SPARTA, NJ - The Sparta Board of Education will be entertaining a resolution to add a part time music teacher back to the Sparta Middle School at their meeting on Monday night.
Last year music instruction was high on the list for members of the community when it came to budget discussions. Initially the strings teacher at Helen Morgan had been eliminated. The community rallied and she was brought back. Parents and students thought the music program would remain in tact for the upcoming year.
It was not until later that they discovered the board of education was not going to replace the middle school band teacher, who had retired. Instead, a band teacher from the high school would share responsibilities at the two schools.
Again the parents and students rallied but to no avail. As the school year continued, a few parents did come to the board meetings to say the plan was not sufficiently meeting the needs of the music students. The board now has a 2/5 position to be filled by Jodi Halterman on the agenda.
The music position was one of 17 staff positions to be eliminated by the board of education in the 2016-2017 budget. Staff was also cut from the 2015-2016 budget as well. These positions were cut yet the district's audit revealed more than $5 million in surplus, with more than $1.1 million in excess surplus.
The state allows districts to have surplus equal to two percent of the budget. Anything over that is considered excess surplus, the spending of which is restricted to specific budget categories.
The previous two years' budgets yielded $750,000 each year in excess surplus as well, according to the New Jersey Department of Education Taxpayers Guide. That brings the total of excess surplus to nearly $3 million over three years. Each of the three years staff has been eliminated.
Staffing was not the only thing on the chopping block in last year's budget deliberations. Dr. Daniel Johnson, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum had proposed a 1:1 initiative, only to have it withdrawn, citing insufficient funding.
The initiative puts a computer in the hands of every student from grade six through 12, as well as sets of computers for each elementary school classroom. District officials have said they intend to move ahead with a 1:1 initiative in the 2017-2018 school year.
On the board agenda for Monday night they will consider a resolution to purchase wireless radios to support to 1:1 initiative.
Also up for the board's consideration is an expansion of the robotics room at the high school. With increasing interest in STEM programs, the robotics program has outgrown its classroom. The board of education's agenda includes a pair of resolutions to allow the adjacent room to be repurposed.
The board of education meeting was rescheduled to Monday, Jan 30 due to winter weather. The meeting will be held in the auditorium of the Mohawk Avenue School, beginning at 7:30 p.m.