Student Stress at the Forefront of the Millburn Board of Education Open Forum

Millburn Board of Education members answering questions at their 10th Annual Open Forum. Credits: Brad Klein

MILLBURN, NJ - On Sunday, the Millburn Public Library hosted the Millburn Board of Education's 10th Annual Forum. This event gives the public an open platform to voice their opinions on ongoing issues affecting the schools and students. Last year, the referendum was an important topic of discussion, specifically the Washington School, but 2017 has brought a new issue to the forefront. The open forum was no exception as student stress once again took center stage. 

Many concerned parents are pushing for changes in the district policies to alleviate drivers of student stress. Facets of the argument focus on teachers assigning homework after class is dismissed that is due the next day and the failure to return graded assignments or exams before the start of the next unit. The parents spearheading the drive for change believe it is not only necessary to return graded work promptly to decrease student stress but also to elevate the learning process. The group has also reported cases in which students never receive their tests, or are not able to keep them, allowing the teachers to give the same test in future years. These complaints are regularly expressed at school board meetings, and the building level administration has already responded.

Dr. William Miron, Millburn High School principal, issued an edict to his staff which requires them to return graded work as soon as possible and prevents them from assigning homework due the next day after the conclusion of school. Teachers who have violated this building-level policy are spoken to one on one. In response to the allegations made by the parents on refusal to follow protocol, Miron said "I don't think this happens very often. In regards to returning tests, different subjects are going to have different turnaround times. English and history exams include essays. They take longer (to grade) than math and science tests, which may be all multiple choice."

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Many of the residents expressed disappointment in that this action is not sufficient to tackle the bigger problem. Parents have called for the board to adopt policies on the issues contributing to student stress. Some BOE members expressed reluctance to create a policy on the issue as it is so specific whereas administrative policies are usually more generalized. 

In response, BOE member Rick Gray alluded to a policy instituted before the current administration came into place. The policy addressed student stress and prohibited class rankings in the high school. Although the BOE has not taken this to the level of administrative policy, some members of the board believe it is the right course. The board is unanimous in the need for a culture change in Millburn schools. 

"We definitely need a culture change in our schools," said BOE member Berylin Bosselman. "Our students should be able to go up to their teachers and say 'No, I'm not responsible for that assignment if it is assigned online after school.' Our teachers need to follow the instructions given at the building level. But, I think it starts with our kids."

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