SPARTA, NJ – Negotiations between the board of education and the Sparta Education Association continue July 1 and teachers and parents let the board know they are tired of them.

Teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff are working without a contract, a situation that has gone on for a year.

Sue Sawey, SEA president, spoke at the Monday, June 24 board meeting. She pointed out “summer vacation is a misnomer for educators,” noting that the faculty take courses, do research for lesson plans and topics of study and some coach and/or teach. Much of her talk was devoted to the importance of all members of the school community working together.

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Board vice president Richard Bladek, who presided in the absence of president Frank Favichia, told a resident he couldn’t comment on the ongoing negotiations.

Teachers and other employees wore matching t-shirts to symbolize their solidarity.

Also controversial to members of the audience was the action taken by the board to cut the hours of a number of paraprofessionals from 35 to 28 per week. The parents of more than one special education student spoke of how disruptive that could be. Superintendent of Schools Dennis Tobin explained the move was made to save money on benefits.

Another action of the board was not controversial at all.

The board approved the transfer of the Van Kirk Homestead/Mull property adjacent to the Middle School to the Sparta Historical Society. Member of the Mull and Van Kirk families were present for the vote.

The historical society has many plans for the house and property, its president, Ed Fritsch told the board. He said the historical society will work with the high school art and photography departments to do programs at the house.

“We’re going to set the house up as it was,” Fritsch said.

Board Business Administrator Linda Alvarez said she and Favichia will have to sign the deed in order to finalize the transfer. She said the board president was called out of town on a family emergency and she does not know when he will return, but the signing does not have to wait for the next board meeting.

The art and photography departments made a presentation at the meeting about the programs in the high school.

The entire teaching staff in those departments was there: Christy Graham, who teaches photography, Jen Kucher-Csatlos, who teaches sculpture and AP studies, Robin Cutillo, who teaches 2D visual arts from introduction to advanced, Kristen Savasta, who teaches sculpture, and Christine Mase, who teaches art and photography, all spoke about their programs and the examples of student art that are displayed all around the school.

In addition, Mary Ann Hyland, advisor to the literary/art magazine, “Beginnings,” introduced outgoing editor Leanna Bernstein, incoming art editor Stephen Vocaturo, incoming literary editor Bridget Hidgon and Jana Scully, who designed this year’s cover art.

Stephen explained the cover design represented the theme of transformation from nature to industry with a tree in full leaf on the front, moving to a winter scene emphasized by smoke from smokestacks. The magazine is for sale at the high school for $5, Hyland said.

Bridget read one of her poems to the board and audience.

Hyland said the literary magazine is submitted to the Columbia University Scholastic competition each year and historically does very well.   

In another presentation, Christine Scaglione was honored by Sparta Mayor Gil Gibbs with a Distinguished Student Award.

Also honored were the high school students who won the county’s “Stuff the Bus” competition collecting food for the county food pantry.


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