March 13 Springfield Board of Education Meeting: SSEP Mission Update and Budget Presentation

Board of Education Credits: Ellen Dickson
Matthew Clarke making Budget Presentation Credits: Ellen Dickson
Other board members listening to presentation along with Chief Cook Credits: Ellen Dickson
2017-2108 tentative budget for revenues Credits: Ellen Dickson
2017-2018 Proposed Tentative Budget Credits: Ellen Dickson
Board of Education April 24 Public Hearing Announcement Credits: Ellen Dickson

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Superintendent Michael A. Davino started the meeting by saying the district received notification from NASA that “…the astronauts are conducting their stage of the experiment in space that was developed by Springfield students from the Student Space Exploration Program (SSEP).  The spaceship was launched in early March and is expected to return sometime in June. The superintendent went on to say, “Student scientists can begin the process of comparing and contrasting their experiments with the one in space.  This is really exciting.  The last part of the process will be filmed at the Smithsonian. I am very proud and looking forward to the next stage.”  Davino then introduced Matthew Clarke, Business Administrator/Board Secretary, for the budget presentation.

It was the third presentation on the tentative budget, Clarke focused on what was not discussed in previous presentations.  He started with the preparation of the budget, which begins with a review of enrollment on a monthly basis.  This is done to determine future staff levels.  

As background on school enrollment and personnel numbers, Clarke detailed how in 1996-97 the county regional school district including Springfield,  Berkeley Heights, Kenilworth and Clarke was dissolved and all students returned to their local school district.  Springfield’s district currently has 2,200 students in the five schools.  This budget supports them, 43 out of district special needs children and 84 magnet and Vo-tech students.   So, an additional 127 students are supported in this budget.   

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Overall, the budget is up 1.89 percent to $42,067,375.  Additional revenue from summer school and rentals brings the increase up to 1.97 percent, which is just under the state mandated 2 percent cap.  Clarke discussed state aid, which was flat for the second year in a row.  In 2009-2010 Springfield lost all state aid.  If the state formula was followed Springfield would be receiving an additional $550,000 in aid. That would cover half of the budget increase, a point that was reiterated by board member Scott Silverstein.

By taking advantage of RODS grants (Regular Operating School Districts) capital improvements have been made.  For instance, roofs at Walton and Sandemeier  have been replaced.  Also, new windows, fire suppression systems and security systems have been upgraded.  This year’s budget includes improvements to the balcony at JDHS auditorium, turning the wood shop room into a robotics lab, and converting Room 222 to an Intro to Culinary Arts room.

Staffing is at 358 and that includes full and part time employees.  Of those, 275 are eligible for benefits and 240 take benefits. Salaries and benefits are 71 percent of budget, and 8 percent goes to special education in district and out. A further breakdown is in accompanying chart.  The teacher's contract is in place for the next two to three years and specifies the expected level of compensation.

Enrollment dropped slightly over the last two years.  The tax increase will be $66 based on homes assessed at $100,000. April 24 will is the date for the public hearing at 7:30 p.m. in the IMC in the JDHS.

A more detailed version of the budget will be posted on the web page.

Under public comments a parent came up to discuss the 24/7 policy which details a code of conduct signed by students involved in extra curricular activities. The speaker was not happy with the actions of the JDHS administration. A student’s name was on a police report for activities outside of school. The student was suspended for three days and benched on his sports team. The parent wants to revise the student conduct form to promote positive student development, protect the identity of the student, and include the parents in the discussion. For now, he wants the policy suspended until it can be clarified.

Davino responded, “Our students are held to a code of conduct.  Our coaches distribute a code of conduct that includes drugs and guns outside of school. We do have incidents outside of school that do have an impact.  Coaches communicate this code to students. It is written and documented what is expected of students.” 

The question was raised whether the coach communicated this to the student.   Davino was adamant that all the coaches are instructed to enforce the code of conduct and in fact, they do that. The Board Attorney Kerri Wright interrupted and said, “I am not comfortable with a discussion of a particular student in a public meeting.  This cannot be a back and forth discussion it violates privacy rights.  Please just present your information.”

Under new business, board member Steven Wolcott reminded the Board that the spring musical “Legally Blonde” is being performed March 30, 31, April 1 at JDHS. 

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