SPARTA, NJ – The New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum District Performance Review or QSAC DPR, has put the spotlight onto issues with the Sparta school district’s curriculum, as noted in the Instruction and Program section of the review.

There were warning signs in 2017 when the district submitted the annual QSAC Statement of Assurance on November 22 and corrected on November 29 as requested by Executive County Superintendent Rosalie Lamonte.

Lamonte’s email to Superintendent Michael Rossi said, in part, “…you need to enter in the I&P [Instruction and Program] section on Curriculum the dates that the various curricula were adopted by the board.” 

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Business Administrator Pam Hinman submitted the corrected QSAC SOA the day after Lamonte’s request.

A letter obtained by TAPinto Sparta through OPRA dated August 21, 2017 from Pamela Garozzo, Director, County Office Administrative Unit and QSAC sent to District Superintendents, District Curriculum Directors and Board of Education Presidents addresses the Instruction and Program of QSAC SoA.

“The purpose of this memo is to clarify the requirements for board-adopted, aligned curricula…” Garozzo said in the letter.  The letter details expectations for all curricula, as required by N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.1. including the dates curriculum was adopted.

Statement of Assurance

Each year every school must submit a self-assessed Statement of Assurance to the NJDOE.  Similar to QSAC DPR, the intent of the report is to ensure districts are compliant with all regulations in the five areas reviewed in QSAC: Instruction and Program, Finance, Operations, Personnel and Governance. It is a kind of “QSAC light.” 

According to documents TAPinto Sparta obtained through an OPRA request Sparta’s last QSAC SoA was filed in November 2017 signed by Rossi and board president Kelly McEvoy.

In the troubled Instruction and Program section Sparta gave themselves full credit for being compliant with the most recent standards in all content areas: English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Language, Health and Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts, Technology and 21st Century Life and Careers.

The directions for completing this section of the report require the date of adoption of the latest state standards be included. “If the content area has not been aligned to the standards, provide an explanation,” the New Jersey Department of Education reporting form states.

The state form includes the date the New Jersey Board of Education adopted the newest New Jersey Student Learning Standards and the date by which they to be implement in all districts including Sparta. These standards, once adopted by the state board of education, become statute N.J.A.C. 6A:3-3.1.  Districts must keep up with changes to the statutes in all areas to be compliant.

Sparta affirmed the district was compliant with the most recent standards in the 2017 QSAC SoA.  Yet in the February 2019 QSAC DPR Sparta lost points in every subject area for not having up to date curriculum.

If Sparta was compliant in 2017-2018, they should have been compliant in 2018-2019 because all of the changes made by the state were prior to the 2017 Statement of Assurance in which Sparta affirmed they were compliant in all areas.

The November 2017 Statement of Assurance report for Instruction and Program regarding all curriculum areas filed by Rossi and McEvoy states:

  • English Language Art – “State adopted May 4, 2016; district implementation [required by] September 2017” the Sparta School District affirmed they adopted the new standards in September 2017.
  • Math – “State adopted May 4, 2016; district implementation [required by] September 2017” Sparta affirmed they adopted “Kindergarten to second grade September 2011 and third through 12 grade September 2016.”
  • Science – “State adopted July 9, 2014; district implementation [required by] September 2016 for grades six to 12 and September 2017 for grades Kindergarten through five.” Sparta said the most recent update in the science standards was September 2011.
  • Social Studies, World Language, Health and Physical Education and Visual and Performing Arts – “State adoption July 9, 2014; district implementation [required by] September 2015.” Sparta affirmed the most recent update of curriculum in these areas was September 2012. 
  • Technology and 21st Century Life and Careers – “State adopted on October 1, 2014; district implementation [required] by September 2015,” the district affirmed the most recent update of curriculum in these areas was September 2012.

Despite not being up to date in Math, Science, Social Studies, World Language, Health and Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts, Technology and 21 Century Life and Careers for all grades, the district affirmed they were compliant awarding themselves a score of 100%.

According to the 2019 QSAC DPR results, Sparta’s curriculum had been out of compliance for at least three years in Social Studies, World Language, Health and Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts, Technology and 21st Century Life and Careers.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Patrick McQueeney was quoted in the minutes of the only QSAC DPR committee meeting on February 20, 2019.  “Mr. McQueeney discussed the issues with the current curriculum in the district that had not been updated with the previous administration.  He stated that he was working with the [Executive County Superintendent’s] office to bring the district current in all areas of Curriculum and Instruction.” [sic]

These comments are in conflict with the 2017 Statement of Assurance submitted by Sparta in which they gave themselves full credit for compliant curricula.

Rossi has been the superintendent in Sparta since December 2016 after leaving Madison School District.  McQueeney was brought in to head up the curriculum department in June 2018. Daniel Johnson was in that position from August 2015 until May 2018 before leaving to become superintendent in Butler.

Sparta was one of 10 districts out of 33 in Sussex and Morris Counties that failed 2018-2019 QSAC DPR because of Instruction and Program. 

Morris and Sussex County districts that failed in Sparta’s cohort:

  • Madison,
  • Wharton,
  • Andover,
  • Franklin, (on a District Improvement Plan since March 20, 2017)
  • Hardyston,
  • Hopatcong Borough (on a District Improvement Plan since March 20, 2017)
  • Ogdensburg Borough,
  • Sussex-Wantage Regional and
  • Wallkill Valley Regional High School,
  • Wharton Borough.

In an interview, Rossi said Sparta failed to get 80 of 100 points in Instruction and Program because the district did not have enough time to make the changes required by the state.

New Jersey Department of Education spokesman Michael Yaple said, “Districts do not prepare new reports or implement new processes for the NJQSAC process.”

Sussex and Morris County Districts in Sparta’s Cohort that passed 2018-2019 QSAC DPR:

  • Rockaway,
  • Chester,
  • Denville,
  • Fredon Township,
  • Hanover Park Regional High School District,
  • Harding,
  • Jefferson Township,
  • Long Hill Township,
  • Mendham Borough,
  • Mendham Township,
  • Montague, (completed DIP, begun in May 2017)
  • Montville Township,
  • Morris County Vocational School,
  • Morris Hills Regional,
  • Parsippany-Troy Hills Township,
  • Rockaway Borough,
  • Rockaway Township,
  • Washington Township,
  • West Morris Regional High School District,
  • Fredon Township,
  • Sandyston-Walpack Consolidated School District,
  • Stillwater Township,
  • Sussex County Technical School,
  • Vernon.

The Sparta Board of Education must submit an approved District Improvement Plan by August 12, 2019 to address the deficient areas in Instruction and Program, according to a letter Rossi received from NJQSAC Coordinator Carla Spates on June 27.

Sparta Board of Education will meet on July 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Mohawk Avenue School.