Millburn Township BOE Hears Chinese Language Schools Debate Over Classroom Rental; Self-Advocacy Helps Millburn Students Become Self-Reliant

Board of Education listens to public comments.  Credits: Brad Klein
A resident advocates on behalf of the Chinese language schools to be able to rent space at Millburn High School. Credits: Brad Klein
Township resident Eric Model speaks about how the Chinese language schools could affect the Complete Streets Initiative.  Credits: Brad Klein
Self Advocacy student speaks about the challenges she overcame to prepare herself for the workforce.  Credits: Brad Klein

MILLBURN, NJ - The issue of two Chinese language schools potentially renting out Millburn Public School District property was discussed in open dialogue by the Board of Education.

Regina Truitt, chair of the property committee, informed residents that the New Jersey Chinese Culture Academy (NJCCA), the Chinese language school that applied for usage of the middle school, has agreed to revise its request and apply to use the high school instead. The NJCCA would have to split MHS with the Millburn Institute of Talent (MIT) on Sundays if the Board approves both schools. MIT would be in session from 8:30am - 1:00pm, and the NJCCA’s classes would begin at 1:30pm and end at 6:00pm.

Truitt reported that the property committee discussed adding the ability of the BOE to decide measures necessary to ensure safety and easy traffic flow to the Chinese schools’ applications and contracts. She also acknowledged that the Chinese language schools would not have access to the high school’s athletic facilities if the Board approves their requests.

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The final decision will be pushed back. The board decided due to the uniqueness of the yearlong requests for weekend access to a Millburn Township school, the policy committee will need to review Millburn’s current building usage protocol. The rentals are on hold until the policy is reviewed.

Truitt later shared her personal concerns about the two Chinese language schools. Her worry is that the traffic and parking issues caused by the two schools and other events such as Millburn Soccer Club games, will counter the positive effects the Complete Streets Initiative is expected to have on Millburn’s downtown. Additionally, she is concerned that the Chinese schools fall under the category of tutoring as both MIT and the NJCCA plan to offer math, robotics, and other classes that are currently offered at MHS. If the two schools are considered to offer tutoring, both schools will conflict with the board’s policy that prohibits private tutoring on Millburn public school property.

She also expressed some unease that may affect current MHS students.

“Are these students going to get an academic advantage against our own public school students in their own building?” Truitt asked rhetorically.

Emily Jaffe, a member of the finance committee, pointed out the opportunity the Chinese language schools present by bringing in revenue to the district, thus helping the budget.

“80% of our budget is fixed. We have very little wiggle room. We are very limited in terms of our reserves, our ability to invest in ourselves and what the impacts are from a tax increase standpoint to the residents and the taxpayers…. We have to look for additional sources of revenue.” said Jaffe.

Earlier in the evening Roger Ashkins, Millburn High School’s Transition Coordinator, presented a program for Special Ed students called “Self-Advocacy”. Self-Advocacy teaches Special Ed students about their learning challenges, in an effort to provide them the tools necessary to be successful in the workforce.

Students work together to learn and get good advice from peers that live through the challenges they share. The group also improves students’ public speaking skills.

Self-Advocacy and Caring Kids, a program that teaches elementary school students about learning disabilities that some children face, partnered together. The relationship complimented both programs’ education.

“We partnered together to really bring home the fact that there are actual that live people with these learning challenges that are doing wonderful things. Self-Advocacy students spoke to the elementary kids about what it is like having these challenges, what it is like to be here in Millburn and how great they are doing. They talked about having an inclusive community and being nice to everyone,” said Ashkins.

Towards the end of the night the Board approved a contract with Dyntek Services, Inc. for Millburn High School’s Meraki Wireless Complete Coverage Solution. Earlier in the year the Board replaced the student wifi network in the High School with a new wireless network that went hand and hand with the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Initiative. The BYOD network allow the school to prevent students from visiting illegal or distracting websites.  It also provides MHS the capability to track the activity on devices that were logged into the BYOD network.

Due to a significant amount of student complaints and a few glitches in the network, the Board felt a change was needed. The new network will add Mobile Device Management services, improve network performance, and improve security beyond current levels. The new wireless network will be activated next year. 

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