MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Monday’s Board of Education meeting began with some special entertainment for the residents of Maplewood and South Orange. Two a cappella groups from Columbia High School performed for an enthusiastic audience. To kick off the night, a mixed group called the Unaccompanied Minors offered a rendition of the Beatles' “Yesterday.” They were followed by the Knights of Columbia, an all-male group that performed a more recent pop song, “Too Close,” by Alex Clare.
Then, after reading out recent student and faculty honors, the board began the meeting’s business. Superintendent Brian Osborne outlined a series of academic goals. More opportunities to take AP classes, expanded after-school activities, and clearer day-to-day teaching objectives were all areas that received particular emphasis. In addition, a new pre-kindergarten ABA class will be opening on March 7.
Soon after, the board heard a series of citizen delegations and individual testimonies. The proposed elimination of reading and math specialist positions spurred a number of presentations by concerned citizens. In the words of one longtime local educator, Donna Grohman, “the reading specialist coach position is need more than ever,” now that teachers face increased responsibilities.
The board then moved on to a discussion of the 2013-2014 proposed budget. After reviewing the information from last week’s budget workshop meeting, the board outlined staff cuts that would help to reduce the budget. Program restructuring and scheduling efficiency measures would allow several staff reductions, including the elimination of over a dozen full-time equivalent positions.
In addition, the board discussed the possibility of purchasing new technology for the upcoming PARCC assessment. Almost half a million dollars could be set aside to provide Chrome books, Wi-Fi upgrades, and other improvements.
Acknowledging the country’s difficult economic situation, Osborne spoke of doing “more with less” and of finding a “more cost-effective way” to keep the benefits of the reading and math specialist programs in place. The budget will be considered for adoption at the board’s next meeting, which will be March 4.
For information about future Board of Education meetings, visit http://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/somsd/site/default.asp. Please note that the Curriculum Night events will now take place on March 21.