Education

Sparta Board of Education Jan Meeting: No Vote on Music Teacher, Transportation Audit, Budget

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SPARTA, NJ – The Sparta Board of Education tabled the resolutions to add a part time music teacher to the Sparta Middle School at the meeting on Monday, Jan 30.  Board vice president Jack Surdoval called for the resolutions to be pulled from the consent agenda vote.

New board member Mike McGovern said, “Can I ask why this is being tabled.” Surdoval said the position “didn’t go through the appropriate committee process. [Board members] still had questions.” 

Personnel committee member Kim Bragg said the item had been discussed and recommended to be approved.  Surdoval countered that the item had not gone to the other committees and it “definitely impacted curriculum.”

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Bragg asked if there were a way to have the person hired before the next meeting so the students did not have to wait another month to have the teacher. 

The position was to alleviate the stress in the music program, created when the board choose not to replace the band teacher Christopher Arnold when he retired last June. A high school band teacher has been splitting time between the two schools.  Parents have continued to lobby the board members, saying the situation was not providing sufficient music lessons. 

Two of those parents came to the meeting praising the board for the apparent action to hire the part time person.  Those comments were made before Surdoval pulled the resolutions.  Another parent spoke after the position was tabled.  She said her family chose to move to Sparta over other towns because of the music program, asking them to keep that in mind.    

Board member Karen Scott said she hoped the position would end up to be full time, rather than the two fifths position on the agenda.

Board president Kelly McEvoy later said she expected the music teacher and position to be back on the agenda in February. 

The resolution authorizing purchase of “Wireless Radios for 1:1 Initiative,” was also pulled. In a further discussion, McEvoy said this resolution was pulled for a similar reason, “it had not gone through the committee process.”  She said the “1:1 initiative was going along well” and there were no anticipated problems. 

Other board business included Dr. Daniel Johnson recognizing it was Board of Education Appreciation Month.  “Thank you for your support.  It’s a thankless job.  I’m not sure why you do it, but thank you.”

McEvoy discussed the New Jersey School Board’s Association training meeting she had attended with Bragg, Linda Curcio and Scott.  The presentation on school security had made an impact on the Sparta board members, McEvoy said. 

McEvoy gave a brief rundown of “roles and responsibilities of board members,” for board members and the community to understand.  These roles include “formulating and adopt sound educational policies.”  She also said, in part, they “have no power or authorities except when meeting as a board, they are elected to represent the students, identify problems not solutions, be the conduit of communication between the district and the community and to understand and respect the chain of command.”

Superintendent Dr. Mike Rossi said they were planning to hold a board retreat to develop goals and discuss board governance. 

McEvoy said she had spoken with the NJSBA representative on the topic. McEvoy said she anticipated they may have a meeting with NJSBA representative in May.

Surdoval, before the close of the meeting, said he took exception to a recent [TAPinto Sparta] article that said the district had $5 million in surplus.  He said, “I want board members to know there is not $5 million in surplus.” 

The district’s auditor, Kathryn Mantell, CPA, of Nisvoccia made a presentation at the September Sparta Board of Education Meeting, in which she said there was a “$5.4 million fund balance, an increase of $1.1 million from 2015. “

To that information Surdoval said, “I can see where she came up with those numbers.”  He went on to say there was a “structural defect” in the budget requiring the accumulation of surplus to fund “the budget two years in advance.” 

The district administrators had begun the budget process for the 2017-2018 school year in November, according to statements made at previous board of education meetings. 

Superintendent Dr. Mike Rossi had recommended an audit of the districts’ transportation department. The board approved a “Student Transportation Efficiency Study” to be done by Transportation Advisory Services of Walworht, NY. 

Rossi explained his experience with the firm, having done an audit when he was in Roxbury and that the findings had proven accurate and helpful. Rossi said this was a “top priority,” because they to deal with transportation issues nearly every day.

The February board of education meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Mohawk Avenue School. 

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