MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Board of Education revealed that the referendum questions, if passed, would cost taxpayers $100.91 for the average $528,093 assessed Montville Township home.
The school district is hoping to make renovations to all seven schools which include air conditioning and heating improvements, roof replacements, restroom renovations, media center renovations (but not at the newly renovated high school media center), and gymnasium renovations.
The state has approved 40% debt service aid, meaning, the school will be able to make the renovations at a 40% discounted rate.
Therefore they are holding a referendum vote on Sept. 26. If referendum question one does not pass, none of the questions will pass. For more information on the referendum questions click: Referendum and More info.
Special Education Study Report
Kathleen Gorski of First Children Services presented a study conducted on the district’s special education programs and found that the district is spending its special education dollars wisely.
“Everything here is for a reason,” Gorski said. “And the reasons were very well explained to me.”
Gorski said she looked at early intervention services (children before age 3) and pre-school “disabled” (children aged 3 until kindergarten), out-of-district placements, socialization and generalization opportunities, communication with parents and caregivers, compliance and testing and report issuance, and concerns. She said that overall, special education students are being provided a free and appropriate public education, which is a federal requirement, and are “making progress commensurate with their abilities.” She found the district to be compliant with state and federal requirements.
She commended the district’s ability to “reflect on its own needs, use of technology, creation of ABA classrooms, the district’s consistent implementation of sound policy and procedure, and the child study teams’ meaningful IEPs.”
ABA is applied behavioral analysis and Gorski said research shows it is the most effective way to teach children on the autism spectrum. IEPs are “individualized educational plans”; the blueprint for what services and goals a special education student will have for the year.
Gorski said she appreciated that pre-school IEPs had photographs of the child on the front cover in order to personalize the paperwork. She commended the district’s I&RS (intervention and referral service) program to support the general education teachers in every building and the Life Skills classes at the middle and high schools. She especially commended the Structured Integrated Learning classes.
Special Education Director Jennifer DeSaye explained the SIL program as being a type of online learning for behavioral students that removes the conflict they might exhibit. Gorski said by removing the stress between the instructor and the student, the child learns better, and lends itself to the student building a relationship between the teacher and student.
“There’s no arguments,” Gorski said.
“The teachers are [more like] facilitators,” DeSaye said. She said the state still doesn’t know how to categorize the program, because of the online portion.
She thanked the board for allowing her to start this program.
“We have the fewest kids out of district,” DeSaye said, “the most kids graduating, and attending colleges like Drew; they’re taking AP and honors classes. I’m hoping to apply for a Best Practices designation.”
Gorski said she found adherence to IDEA and Section 504 to have no problems. These are federal programs for special education students and medically limited students that the district must follow.
She said that meetings with general education teachers revealed a need for daily co-teaching between special education and general education teachers instead of intermittently. She said some of the general ed teachers even considered the special ed teachers as assistants. She stressed the need for principal buy-in on co-teaching. She also stressed the importance of every teacher who works with a special education student to have actually read the student’s IEP. She also said that the special ed and gen ed teachers need a planning period together that is “not their lunchtime or passing in the hallway.”
The general education teachers felt that homework was a problem, and Gorski agreed. The special education students were doing well in class, but doing poorly on their homework assignments, and Gorski said the district needed to find ways to make the homework “more universal and individually tailored. If we can be creative…” She said this would also help the home and school relationship, because “parents get frustrated.”
Space was an issue for the child study team members, because they need to conduct testing for special education benchmarks, and one educator had been forced to move mid-test. Gorski discouraged parents from being able to influence which child study team member their child received.
Gorski said her only “real” recommendation for Montville Township was to start a parent advisory group.
“It’s in the administrative code,” Gorski said.
Pathways for Exceptional Children is a parents group with mentors and parent presentations that originated in Montville Township, but is not directly associated with Montville Township School District. Pathways also conducts programs through Montville Township Recreation.
DeSaye said she has struggled with getting parents involved in a parents advisory group. Rovtar said Pathways’ parents meetings may be duplicating the district’s efforts.
“We have some competition out there in terms of how special ed parents are networking in the community,” Rovtar said.
DeSaye said parents who are happy with their child’s services don’t want to come out and talk about it, while those who are unhappy only come out to talk in a parents’ group once and then don’t return. Gorski suggested having guest speakers, possibly about generalized topics.
Gorski’s other recommendations included having a “solid relationship” develop with a “member of the school community.” She seemed to be referring to adults rather than peers.
She recommended making home visits “a routine, although they don’t have to happen often.”
Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar said discussions will be held with administrators over the summer and into the school year regarding the report.
Rovtar reviewed the district’s goals and said that progress had been made towards them as construction on renovating the Hilldale media center to add two small classrooms was beginning, two elementary Spanish teachers had been hired and changes had been made to high school-level language courses.
Members bid goodbye to Business Administrator James Tevis, who is retiring.