PLAINFIELD, NJ - Tuesday’s BOE Work and Study meeting was a mixed bag of topics. Starting off on a positive note, representatives were on hand to give a presentation on the Response to Intervention Program (RTI) to date.

Dr. Antoinette Adams,  Director of RTI Programs and her administrative team, Donna Mullaney RTI ELA Coordinator and Kimberly Morris, RTI Math Coordinator, presented the results of the recently implemented RTI program throughout the district. The nationally known multi-tier support program includes academic and behavioral support to students and is currently used by many school districts.

Implemented in October of 2018, all district students K-8, including EEL and special education students, in the Plainfield public schools were screened and placed into academic tiers. Data was gathered to place the students into 3 Tiers which represent the intensity of the instruction provided then compared to benchmarks. The total number of students serviced was over 4000 K-5 and 1600 6-8th Grades.

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Overall the data showed that 60% of students functioned in the Tier 2 (1 Grade level below) and Tier 3 (2 Grade levels below) levels. Forty percent were in Tier 1 functioning at grade level.   Typically 80% should be functioning at grade level.

Significant improvements were seen in both Math and English between October and January. The detailed presentation will be available on the District’s website.

 Adams stated, “Very excited about the progress that we have made in a short period of time”

Accomplishments mentioned to date included:  

  • Collaborative partnerships with bi-lingual departments, special education department and family success centers;
  • Relationship with Rutgers Institute for improved Achievement including attending workshops on adverse childhood experiences which impact the learning outcomes of students;
  • Provided comprehensive training for teachers and one is being trained as a certified District trainer which will result in considerable reduction in outside training fees.

Adams noted that some of the challenges that still exist include the need for more instructional coaches, tier 2 teachers and bi-lingual teachers. Future plans include a focus on social/emotional challenges affecting the children and the development of more community partnerships and strengthening the home and school community.

More information on the RTI Program can be found on the District’s website.

During the public comment period, Dr. Inez Durham who was present in the audience, congratulated Dr. Adams and urged the Board to stick with the program and provide the additional resources needed since the data shows progress.

A large number of PEA members, wearing red shirts representing healthcare relief and armed with placards, were present and attempted to raise the issue of healthcare benefits. The Board had previously voted to approve Aetna as the primary healthcare provider for the District. Board Council Phil Stern read a statement from the Board indicating that information sessions for employees are being scheduled to ask questions and get additional information and that the BOE meeting was not the forum to ask the questions.

Charisse Parker, PEA President responded “My members cannot afford to come to work.  And if they don’t come to work you will not have any employees to govern.”

Dorien Hurtt questioned the legality of the Board’s decision to appoint Gary Ottman a few weeks ago as the Acting Superintendent without voting to accept Bolandi’s resignation, and not taking action to vote on Beth Filippatos, so it would appear that Dr. Bolandi is still technically the Interim Superintendent.  

Stern confirmed that the Board had the power to designate, in the absence of any position, a person to act in place of any officer or employee during their absence. Gary Ottman in his absence had appointed Ms. Filippatos according to the District’s organization chart.

In a last minute walk on item to the meeting agenda, Stern read a letter received from Mr. Daryl Palmeri, Interim Executive Union County Superintendent addressed to Mr. Wyatt, dated May 6th:

This letter is concerning the Plainfield Public Schools District Board of Education’s failure to appoint a superintendent. It is the understanding that the Board’s Interim Superintendent resigned effective April 15, 2019. Pursuant to N.J.S.A18A:17-20.5 every school District in the State must have a Superintendent or Administrative Principal (Administrative Principal has all the powers, authorities, privileges, and rights as a Superintendent). Both positions are subject to the Superintendent salary cap provisions in the fiscal accountability regulations and must be for a three to five year contract unless the person is serving in an acting capacity. Please have the Board rectify the situation by appointing a Superintendent or Acting Superintendent within the applicable salary cap by Friday, May 10, 2019. If the Board is unable to do so the Department (Department of Education) will appoint someone to serve as the Superintendent.

Despite a motion being made by President Wyatt to appoint Filippatos, Board members Anderson and Pile continued the discussion and stated their case suggesting that the Board vote to ask Dr. Bolandi to rescind his resignation and return to the district to finish out his contract and help with the transition of a new permanent superintendent.

 Anderson cited Bolandi’s accomplishments in terms of cleaning up the District and implementing a district-wide plan, from which they are already seeing positive results. Anderson stated, “I am not willing to settle. Our job is to find someone competent. He (Bolandi) is that valuable in terms of his knowledge and his experience and professionalism and it is worth it to make a second try.”

Pile mentioned that Bolandi was able to hit the ground running.

Morgan countered that it would be difficult for the District to recover from a lack of decision and reminded the members of the Friday deadline.

President Wyatt emphatically stated that it was time to move forward and continued with the motion to approve Filippatos. Anderson and Pile voted “No”; Cox abstained, while Wyatt, Morgan, Andrews and Campbell voted “Yes” resulting in a failed motion.

Regarding the on-going superintendent search, Wyatt indicated that the second round of interviews with the top three candidates would take place on Monday, May 13th.