Education

Montclair Board of Ed.: No Staff Reductions in Proposed New Budget

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MONTCLAIR, NJ - During the workshop meeting of the Montclair Board of Education on Wednesday, the magent program and registration process were discussed in detail. The district calendar was also revised. The budget was previewed as well as staff development.

Superintendent Ronald Bolandi acknowledged issues with the registration process and lottery. Bolandi believes that part of the Achievement Gap is knowing the K-5 core curriculum is the solid foundation on which the magnet programs stand. He also believes solutions for making sure the magnet programs succeed include addressing classroom size and having special education inclusion. Bolandi also recommended having a parent group circulate a survey for the whole community to answer to get a better idea of what the community is looking for.
After briefly introducing the topic of curriculum Superintendent Bolandi turned the conversation to Debbie Evans, the Interim K-5 Elementary Director. Evans began her presentation with the explanation that her presentation was more of an update and that recommendations in English Language Arts would be provided in April. She then went on to express the need for the schools to have the same resourced grades K-5 in all schools. It was also expressed that this could be should be paired with more Best Practices to provide more consistency throughout the grades in all schools. This update comes after a January survey completed by approximately 99 teachers from every school and every grade. The survey date found significant gaps in books, a vary in time spent on subjects, teachers need more professional development, inconsistency between what is being spent on resources versus what is reflected in all classrooms K-5. Evans outlined Teachers responses included a request for more grammar, better reading/writing/phonics, integration with technology.
 
Evans and Bolandi also acknowledged that there is now a Teachers committee comprised of teachers from each school  with a Principals having their own committee which should be working together as well as with the Board of Education. It was also discussed that the District should implement a standard of 120 minutes on English Language Arts and 60 minutes on Math for all grades including Special Education. Bolandi added that schools should follow their respective themes with a core curriculum base. Possible recommendations from Evans to the Board include using the Renaissance Learning Program. Additional information about the Renaissance Learning Program has been requested and will be provided when received. 
 

As for the upcoming Professional Development Day workshop topics include technology, spreadsheets, multicultural manners, Dealing with Difficult Students, Co-Teaching (co-ed inclusive teaching with a Special Education teacher). Dr, Adolf Brown will be the Keynote Speaker.  Evan's concluded with the acknowledgment that there exists a "true partnership between the New Jersey Education Association, Montclair Education Association, and the District" which allow for the professional development. A brochure on the Professional Development day will be published for the public later today. These partnerships are said to have resulted in additional programs such as the Montclair Art Museum hosting the Art Link program for the arts; Montclair Public Library hosting teachers to showcase the library's resources; and the MFEE (Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence) Grant for technology sessions.
 
After the Board has met with principals and received their "wish list" the Board was faced with two questions: (1) Were they comfortable with the initiatives and (2) Were they comfortable with the funding of those initiatives. The overview provided by Board Secretary, Brian Fleischer, outlined the budget's expenses versus revenue.
 
Superintendent Bolandi made a point to report that the only staff reductions were due to a reduction in enrollment and much of the reduction was offset by demands in other schools. The are no reductions in staff at this time.
 
Highlights included:
-Technology Plan
- Account shifts
-Understanding the cost of health care benefits
 
The proposed budget is an approximate $120 Million. The expenses will be decreased in part to an "insourcing" plan which included the addition of 2 occupational therapists, 2 part-time nurses, 1 bus driver, and 1 HVAC technician. The total expenses are anticipated to be $24.9 Million. This includes a healthcare increase of 14.2% on medical, telecommunications are no longer a reimbursable expense, custodial overtime was also added to the budget to allow for more community access to the schools to hold events and the implementation of the technology plan. As previously reported the technology plan includes the previously approved Apple laptop lease program, 3D printers, teachers, classroom projectors, and more. Lastly, there was the outline of one - time expenses totaling approximately $1.27 Million. This breaks down to $750,000 for District- Wide Wi-Fi solution, $200,000 for the Montclair High School supplement to MFEE renovations of the media center, $165,00 for the Genesis Student Information System's first year start up cost, and $150,000 Glenfield Planetarium upgrade. Revenue is an approximate $123.2 million. $4.5 Million of which is potential increase in school tax levy; 2% annual cap to $2,114,080; estimated tax impact would be a 4.27% tax increase and would be approximately $79 per every $100,000 of assessed home value; $53,705 Special Education Medicaid Initiative (SEMI) which is down $44, 377 (or 45.24%); State aid budgeted is flat until final when the numbers are released after the Governor's Budget Address. Employee health benefits contributions are estimated to be $4,171,264. All employees are currently in tier 4 of chapter 78 program. The current year's contributions are up by 12%.
 
The capital budget is an estimated $14.3 Million for 2016-17 and $10.2 Million for 2017-18. The working capital budget will address ventilation system remediations projects, masonry/ cornice remediation projects, a traffic circle, roofing/ceiling remediation, instructional program and classroom upgrades/renovations, potential building addition of the Renaissance Gym, Athletic field renovations (i.e. turf, traffic, bleachers, press box). Next steps will be to close the $1.7 Million working budget deficit. 
 
Anne Mernin proposed a resolution with respect to management reporting. She would like to see the Board implement management reporting policy to ensure timely management reporting to the Board. David Deutsch was concerned about the intent of the policy wth language presented now versus guidelines. Mernin expected the Superintendent to have controls in place. Laura Hertzog wants to "move backward" by seeing what controls we have in place now and working towards what is not being done and should be done now and going forward.

A vote was taken with respect to overnight field trips, reward/performance trips (i.e. Six Flag Great Adventure), and capping the cost of the field trips for students.Overnight trips were approved 4-2. Reward or Performance trips were approved 4-2 with the 2 nos being contingent on the reward trips being for all students and not being contingent on performance or meeting a benchmark.There was also discussion of capping the cost for a field trip at an a set amount. A number has not been set but, for example, $100 was used. This will be further discussed with policy in by Septemeber for Board approval. The policy would also require that the field trip request is approved by the board prior to booking the trip. 
 
The school tours which are anticipated to take place the last two weeks of March are set to include two days of in-person tours with 2-3 tours per day with at least one night session. The virtual tours are almost done and should be available online in about two weeks.
 
The next meeting of the Board of Education will be held February 22, at 6:30 PM in the George Inness Annex Atrium.

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