has in the past.  He added budget negotiations "would have to be brought to closure" before final decisions are made.

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