Millburn Board Delays Vote on Policy Which Could Merge Personnel Functions Into Other Commitees; Personnel Chairwoman Opposes Merger

PTO Presidents; Simon Westfall-Kwong (Deerfield), Kim Walls (Glenwood), Alexis Benbassat (Hartshorn), Robin Poliina Finkelstein (Millburn HS) and Sharyn Stein Berezin (Glenwood). Credits: Jonathan Sym
Superintendent Christine Burton Credits: Jonathan Sym
Former board president, Jeffrey Waters Credits: Jonathan Sym
Board Member and Chairwoman of the Personnel Committee, Regina Truitt Credits: Jonathan Sym

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Board of Education, at its meeting on Monday, removed from its items for action a policy dealing with the formation and dissolving of board committees after a lengthy discussion on doing away with the ad hoc personnel committee.

The recommendation, that the personnel committee’s functions be assumed by board committees overseeing particular school district responsibilities, was supported by three of the four members of the committee but opposed by its chairwoman, Regina Truitt.

Truitt asked, “Without the existence of the personnel committee where would these reviews or discussions take place? They could be done on other committees-but this would increase the burden on these committees or extend executive sessions accordingly, because many of these conversations are confidential.”

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When asked to weigh in on the question, Superintendent Christine Burton, who had previously held board positions in other districts, said none of those districts had permanent personnel committees.

Burton added that all hiring recommendations in Millburn come through the superintendent’s office anyway, and that the processes for hiring and other personnel matters would continue even if the current committee were dissolved.

The superintendent added that if concerns about a particular issue did arise, the board committee governing that position could deal with it. She also said the district has a full-time human resource coordinator and if there were unease that that crossed functional lines, a “hybrid” committee could be set up to deal with the matter.

Truitt discussed why she felt absorbing Personnel into other committees is not a good idea for the Millburn School District.  First, she said there are several Personnel committee functions that do not fall within the charge of any of our current committees such as: overseeing the process for new hires, reviewing job descriptions, reviewing the process for high-level hires, reviewing the process for recommending candidates up for tenure and those who did not get tenure, and reviewing the process whereby incremental raises are being held.  She also said that most of the other committees do not meet often enough to review Personnel issues.  She added that the Millburn School district currently has several critical vacancies whose hiring has, for the past 6 years, been overseen by the Personnel Committee.  She also said that many, if not most, of the school districts throughout NJ have standing Personnel Committees on their Board including:  Bloomfield, Caldwell-West Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Fairfield, Glen Ridge. Orange, Roseland, West Essex, Mountain Lakes, Bernard's Township, New Providence, Glen Rock, Hunterdon Central, Toms River, Egg Harbor, Hackensack Public Schools, Monroe Township, Bridgewater/Raritan, Woodbridge Township, Somerville, Hazlet Township, Franklin Township and Berkeley Heights.

Former board president Jeffrey Waters, who was honored for his service during Monday’s meeting, gave some historical perpective on the establishment of the ad hoc personnel committee.

Prior to the regular business portion of the meeting, the board saw a presentation of the Caring Kids Program, which teaches elementary school children about respect for each other and the prevention of bullying.

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