MORRISTOWN, NJ - On April 24, Morris School District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast presented this year’s “State of the District” presentation at the regular board of education meeting. Following the completion of the 2017/2018 school budget, Pendergrast reported on a variety of school related issues as well at the details of this year’s budget.
“No budget is ever going to be perfect but we keep moving forward and keep progressing, so we can keep getting better,” he said.
Each year, the district evaluates all school programs to be sure they are still relevant and still meeting the needs of the students. The same is done for curriculum and staff positions as well.
For the 2017/2018 budget, the district felt that bussing needed to be reevaluated and changes had to be made. By internalizing 20 bus routes that were previously outsourced, the district will not only save a significant amount of money, but, students will be safer as well.
Pendergrast explained that when bus routes are outsourced, the school has no control over not only who is driving the bus, but also how that bus driver is trained. By providing bussing from within, the district will have far more control over staffing and many other variables.
Technology is another important issue impacting students today. With technology evolving rapidly, it is necessary to develop ways to effectively integrate it into the classrooms said Pendergrast.
Although there can be many drawbacks to excessive technology, members of the board understand that it has many benefits within the classroom.
“I have visited multiple classrooms recently and I still saw plenty of teachers reading to their students,” said Pendergrast.
With new grading and teaching tools evolving each year, students and parents have easier access to grade reports and other tools.
Pendergrast also broke down the 2017/2018 budget so parents and community members could see how the money would be used. Beginning with capital projects, $1.5 million will be used for multiple projects including improvements to the high school athletic field and upgrades and additions within the high school.
Upgrades to the athletic field including new away bleachers and new lighting was already completed but, the new home bleachers will be finished over the summer. The final phase of construction within the high school will take place in the art wing.
Additional staff members will also be added including additional school counselors and a school psychologist who will travel to each school.
The school board was also happy to announce that there has been a significant amount of cost reductions over the past year. In addition to reductions in the buildings and grounds area totalling $200,000, the district also was able to save money due to unused sick day benefits, health insurance reductions and unemployment contributions. With all these factors,the district was able to save $1,205,000.
This year’s budget remains within the 2 percent tax cap and will increase taxes per household about $16.58 per month for a homeowner in Morristown and $3.00 a month for a homeowner in Morris Township.